Contact lenses vs glasses: Which provides better vision?

If you’ve ever worn contacts and glasses, you’ve probably noticed your quality of vision differs between the two — particularly when transitioning from one after a long period of time wearing the other.

The weird thing about this is that it can happen even if both are of the same prescription. Surely if they’re the same prescription and therefore the same strength lens and the same focusing power, then they should provide the same standard of vision, right?

Well, it’s true they have the same strength and focusing power. And this, in fact, is the very reason for the difference in visual quality. You see, as contacts are much closer to the eye than glasses – which sit at a distance due to the limitations of glass lenses and the frame that supports them — they bend light in a way that is closer to the needs of your prescription. This difference of a few centimetres can, therefore, have an impact on visual acuity.

For this reason, some optometrists issue different prescriptions for glasses or contacts for the same person, and recommend updating your prescription if you decide to switch from one to the other.

Another reason contacts can appear to provide better vision than glasses is the fact that glasses are exposed to the elements. The clear glass lenses of your frames are magnets for dirt and debris, are easily smeared by finger prints, and love picking up little scratches and blemishes. They also catch the glare of lights and become foggy with any sudden change in temperature. Contacts are far from perfect, but generally don’t suffer as often from these issues.

Going from having a frame around your world and limited peripheral vision can also add to the contact lens effect. Because contacts are globe shaped and leave no space between them and your eye, you can look up, down, left, right, and have full and clear peripheral vision without an edge being in sight.

Even if the idea that contact lenses provide better vision than spectacles is mostly an illusion, which, inevitably, fades away over time, the case for switching to the convenient little lenses is a strong one. But there’s just one problem: the biggest advantage of contacts — that they sit directly on the eye — is also their biggest drawback.

In a study published in early 2017 in the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, sight-threatening infections from 5 years of daily wear soft contact lens use were found to occur 3 times more often than following LASIK patients over the same time period. The study by the Hamilton Eye Institute and University of Tennessee was a meta-analysis and so examined all previous publications on this area.

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The study also found that ONE year of extended (night and day continuous wear) soft contact lens wear led to approximately 3 times as many cases as following LASIK over the same period. Five years of extended wear contact lens use was associated with about 20 times the risk of daily disposable contact lens wear.

Overall the paper concluded that “the risk of infection with soft contact lens wear seems to be higher than that after LASIK.” So the overall lifetime risk for a sight threatening corneal infection is much lower for people who have had LASIK than those who wear contact lenses.

To some people, this is shocking to hear — probably those who are new to contacts or only wear them occasionally. But for long-term wearers who’ve experienced the dry eyes, irritation, and all the other visual disturbances of contacts, it’s pretty expected.

If you’re looking to get the best out of your vision, this leaves you in a bit of a conundrum: stick with the framed and tainted view of glasses, or take the risk and opt for contacts. But wait a minute. There’s a third option that can give you the best of both worlds, providing excellent visual acuity and optimal convenience, without the risks: Laser Eye Surgery.

Contacts vs Laser Eye Surgery

Just as contact lenses are not risk-free, neither is laser eye surgery. However, in expert hands, the safety of laser eye surgery is similar to that of daily contact lens wear, and even safer than extended wear contact lenses.

And even if you’re the unlucky one, it would still be incredibly unlikely that the surgeon would be unable to satisfactorily correct the situation. With these odds being ever more in your favour the higher the quality of clinic you go to.

And when it comes to quality of vision, there’s really no comparison. Again, depending on the clinic, up to 95 percent of patients who receive LASIK will achieve 20/40 vision, and up to 85 percent 20/20 or better.

But how do all these numbers make a difference on a day-to-day basis? Well, just look at the plethora of sports stars who’ve ditched their contacts for Laser Eye Surgery. They’ve not only upped their game thanks to sharper visual acuity, they’ve negated the chance of being hindered by things like infections and dry eye and eliminated all worries of losing one of those pesky little lenses when things matter most.

So, what’s the verdict in the fight between glasses and contacts? Well, the difference in quality of vision is minor, and will most likely disappear after a few hours. As we’ve seen, if you’re really looking to get the best out of your vision, there’s only one real contender: Laser Eye Surgery.

Individual visual potential may vary and will be determined after a complete eye examination.

Find out more about how Laser Eye Surgery compares to contacts by asking us a question below, or if you’d like to book your consultation, call us on 020 7224 1005.

Contact lenses vs glasses: Which provides better vision?

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