Guide to Contact Lens, Glasses, and Laser Eye Surgery
Updated for 2023
These days, you would think that it’s easy to decide the best option between contact lenses, glasses, or Laser Eye Surgery.
But, your opinion on this matter can vary wildly depending on who you ask, their personal experience, and even what stage of life they are in. Confusingly, your perception of Laser Eye Surgery, compared with visual aids, can be significantly affected by the opinions you are exposed to.
That’s why, here at London Vision Clinic, we want to help set the record straight. In this article, we will be taking a look at the pros and cons of all these options to help you determine the right option for you – and perhaps bust some myths along the way.
A Quick Overview
Before we get into this topic in more detail, we have put together a quick overview of each of these three popular options.
Glasses: Cheap vision correction but limited
Glasses have been around for thousands of years – and with good reason. They offer a low-cost solution to visual impairments that can suit everyone. But few people are under the illusion that glasses are without their limits.
Many glasses wearers are all too familiar with the drawbacks of their frames. They can make it difficult – or even impossible – to perform certain activities, exercises, and types of work. They can be easily damaged or lost and be generally inconvenient. Furthermore, while the low cost of glasses is often quoted as a benefit, the cost of glasses over a lifetime can often outweigh that of Laser Eye Surgery.
Contact Lenses: Clear vision, but at an unexpected cost
Contact lenses have become extremely popular in recent decades, thanks to their efficacy and discrete appearance. In fact, contact lenses often offer greater improvements in visual acuity and field of vision when compared to glasses. But it’s not all smooth sailing.
Unbeknown to many, contact lenses can put wearers at a high risk of infection, eye damage, dry eyes, irritation, and redness – even when following rigorous hygiene practices. They are not suitable for everyone and they may struggle to correct vision impairments associated with astigmatism. Last of all, contact lenses are the most expensive vision correction option when assessed over the long term.
Laser Eye Surgery: The new(ish) way to improve your vision
Unlike glasses and contact lenses, Laser Eye Surgery addresses and treats vision impairment at the source. The changes achieved through Laser Eye Surgery are permanent and can often lead to better visual acuity than other options. Furthermore, patients are able to get back to sports and other activities shortly after their procedure.
Nonetheless, Laser Eye surgery also has its drawbacks for some people. Most notable is the high upfront cost (though it may work out as better value over the long term). Laser Eye Surgery also introduces some new risks and not all people are suitable for treatment.
An In-Depth Comparison
Many people find that they never consciously chose their initial vision correction method. In many cases, this is either chosen for you – particularly if you required visual aids as a child – or simply defaulted to out of convenience. Many glasses-wearers may eventually convert to contact lenses (or a combination of both aids). This may be due to a dislike of the appearance of glasses or for other personal reasons.
Eventually, though, many stop to take stock and look at the available alternatives – like Laser Eye Surgery. But, where do you go to get all the information you need? How do you easily weigh up the pros and cons between glasses, contact lenses, and Laser Eye Surgery?
Let’s face it, opinion forums are generally unreliable and anecdotal. Similarly, news websites tend to feature sensationalized and inflated tales, and blogs are often written with the ulterior motive of selling you something.
Is it too much to ask to find a clear, impartial overview and comparison of the main methods you can use to improve your vision?
It turns out it is. So we decided to make one.
First off, let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, we are a Laser Eye Surgery Clinic. But first and foremost, we are advocates for the general advancement of vision correction. What drives us is our ambition to bring better vision to all – in whatever way is right for them.
To meet this aim, our vision correction experts disseminate accurate information to make it more accessible – no matter how that may impact our business. We understand that Laser Eye Surgery isn’t the perfect solution for everyone. For some people, glasses may be the better option, while contact lenses may well be preferred among others. But we also want to make known the benefits of Laser Eye Surgery, so that you can make an informed decision about what’s right for you.
So, save yourself some time trudging through masses of data, opinions, and news stories, and carry on reading this article. We’re going to take a look at how glasses, contact lenses, and Laser Eye Surgery compare to one another under different circumstances. Of course, it is important to remember that everyone is different and, as such, this should be taken as a general guide. For a more specific understanding of your options, why not book a consultation with one of our expert clinicians?
The Case for Glasses: Cheap Vision for the Masses
Let’s first break down all the benefits of choosing glasses:
- Glasses provide accurate vision correction at a low cost;
- They are suitable for almost everyone and can be bought everywhere;
- Glasses are safe and unlikely to cause any side effects;
- Glasses can protect your eyes from injury;
- There are several types of glasses to help manage presbyopia;
- At least over the short term, glasses are the cheapest form of vision correction.
At least on the surface of things, glasses come out on top almost across the board – particularly when compared with contact lenses. They are suitable for almost everyone, regardless of age, gender, prescription, or even fashion preferences. They are a simple, convenient, and accessible solution to vision impairment – this much cannot be denied.
What’s more, glasses are overall the safest option when it comes to vision correction. Being an exterior visual aid, glasses never touch your eye in any way. As a result, they don’t lead to an increased risk of infection, like contact lenses, and don’t require a surgical procedure, as is the case in Laser Eye Surgery. Glasses can even act as a barrier between your eyes and the elements. They may help prevent air pollution, dust, and debris from causing damage and harming your vision.
Glasses also have a wide scope of vision correction. That is, they are not only able to correct for distance or near vision, but they also offer an effective solution to presbyopia and reading vision impairment. This is achieved through the use of different lenses, such as bifocal, trifocal, multifocal, and varifocal progressive lenses.
The Case Against Glasses: The Overt & Limited Solution
- Glasses are unsuitable for many activities and types of work;
- Glasses are easily damaged and lost;
- Some people find glasses inconvenient, stressful, and/or unattractive;
- Reading glasses are a limited solution to presbyopia;
- Over the long term, glasses can cost more than Laser Eye Surgery.
Above, we walk you through the many great things about glasses, but it is important to remember that they don’t come without their limitations.
Perhaps the most obvious flaw of glasses is their vulnerability to loss and breakage. Their lenses are prone to scratches and cracks, their arms are easy to snap and quick to come loose, and they’re easy to forget no matter how many years you have needed glasses!
Furthermore, traditional glasses are unsuitable for almost all kinds of exercise and sports. Specifically, avid swimmers will have to invest in a pair of prescription goggles just so that they can see where they’re going in the pool and extreme sports like skydiving and bungee jumping are practically out of the question.
But glasses aren’t only a potential hindrance to leisure activities. They can also get in the way in the cases of certain professions. When it comes to day-to-day life, glasses also cause a number of minor (but still relevant) annoyances. They fog up in cold or humid environments, attract dust and dirt, and many other inconveniences that can have an impact on your stress levels and quality of life.
While many people get used to these problems, many are also unwilling to live their lives around their glasses. The inconvenience of glasses can seem even more significant for people who aren’t used to wearing them. For example, when presbyopia begins to set in (typically around your early 40s), your new need for reading glasses may feel like a major lifestyle change that you just can’t get used to.
The Financial Cost of Glasses
On the face of it, the cost of glasses may not seem that significant. But this is a misconception that often leads to significant financial costs further down the line. To help you better understand the potential cost of your glasses, we’ve broken down the typical costs over a ten-year period.
For our calculation, we have not included the cost of eye examinations. That’s because you should have an examination every two years regardless of whether you wear contacts, glasses, or have Laser Eye Surgery.
Using an estimated cost of between £250 and £500 for one pair of glasses being replaced every two years, the average daily cost is calculated at between 34.2p and 69.4p per day. Over ten years that makes the cost of glasses £1,523.74 on the low side, and £3,047.48 on the high side (assuming a yearly inflation rate of 4.5%).
Using this calculation, glasses typically cost a little less than contact lenses, which may not be surprising. What is surprising, however, is that glasses can often cost more than Laser Eye Surgery. In contrast, though, the one-off cost of Laser Eye Surgery leaves you with permanently-improved vision! This is also not taking into consideration the potential additional costs of prescription sunglasses and prescription sports eyewear.
The Case For Contact Lenses: Clear Vision in the Blink of an Eye
- Contact lenses offer potentially better visual acuity when compared with glasses;
- Contact lenses offer a greater and clearer field of vision than glasses;
- They can allow wearers to take part in many sports and forms of exercise;
- Some people prefer the appearance of contact lenses to glasses.
After having assessed the many drawbacks of wearing glasses, contact lenses appear to offer a ready solution to the bulk of these concerns. Among the top benefits of contact lenses when compared with glasses is their increased accuracy. Unlike glasses lenses, contacts fit around the actual eye, allowing them to bend light into the eye in a way that more accurately addresses your prescription. If you switch from glasses to contacts, you might be surprised that they appear to slightly increase your visual acuity.
Contact lenses can also appear to be more effective than glasses for another reason: they’re not exposed to the elements. While glasses lenses are exposed to steam, rain, and potential damage, contact lenses are safe behind your eyelids. This means that they stay free from greasy fingerprint smudges, scratches, and other blemishes as well as glare from light sources!
Another benefit of contact lenses is the lack of a restrictive frame. Glasses frames can hinder your peripheral vision, limiting what we can see in all directions. In comparison, contact lenses allow you to look up, down, left, right – and any other direction you can think of – without any blind spots.
But perhaps above all these advantages, contact lenses allow wearers to take part in a whole range of sports and exercises with less disruption or hindrance.
Contact lenses are completely unnoticeable to everyone except for the wearer. That means that you never have to worry about them looking silly or matching your outfit.
Finally, it is also possible to get monovision or multifocal lenses, which are designed to reduce the need for reading glasses – an option that many people with presbyopia may benefit from.
The Case against Contact Lenses: Rented Vision that Comes with an Unexpected Cost
- Contact lenses put wearers at a high risk of infection and eye damage;
- Wearers may experience dryness, irritation, and redness;
- Contact lenses require a strict and inconvenient hygiene practices;
- The adverse effects of contact lenses are exacerbated by lifestyle factors;
- Contact lenses are not tolerated by many people;
- Contact lenses may not be able to fully correct astigmatism;
- Over the long term, contact lenses typically cost more than glasses and Laser Eye Surgery;
- The plastic waste generated by the millions of lenses discarded every day is bad for the environment.
While the above might appear to paint a pretty picture with regard to contact lenses, the reality isn’t actually all that rosy. In fact, the feature behind the most significant advantages of contacts – that they sit directly on the eye – is also their most significant disadvantage.
An Increased Risk of Infection
The simple fact is that placing a foreign object in your eye using your finger is not very hygienic. As a result, wearing contact lenses – particularly over the long term – puts you at a higher risk of infection and eye damage.
This can include severe and even vision-threatening problems, such as corneal infection. According to the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA), such conditions are characterised by irritation, redness, pain, watery eyes and/or discharge.
Information from the BCLA states that around 6 in 100,000 contact lens wearers experience vision loss every year. In comparison, vision loss related to glasses is almost nil. Furthermore, vision loss as a result of LASIK (a common Laser Eye Surgery procedure) is extremely rare; so rare, in fact, that (provided you go to a high-quality clinic) it is almost impossible to put a figure on it.
These risks are exacerbated if you wear your contact lenses for too long or fail to follow the necessary hygiene practices. Other lifestyle habits, such as sleeping in your lenses, can also increase your risk of infection by up to four times!
As we mentioned earlier, contact lenses allow many wearers to continue with many of their favourite sports and activities; however, when it comes to anything involving extreme activity or water, this is not the case. Swimming, saunas, and even something as normal as taking a shower can prove troublesome for contact lens wearers.
The very nature of contact lenses – that they sit directly on the eye – means that they disrupt the interaction between tears and the surface cells of the cornea. This can lead to further irritation and dehydration of the eyes – a problem that can be further exacerbated if you work on a computer or spend a lot of time on your electronic devices.
These combined reasons mean that contact lenses are only considered safe and suitable as a temporary form of vision correction.
“Cosmetic” Contact Lenses
The majority of contact lenses are designed to be worn by those who need them as a visual aid; however, there is also a growing industry of “cosmetic” lenses that can have some worrying consequences.
According to laser eye surgeon Mr Glenn Carp, such lenses “tend to be larger in size and have a much lower oxygen transmission rate”. In addition, many of these lenses are designed to cover part of the whites of the eye, increasing the chances of problems like acute red eye and infection.
The Financial Cost of Contact Lenses
Contact lenses tend to be the most expensive option for vision correction. The exact cost, however, can depend on a number of factors, including your prescription, age, and how often you use them. But contact lenses don’t only come at a financial cost. As you can imagine, the amount of disposable plastic needed to accommodate the global demand for contact lenses also comes at an environmental cost.
According to Adrian Knowles of the Eyecare Trust, a UK charity that raises awareness around eye health, “if you work out the cost of a year’s supply of daily disposable lenses, it comes out at about 90p per day.”
Spread out over a year, that comes to about £325. So, over ten years, assuming there’s no inflation, that’s £3,250.
With the cost rising to £5000 in just fifteen years, that’s similar to the highest-quality Laser Eye Surgery treatment, which as well as avoiding the risks of infection, comes with a whole host of other advantages.
The Case for Laser Eye Surgery: A Revolutionary Way to Improve & Own Your Vision
- Unlike glasses or contacts, Laser Eye Surgery is a permanent fix;
- Many patients achieve a higher visual acuity from Laser Eye Surgery than is possible with glasses or contacts;
- Laser Eye Surgery offers clear and limitation-free vision – even to the most active individuals;
- Laser Eye Surgery is one of the safest elective procedures in the world;
- Over the long term, Laser Eye Surgery may be the cheapest form of vision correction.
The main advantage of Laser Eye Surgery over glasses and contact lenses is that it isn’t just a temporary fix for your refractive error. Far from providing temporary adjustment to your vision, the results of Laser Eye Surgery are permanent. The changes made to the structure of your eye completely eliminate the refractive error, so you can enjoy restriction-free clear vision for years to come.
Obviously, Laser Eye Surgery frees you from having to wear glasses and contact lenses and all the drawbacks listed above. Repairs, replacements, trips to the optometrist, risk of infection, dry eye, irritation, exercise restrictions – all of these can be avoided with Laser Eye Surgery.
Laser Eye Surgery is the most convenient form of vision correction out there as once you’ve had it done, you can forget about it and get on with your life.
The results of Laser Eye Surgery are not only permanent but can often be better. For example, virtually 100 per cent of patients who receive standard LASIK treatment are able to achieve 20/40 vision, and over 95 per cent achieve 20/20 or better!
It’s not uncommon for patients to reach an even higher level of vision with Laser Eye Surgery. For example, 97 per cent of our short-sighted patients see 20/20 or better. In fact, many are able to see at 20/16 or even 20/12.5 following the procedure. For more information about vision measurements, take a look at our guide.
For active people – from those who enjoy a weekly run to those that pursue sports-related careers – visual aids can make life particularly difficult. Luckily, Laser Eye Surgery offers an effective alternative – without the restrictions!
Many sportsmen and women opt for Laser Eye Surgery for this very reason. Recently, paralympic hand-cycling champion, Karen Darke opted for Laser Eye Surgery to improve her vision during her races. Following her treatment, Karen explained: “I feel to be much more ‘in’ the world again, safer when I ride my bike, and grateful for the bright new world I see every day.”
In addition to being extremely effective, restriction-free, and permanent, Laser Eye Surgery is ever becoming a more viable option for more people. These procedures offer effective vision correction to many people – including those who cannot tolerate contact lenses and those with very high prescriptions!
Furthermore, Laser Eye Surgery isn’t only available for refractive errors like long-sightedness, short-sightedness, and astigmatism. PRESBYOND® Laser Blended Vision offers people a real opportunity to rid themselves of reading glasses for good. In fact, this Laser Eye Surgery procedure is considered by many experts to be the most effective way to alleviate the symptoms of presbyopia.
PRESBYOND® Laser Blended Vision is incredibly safe and easy to adapt to, therefore suitable for nearly all patients (98 per cent).
Laser Eye Surgery has now successfully treated over 35 million people around the world. It has become a well-established treatment option and is now considered the safest and most effective form of elective surgery in the world.
While Laser Eye Surgery may come at a significant upfront cost, this often works out as equal – or even cheaper – to contact lenses or glasses over the long term. All of these benefits come together to promote not only high patient satisfaction but also an increase in quality of life.
The Case against Laser Eye Surgery: An Emerging & Often Difficult to Navigate Market
- Laser Eye Surgery has a high upfront cost;
- Some patients are not suitable for Laser Eye Surgery;
- Laser Eye Surgery is a surgical procedure that comes with some risks;
- The market can be difficult to navigate.
Laser Eye Surgery is the most innovative development in the field of vision correction. This is reflected in the lower number of downsides when compared with glasses and contact lenses. However, that isn’t to say it is without its limitations.
For starters, as far as the technology has come, there are some people who are simply not suitable for Laser Eye Surgery. This can be due to age, pregnancy, or having certain medical or ocular conditions such as keratoconus.
Depending on the exact cause, you may be either temporarily or permanently unsuitable for treatment. For example, while people who are pregnant or breastfeeding are unsuitable for treatment, it is likely they will once again be suitable for treatment once they have finished breastfeeding.
The Upfront Cost
Perhaps the most significant and unavoidable downside of Laser Eye Surgery is the upfront cost of the procedure. As we have said, this cost often equates to less than the long-term cost of other options; however, parting with such a substantial sum in one payment can be a serious inconvenience.
That’s why, here at London Vision Clinic, we offer our patients the option to spread the cost of their treatment. Our Finance Plan allows you to pay for the cost of Laser Eye Surgery through a number of affordable instalments. For more information, visit our Prices page.
While Laser Eye Surgery is considered one of the safest elective procedures in the world, it is not without its risks. As with any surgical procedure, there is always a slight chance that things may not go 100 per cent as planned. However, thanks to the minimally invasive nature of the procedure, combined with the use of cutting-edge technology, this risk is extremely low.
That brings us to one final point regarding Laser Eye Surgery: the huge amount of misinformation and unclear advice surrounding the industry. Many of the misconceptions about Laser Eye Surgery stem from competition between clinics and the lack of longevity of regulation within the industry.
However, with the RCOphth guidelines published in April 2017 and the updated Certificate of Laser Refractive Surgery, there is now more regulation on the industry. Furthermore, more training is now available, including the Postgraduate Diploma in Cataract and Refractive Surgery at Ulster University, with Prof Reinstein on the teaching faculty.
Unfortunately, this still means that it is up to the individual to be discerning when informing themselves about Laser Eye Surgery. It is also important to make sure you choose a high-quality clinic, as the quality of care you receive can vary significantly.
We hope you found this practical guide to glasses, contacts, and Laser Eye Surgery useful. If you’d like to find out if Laser Eye Surgery could be the best option for you why not get in touch? Alternatively, Book a Consultation today.