According to the Vision Council, more than 194 million people in the U.S. wear prescription lenses – either contact lenses or eyeglasses. If you’re one of them, and you’re trying to decide which type of corrective lenses are right for you, read on.

There are four main reasons people need prescription eyewear to see clearly:

  • Nearsightedness (Myopia). People with myopia have difficulty focusing on objects that are far away.
  • Farsightedness (Hyperopia). People with hyperopia find it hard to see close-up objects sharply.
  • This age-related condition typically begins after age 40 and causes a loss of “near vision” as the eye’s natural lens ages and becomes less flexible, making it impossible to focus on close-up tasks.
  • This condition describes an eye that is not perfectly round, but rather it has an asymmetric curve to the cornea, causing difficulty for your eye’s lens to focus.

How Prescription Lenses Work

Whether you are nearsighted, farsighted, have an astigmatism or presbyopia, the lenses of your prescription eyeglasses are shaped specifically to counteract these conditions and help your eye focus sharply while wearing them. These conditions cause the incoming light and images your eyes perceive to bend a specific way. The goal of prescription eyewear is for the lenses prescribed to bend the light in just the right way to help your eyes focus clearly.

  • To correct farsightedness, convex lenses are used. Convex lenses are thicker in the center, similar to a magnifying glass. They bend the incoming light toward the top and bottom of your eye’s lens. This serves to extend the focal point to your retina.
  • To correct nearsightedness, concave lenses are used. Concave lenses are thinner in the center than on the edges, so they spread the light more toward the center of the lens, helping your eyes focus sharply.

You may have noticed that your eyeglass prescription has either a “minus” or a “plus” before the numbers on it. In optometry, we use a minus to indicate concave lenses and a plus to indicate convex lenses. When our optician reads your prescription, if it indicates “minus,” they’re for nearsightedness, and if it indicates “plus,” they’re for farsightedness.

Differences Between Contact Lenses and Glasses

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that 45 million people in the U.S. wear contact lenses.

Contact lenses operate much the same way as glasses do to correct your vision impairment. But instead of frames worn externally, the lenses sit atop the tear film of your eye – in “contact” with your eye. That’s why they’re called contact lenses.

Whether you prefer to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses to achieve your highest visual acuity is typically a personal choice. However, there are specific conditions that prevent a person from being able to wear contact lenses.

Advantages of wearing contact lenses include:

  • Unobstructed peripheral vision
  • Lower risk of visual distortion (because the lens adheres to your eye)
  • Don’t fall off during sports or other activities
  • Contacts don’t fog up from temperature changes

Disadvantages of contact lenses include:

  • More expensive than glasses
  • Some people find them difficult to put in and take out
  • More stringent lens care regimen than glasses
  • Can irritate dry eye symptoms
  • May feel dry and gritty if you accidentally fall asleep wearing them

Benefits of eyeglasses include:

  • Optional lens coatings including blue light reduction, UV protection, anti-reflective, polarization and scratch-resistant.
  • Cost less than contact lenses over the long-term, because they won’t need replacing as often
  • Won’t irritate sensitive or dry eyes
  • Offer protection from wind and blowing debris
  • Fashionable and fun frames to showcase your personality

Disadvantages of eyeglasses include:

  • Some peripheral vision distortion
  • Rain or snow may impact your vision when droplets get on glasses
  • Glasses may fog up when going from cold to warm conditions
  • Compared with contact lenses, glasses are easier to clean and maintain, and lower your risk of an eye infection because you don’t have to touch your eyes when putting them on.

Still not sure which is right for you? Our vision care team is knowledgeable about the benefits of both contact lenses and glasses, and will be happy to discuss them with you to determine the best fit for you and your lifestyle. Many of our patients have adopted a hybrid style in which they wear contact lenses on some days and glasses on others.

Wherever you land in the contact lenses versus glasses debate, the most important thing is to keep your eyes healthy and your vision optimal. Call us today to schedule your annual eye exam!