Contact Lenses or Spectacles? That question still


Vision correction is truly a marvelous thing. Without it, our ancestors's lives were far more restricted by age and accidents of birth than ours are. Introduction of eye glasses and movable type printing press to Europe about seven centuries ago caused a major upturn in technology, industry, and population.

Modern contact lenses, soft and hydrophilic, are easy to wear and convenient. However, eyeglasses still offer a wider range of vision correction and safety.

The right answer depends on many factors, such as age, eye prescription, work and play environments, peer pressure, and finances. It is rather common for persons to rely on both contacts and spectacles at different times, or to use both for vision plus safety.

There is one case where contact lenses are very definitely superior to spectacles, and that is after cataract surgery. Without the natural lens, or an implanted replacement, the eye can only focus at distance, if at all.

Spectacles would be very thick and heavy, even with plastic lenses. Corneal contact lenses or Intraocular Lens implants can feel nearly natural.

Mono focus corrections are the most common. With aging, multi focus corrections become progressively important for most folks, because the eyes lose elasticity. For single focus, contacts give the wider view, but for multi focus the advantage can be with spectacles tailored to have different prescriptions in different areas. Bi and Tri focal glasses are antiques compared to modern progressive lenses. Contact lenses are improving for multi focus, but still lack the range of spectacles. Also, cylindrical correction for different angles around the pupil (astigmatism) can be degraded if a contact lens moves off center of cornea or rotates.

One of the mysteries is that many people get around multi focus correction by wearing a 'near' contact in one eye and a 'far' lens in the other. Two mono focus contacts or wearing spectacles with contacts were the only answers until fairly recent years. The two focus approach can seriously degrade vision at some distances, can cause greater fatigue in one eye depending on the activity, and can drive some people up the wall. Multi focus contacts are thicker than single vision, as well as more costly. Quite obviously, the optimum choice of these contact types or spectacles will depend on the user. Some wearers will experience lost depth perception at all distances.

For sun protection, spectacles offer tint, anti glare, anti UV, and polarization filters. Contacts can't be polarized, can have anti glare, and some claim anti UV.

At best, contacts only protect the cornea, so spectacles offer best protection against bright light and ultra violet.

Assuming the prescriptions are available in both contacts and spectacles, what about cost? Quite frankly, the dispensed price often has little to do with wholesale costs. Prices for 'fashion' spectacles and sunglasses are often like jewelry.

It turns out that contacts are often cheaper than spectacles, provided that both lens types can handle the prescription. This is especially true since the Federal Law, called the 'Fairness To Contact Lens Consumers', went into effect on February 4th, 2004. No longer can an eye care professional deny you a copy of your prescription, nor prevent you from purchasing via mail or internet.

Get your fittings from a local professional. Get your contacts or spectacles according to your convenience, price, and delivery time. Web stores now offer contact lenses at 70 percent off list price and the option of 3 day delivery.

A poet remarked that contacts are better than spectacles for 'walking in the rain or making love.' They can also be better for people with low self confidence, such as children subject to much name calling.

For more articles about safe and enjoyable use of contact lenses and spectacles, see

by Dr. Don Miller

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