If your vision needs correcting, you have multiple options available to you. However, there are several factors to consider when it comes to figuring out whether glasses, contact lenses, or vision correction surgery is the right choice.
Each vision correction option has its advantages and drawbacks. Your health, lifestyle, and personal preference are also considerations when deciding on the best vision correction for you.
This article will take a closer look at the pros and cons of different vision correction options as well as the cost of each one.
When your vision is blurry or fuzzy, it can make it difficult to go about your daily activities. Fortunately, though, there are effective ways of correcting your vision and seeing clearly.
Many times, blurry or unclear vision is caused by what’s known as a refractive error. A refractive error occurs when light doesn’t bend correctly as it enters your eye. If the light that enters your eye doesn’t hit your retina correctly — the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye — your vision won’t be sharp.
There are four types of refractive errors:
- Nearsightedness. Nearsightedness is also known as myopia. This condition is the result of an abnormal eye shape that causes light to come into focus before it hits the retina at the back of the eye. This makes it difficult to see objects that are far away.
- Farsightedness. Farsightedness is also known as hyperopia. This condition is the result of an abnormal eye shape that causes light to come into focus behind the retina. This makes it hard to see objects close to you.
- Presbyopia. Presbyopia is farsightedness that happens as you age, when your eyes lose the ability to shift focus back and forth between distant and close objects. It’s common for people to start experiencing this kind of farsightedness in their 40s.
- Astigmatism. Astigmatism often causes images to appear distorted and might cause additional symptoms such as double vision or slanted vision. It generally happens when the cornea of your eye is somewhat elongated instead of round, but there can be other causes.
No matter what type of refractive error you have, vision correction can help you see clearly. Finding the right vision correction option allows you to drive, read, work on a computer, and do other daily tasks without squinting or straining your eyes to see properly.
For many people with refractive errors, these tasks would be impossible without some type of vision correction.
The right type of vision correction for you depends on a variety of factors. Let’s look at these factors more closely.
- Your day-to-day needs. Do you need to improve your eyesight for all activities or only for certain things, like reading or driving? If you only need vision correction for some things, you may decide that glasses are more practical. But, if you need vision correction for most activities, contact lenses or surgery might be a better option.
- Your eye health. Not all vision correction options are suited for all refractive errors. For instance, vision correction surgery isn’t generally recommended for presbyopia.
- Your overall health. Some chronic conditions might make it unsafe for you to get vision correction surgery. Also, contact lenses need to be stored, handled, and worn carefully to avoid infection. This may be difficult if you’re managing a health condition that already takes up your time and attention.
- Your lifestyle. Some jobs, sports, and hobbies can influence your vision correction choice. You might work in a setting where contact lenses would be unsafe. Or you may regularly play a sport that would be difficult to do if you wear glasses.
- Your personal preferences. Your personal preference also plays a role in what works best for you. Some people simply enjoy the look and style of glasses. Other people consider glasses to be a hassle or they don’t like the feeling of glasses sitting on their nose and ears.
Glasses use clear lenses to refocus light to the correct point on your retina so that you can see clearly.
When you have an eye exam, the eye doctor performs a series of tests to assess exactly how these lenses need to be shaped to correct your vision. This exact shape of the lens is your glasses prescription.
Your eyeglass prescription might be the same strength in both eyes or different strengths for each eye. It’s also possible to have multiple types of vision correction within the same lens.
Types of glasses
There are two primary types of glasses:
- Single vision lenses. Single vision lenses have one prescription on the entire lens. They correct either your near vision or your distance vision.
- Multifocal lenses. Multifocal lenses correct both near and distance vision in the same lens. Another type of multifocal lenses called trifocal lenses can correct near, middle, and distance vision all in one lens.
The cost of glasses
On average, glasses can cost anywhere from roughly $20 to $600. If you opt for designer frames, the cost can run into thousands of dollars. There are several reasons for the wide range in price.
What affects the cost of glasses?
- The frames you choose. Designer frames come with designer price tags. You can cut down on costs by choosing non-designer frames for your glasses. There are plenty of good quality, fashionable, yet affordable frames on the market.
- The lens material you choose. Standard plastic lenses are generally inexpensive. Thinner and more durable lenses such as high index polycarbonate lenses can add to the cost of your glasses.
- What type of lenses you need. Multifocals cost more than single vision lenses. Higher prescriptions sometimes require high index lenses, which can drive up the cost. Plus, any additional correction you might need, such as prism for double vision, will cost extra.
- Where you buy your glasses. Your eye doctor will generally have a wide range of glasses available at their office for you to choose from. However, you’re not limited to their selection. You can take your prescription and shop around for other options. Also, you can often find good deals by shopping online. If you only need glasses for reading, you can usually pick up a pair at a drugstore or big-box retailer for less than $20.
- Vision insurance. Vision insurance will typically cover a portion of the cost of your glasses, and also all or a portion of your eye exam. However, vision insurance usually only covers the cost, or a portion of the cost, of an eye exam if it’s a regular annual exam.
Contact lenses are thin clear discs you wear directly on your eye. The principle is the same as glasses. The thin disc corrects the way light enters your eye. This helps you to see more clearly. Your contact lens prescription is the disc strength that will correct your vision.
During a contact lens exam, you’ll get a prescription for the strength of contact lenses you need. Your prescription might not be the same for both eyes. The prescription for each eye can be different. Your eye doctor will also make sure your eyes are healthy enough for contact lenses.
If you already have a prescription for glasses, it’s important to understand that a prescription for contact lenses won’t the same as the prescription for your glasses.
You always need a prescription for contact lenses, and that prescription will need to be updated yearly.
Types of contact lenses
There are several types of contact lenses:
- Soft contact lenses. Soft contact lenses are the most common type of contact lens today. They’re comfortable and easier to manage than most other types of contacts. They’re typically disposable, and you can choose from contact lenses that you change daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
- Hard contact lenses. Hard contact lenses are firm and made of a thin plastic that lets oxygen pass into your eye easily. They’re often a good option for people with astigmatism or keratoconus.
- Multifocal contact lenses. Multifocal contact lenses can correct both near and distance vision at the same time.
- Hybrid contact lenses. Hybrid contacts combine hard and soft contacts together. The center is rigid but the outside is soft, allowing for a more comfortable fit.
- Toric contact lenses. Toric contact lenses are specialized soft contact lenses designed for people with astigmatism.
- Cosmetic contact lenses. Cosmetic contact lenses change the color or appearance of your eyes without correcting your vision. You still need a prescription for these lenses, and they need to be cleaned and cared for just like regular contacts.
The cost of contact lenses
The price of contact lenses can vary widely depending on the type of lenses you need. Hard contact lenses are generally less expensive than soft contact lenses.
Price comparisons for contact lenses
- Daily disposable soft contact lenses can cost between $400 and $750 a year, or around $50 to $90 for a box of 90 lenses (one eye).
- Weekly disposable soft contact lenses can range in price from $425 to $600 a year, or around $50 to $70 for a 12-week supply of lenses for one eye.
- Monthly disposable soft contact lenses can cost between $200 and $400 a year, or around $50 to $100 for a box of six contact lenses (one eye).
- Hard contacts can cost between $80 and $325 each. A single pair is designed to last an entire year.
Factors such as eye insurance, coupons, and manufacturer rebates can bring down these prices.
Vision correction surgery can correct the way your eye processes light which, in turn, helps you to see more clearly. Some types of surgery can even involve a lens that’s implanted into your eye to correct your vision.
Vision correction surgery is a popular option for people who don’t want to wear glasses or contact lenses. One of the best-known types of vision correction surgery is LASIK.
But there are several other types of vision correction surgery. Let’s look at the different types of vision correction surgery options.
- LASIK. LASIK surgery is done by creating a small flap in your cornea, and then using a laser to change the shape of the cornea. This changes the way light reaches the retina. It can be used for nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.
- Wavefront-guided LASIK. This procedure involves measuring your eye from front to back with a special type of laser technique known as “wavefront” technology. This creates a 3-D image of your eye and allows for a more customized surgery based on your eye measurements.
- Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). PRK is the most common alternative to LASIK. It involves removing the epithelial layer of the cornea and then reshaping it with a laser.
- EpiLasik. EpiLasik follows many of the same steps as PRK. The difference is that the epithelial layer of your cornea is saved and put back in place after your cornea is reshaped.
- SMILE. An acronym for small incision lenticule extraction, this surgery is similar to LASIK, but the surgeon makes a smaller incision to alter the shape of the cornea in order to correct nearsightedness.
- Conductive keratoplasty (CK). This procedure uses heat to shrink and tighten the cornea. It’s used for people over 40 with mild to moderate farsightedness.
- Phakic intraocular lenses (IOLs). Phakic IOLs are surgically implanted lenses placed in front of the natural lens of the eye. This procedure is often used for people who need strong vision correction that can’t be corrected with standard LASIK or PRK.
- Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE). RLE replaces the natural lens of the eye with an artificial lens. It can be used for people who are farsighted whose vision can’t be corrected with LASIK or PRK.
The cost of vision correction surgery
The cost of vision correction surgery can vary depending on the type of procedure and the degree of vision correction needed.
What to know about the cost of LASIK
- LASIK can cost between $1,000 and $4,000 per eye.
- In 2020, the average cost in the United States was $2,632 per eye.
- Because LASIK is considered an optional, or elective, surgery, it’s typically not covered by insurance plans.
- Unless there’s a medical reason why your vision can’t be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, you’ll need to pay for LASIK out of pocket.
Regular eye exams are a key part of keeping up with your overall health. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends eye exams at the following intervals:
|0 – 2||At 6 to 12 months of age, or as recommended|
|3 – 5||At least once between 3 and 5 years of age, or as recommended|
|6 – 17||Before first grade and once a year after that, or as recommended|
|18 – 64||At least every 2 years, or as recommended|
|65+||Annually, or as recommended|
The AOA also recommends that adults have a comprehensive eye exam at 40, when presbyopia is likely to begin.
People who are at a higher risk for vision or eye health concerns should also have an annual exam no matter their age. You may be at a higher risk if you:
- wear contact lenses
- have a personal or family history of eye health conditions
- have vision that’s progressively declining
- need a high degree of vision correction
- have type 1 or type 2 diabetes
- have vision in only one eye
- have been injured or had surgery in one or both eyes in the past
There are some vision symptoms that shouldn’t wait until your regular eye exam. See a doctor or eye doctor as soon as possible if you experience:
- a sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes
- eye pain
- ongoing eye itching or burning
- flashes of lights in your eye(s)
- a sudden sensitivity to light
Glasses, contacts, and vision correction surgery can all help you see more clearly. The right type of vision correction for you depends on several factors including the severity and type of vision loss you have, as well as your overall health, lifestyle, and personal preferences.
An eye doctor can test your vision to determine the prescription you need. They can also explain the pros and cons of each vision correction option in an effort to help you find the right choice for you.