LASIK vs. Contact Lenses: Making the Right Choice for Clear Vision

Young woman putting contact lens in her eye

If you’re tired of dealing with the hassle of glasses or the maintenance of contact lenses, you may be considering LASIK eye surgery. LASIK, or Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, is a popular vision correction procedure that can provide long-term clarity without the need for  glasses or contact lenses. 

Contact lenses are worn by around 40 million people in the United States. Every year there are 4-6 million new wearers. Nearly all people are wearing contact lenses for glasses free vision, a small percent wear color contact lenses exclusively for cosmetic purposes. Most wearers wear their lenses daily and choose to be contact lens wearers for over 2 years. 

Surprisingly, the amount of total contact lens wearers is nearly stagnant, this is because every year about 4-6 million contact lens wearers stop wearing contact lenses. In studies looking at new contact lens wearers over the course of a year, a little more than 20% will drop out of contact lens wear. The primary reason for discontinuing contact lenses is due to discomfort or poor vision while wearing their contact lenses. 

Keep in mind all of these patients are wearing contact lenses to be glasses free so if you stop wearing contact lenses are you doomed to going back to glasses? Do you struggle with contact lens issues? Luckily there are only 2 alternative methods of glasses free vision correction, LASIK and other vision correction procedures and orthokeratology. Orthokeratology is covered in another article, here we will focus on LASIK. However, before making a decision, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of LASIK versus contact lenses. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the benefits, risks, and lifestyle considerations of both options to help you make an informed choice for your vision needs.

Understanding Vision Correction: LASIK and Contact Lenses

To understand the differences between LASIK and contact lenses, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of how vision correction works. The human eye functions like a complex camera system, where light enters through the cornea, passes through the lens, and focuses on the retina at the back of the eye. Refractive errors, such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism, occur when the shape of the cornea or lens prevents light from properly focusing on the retina.

Soft contact lenses work by floating on the tear film layer of the cornea, refracting incoming light and correcting refractive errors. They provide clear vision and offer benefits such as unobstructed peripheral vision and the ability to wear them without affecting your appearance. Contact lenses provide temporary vision correction, only when the lens is worn, without the lens, the patient will need to use glasses to correct their vision. Contact lenses  require daily care and removal,  and though they are very safe they do carry a very small risk of infection. If not properly  cared for the risk for infection increases.  may cause discomfort for some individuals.

On the other hand, LASIK surgery reshapes the cornea using a specialized laser to correct refractive errors. It offers rapid improvement in vision and can provide long-term cost savings compared to the ongoing expenses of contact lenses. LASIK eliminates the need for corrective eyewear for the majority of patients and allows for an active lifestyle without the inconvenience of lenses. However, like any surgical procedure, LASIK carries some risks and may not be suitable for individuals with certain eye conditions or health issues.

Now, let’s delve deeper into the specific factors to consider when deciding between LASIK and contact lenses.

Cost: A Long-Term Investment in Clear Vision

When comparing the cost of LASIK versus contact lenses, it’s important to consider the long-term perspective. Contact lenses require ongoing expenses, including the cost of the lenses, cleaning solutions, and contact lens evaluation  exams. These costs can add up significantly over time, especially for individuals with complex prescriptions or astigmatism. On the other hand, LASIK surgery involves a one-time investment, and it can quickly become the more cost-effective option over an extended period.

While the upfront cost for LASIK may seem high, it’s essential to prioritize quality care for your eyes. It is important to choose a reputable eye care institution for your surgery with a board certified refractive surgeon who has years of experience in the field, and institutions where your surgeon is available to you after surgery. At the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute, we are board certified refractive surgeons, we are the absolute experts in the field so you can be confident in your choice. We are with you every step of the way, we even provide you with your surgeon’s direct contact info should you need it after surgery. In addition, financing options make LASIK more accessible. By investing in LASIK, you can potentially save thousands of dollars over a lifetime, eliminating the need for ongoing expenses related to contact lenses or glasses. However it is very important to keep having your primary care eye exams, which will ensure you don’t develop any eye diseases as you age.

Lifestyle Considerations: Convenience and Freedom

One of the key factors to consider when choosing between LASIK and contact lenses is how each option aligns with your lifestyle and daily activities. Contact lenses offer the convenience of unobstructed peripheral vision, no fogging in cold weather, and the ability to wear them without affecting your appearance. They are a popular choice for athletes and individuals with active lifestyles. However, certain sports such as water sports are not safe with contact lenses as the risk of severe infection is too high. They require daily care and cleaning, and improper maintenance can increase the risk of infections such as keratitis and conjunctivitis.

LASIK, on the other hand, provides a permanent solution to vision correction. Once you undergo LASIK surgery, you no longer need to worry about the inconvenience of contact lenses or the discomfort of glasses. You can participate in sports, exercise, and engage in various activities without the fear of losing or damaging your corrective eyewear or risk of infection associated with contact lenses. LASIK offers the freedom to enjoy your favorite activities, like swimming, skiing, and so much more, without compromising your visual acuity.

Additionally, LASIK eliminates the need for remembering to order new contact lenses, cleaning routines, and nightly removal. It simplifies your daily routine and allows you to focus on enjoying life rather than managing your vision correction. It’s a liberating choice that can significantly enhance your quality of life.

Comfort and Safety: Weighing the Risks

Comfort and safety are crucial considerations when deciding between LASIK and contact lenses. Contact lenses, when properly fit and cared for, can provide safe and comfortable vision correction. However, some individuals may find them uncomfortable or experience difficulties with insertion and removal. Prolonged contact lens wear can also cause  discomfort. 

Believe it or not, about 25% of contact lens wearers report engaging in risky contact lens wear habits such as sleeping in contact lenses, not disposing contact lenses on schedule, or not properly cleaning their contact lenses. These patients are at higher risk for eye infections, which can be extremely painful, difficult to treat and result in permanent vision loss. Generally contact lens overwear is just a patient saying they want full time glasses free vision so patients who engage in these habits should have LASIK or other forms of refractive surgery to eliminate the risk of contact lens related complications.LASIK surgery is a safe and efficient procedure when performed by experienced surgeons. It has an extremely high success rate and has become even safer over time. While there are potential risks and temporary side effects associated with LASIK, such as STODS (surgical temporary ocular discomfort syndrome) or night glare, serious complications are rare. In a report reviewing just under 70,000 LASIK cases, over 98.8% of LASIK patients reported stratification with the results, and only 0.6% reported a poor outcome. Advances in technology and comprehensive preoperative testing ensure accurate and reliable surgical procedures.

When considering the safety of LASIK versus contact lenses, it’s important to note that the risks associated with contact lenses often develop gradually over time. Corneal infections, generally referred to as microbial keratitis, are our primary concern and can occur if proper cleaning and maintenance protocols are not followed. These infections can lead to vision loss in some cases. LASIK, on the other hand, carries the risk of complications immediately following the procedure. Luckily, microbial keratitis is a very rare complication in either case but the risk of microbial keratitis from LASIK is comparatively lower than the risk associated with long-term contact lens use. Contact lens wear imposes a daily risk of infection, so it is compounding with each day the contact lens is worn, whereas infection risks associated with LASIK are a one time risk as the procedure is only performed once. 

Quality of Vision: Achieving Clarity

The ultimate goal of vision correction is to achieve clear and crisp vision. Both LASIK and contact lenses can provide effective correction for refractive errors, but the quality of vision may vary.

Contact lenses, when properly prescribed and fitted, can provide clear vision for daily activities. However, they may not offer the same level of visual acuity as LASIK. Contact lenses can sometimes cause blurring or fluctuating vision, especially if they are not properly maintained or if the fit is not precise. Additionally, certain conditions, such as astigmatism, may require specialized contact lenses to achieve optimal vision correction.

LASIK surgery, on the other hand, can provide excellent visual outcomes, can correct a wide range of refractive errors, including myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism, often resulting in 20/20 vision or better.This allows for clear vision without the reliance on glasses or contact lenses. 

The Decision: LASIK or Contact Lenses?

Choosing between LASIK and contact lenses is a personal decision that should be based on your individual needs, lifestyle, and preferences. Consider the following questions to help guide your decision-making process:

  • Are you willing to make a long-term investment in clear vision, or do you prefer the ongoing expenses of contact lenses?
  • How important is convenience and freedom in your daily life? Are you willing to commit to the maintenance and care required for contact lenses?
  • Do you prioritize comfort and safety? Are you comfortable with the risks associated with surgery, or do you prefer the risks associated with contact lens wear?

Ultimately, consulting with a qualified eye care professional is crucial in making an informed decision. They can assess your individual eye health, discuss your visual goals, and recommend the most suitable option for your specific needs. Consider booking a consultation with a reputable institution with an expert LASIK surgeon, one that is fellowship trained and highly regarded by peers as being an expert in the field, at the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute, to explore your options and receive personalized guidance. The same goes for an expert in contact lenses, you want a fellowship trained expert, if you choose this direction, the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute still has you covered as the experts for vision correction. 

Remember, whether you choose LASIK or contact lenses, the goal is to achieve clear, comfortable, and reliable vision correction. Prioritize your long-term eye health and wellness, and choose the option that aligns best with your lifestyle and visual goals.

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