Can I use contact lenses instead of glasses?

The following was written by Bill Evans and published in the Coolum and North Shore News, Ask the Professionals page on Friday, 30th December 2011.

Q: Can I use contact lenses instead of glasses?

Whether or not you can use contact lenses instead of glasses depends on your prescription, how healthy your eyes are, and what you presently use glasses for.

These days, most prescriptions can be catered for with contact lenses. For people with high prescriptions, they can be much better off with contact lenses because of contact lenses’ practicality and the lack of high-powered spectacle lens distortions. For people with high amounts of astigmatism, contact lenses may need to be more carefully chosen, however newer lens designs give clear, comfortable wearing. Presbyopia – the need to wear glasses for reading that affects most people aged 40 and over – may be corrected with monovision or multifocal contacts. Monovision is where one eye wears a reading contact lens for close vision while the other eye wears a lens to correct for the distance if necessary. Multifocal contact lenses let the wearer see for distance and reading with each eye.

The health of your eyes is another important factor in wearing contact lenses. People with dry eyes who need to use artificial tear supplements may find contacts more irritating on their eyes, so suitable lenses and contact lens solutions need to be prescribed. Likewise those people with allergies may find contacts exacerbate their symptoms of itch. And anterior eye conditions such as pteygium may make the lenses fail to sit well or be uncomfortable. Your optometrist will assess the suitability of your eyes for contact lens wear.

For many people, the straightforward answer is yes, contact lenses can replace your spectacles. Indeed, there are certain eye conditions such as keratoconus where contact lenses may give better vision than spectacles would. However many contact lens wearers use lenses for some of the week and spectacles at other times. They enjoy wearing spectacles as a fashion accessory, or to give their eyes a break from lenses, but then take advantage of the freedom, clarity and ease of use contact lenses provide.