So you’re tired of glasses, and you’re wondering what you should do instead about your less-than-ideal eyesight. It’s true that glasses can certainly be annoying—they can break, crack, fall off your face, fog up during humid weather, and you have to usually take them off when you want to go swimming.
For some sensitive people, glasses can even irritate the skin of their nose and face and cause acne. Sure, they’re simple and cheap and non-invasive (a huge plus), but they definitely have their downsides if for no other reason than the fact that they require you to wear a hunk of metal or plastic on your face all day.
Luckily, for those of us who find glasses too annoying, or are simply to vain to wear them, there are some options for correcting your eyesight without needing to wear any. You’re probably familiar with contact lenses and all of their advantages, but few people are familiar with the risks and downsides. The same goes for LASIK surgery, which has its own hosts of benefits, but also potential drawbacks.
Let’s examine each of these glasses-free options a bit more closely so that you can better decide which one works best for you:
Pros of Contact Lenses
Contact lenses are a god-send for many and seem like highly advanced space age technology, but actually the first practical lenses that could be affixed directly to the eye were invented in the late 1800’s. Long before that, people had theorized about a possible invention that could replace glasses in this way, and Leonardo da Vinci even proposed a similar device.
For a long time, “hard” contacts made of though plastic dominated the market, but most people use soft silicon hydrogel ones these days. Modern contacts have all sorts of advantages over glasses, for instance:
- Comfort: They require no direct contact with the face, so you might often forget that they are there.
- Invisibility: Unless someone stares directly at your eye, no one can tell that you are wearing them.
- Creativity: You can use the lenses to give your eye a different appearance, from changing your eye color to giving your eye a wacky design.
Compared to LASIK, they also have a few definite “pros” that you can tally up:
- Relatively non-invasive. Yeah, you’re basically required to touch your eyeball every day (unless you have servants to do it for you), but under normal circumstances, nothing is cutting your eye or going into it.
- Doesn’t permanently alter your eye. It doesn’t have as much of a potential to produce permanent scaring the way surgery sometimes can.
- It doesn’t require any preparation or healing. Contacts are straight-forward. From day one usually, you can just pop them in and your eyesight is automatically better. Some laser surgeries such as PRK can have a significant (sometimes months) healing time.
- You can change your eye color. As mentioned above, you can change your eye color temporarily with contact lens. You can’t do this with LASIK surgery.
However, contact lenses are not without their drawbacks compared to both glasses and LASIK.
Cons of Using Contact Lenses
They are less sanitary. Let’s get real here, even if you follow all of the instructions and take perfect care of your contact lenses, it’s remotely possible to develop an infection since you’re putting your finger in your eye every day. Though most people never suffer this fate, and it’s fairly easy to prevent this from happening, it’s not fun if it does.
You have to deal with maintenance. Contact lenses usually require specialized fluids to keep them sanitary and free from protein build-up. Without observing proper maintenance, your lenses could dry out or become too dirty for you to use.
They can hurt your eye. Normally, when you go to a proper optometrist to get fitted for your contacts, this doesn’t happen, but ill-fitting contacts can irritate your cornea. Some people who don’t tolerate contacts well can also suffer other ill effects.
They reduce the amount of oxygen that gets to the surface of you eye. This usually isn’t that huge of a problem so long as you receive proper follow up care from your optometrist, but some people can develop red veins near the edges of where their contacts usually sit. This is where your body is compensating so that it can deliver oxygen to the middle of your eye under the contact that is depriving it of oxygen.
They have less of a lifespan. LASIK is basically permanent, and if your prescription is stable, glasses can just about last forever. Contact lenses, on the other hand, especially soft ones, are designed to break down and become unusable over time. Sometimes they might even break or tear spontaneously, resulting in having to replace them sooner.
There’s a learning curve. It only takes maybe 20 or 30 minutes to initially learn how to put contacts on, but perfecting this art and making it habitual is another story; it can take weeks until you’re fully used to it and have stopped making all of the rookie mistakes.
It takes time to get used to them. Your eyes will usually need time to get acclimated to the presence of a foreign object, and this can also take a few weeks, even with soft lenses. In the meantime, you will probably be tearing up a lot and have a few cases of red, veiny eyeballs. You might have to acclimate slowly, and avoid wearing them all day at first.
Now that we’ve taken a close look at contact lenses and why you may or may not want to invest in them, let’s check out LASIK and see what it has to offer.
Pros of LASIK Eye Surgery
LASIK eye surgery was developed late in the 20th century, and it was a welcome alternative to the other corrective options, since it was an apparently permanent solution to poor eyesight. Being able to see without glasses or contacts was obviously an attractive option, and these days, even people with conditions like astigmatism can benefit from LASIK treatment. Here are a few of the major advantages to LASIK compared to contacts and glasses:
- It is sanitary, for the most part. Barring a problem that occurs during the actual surgery and recovery, LASIK is more sanitary than using contacts, since you won’t need to physically fiddle with your eye day after day.
- It is permanent. In theory, you shouldn’t have to wear corrective lenses ever again, with the exception of maybe reading glasses when you’re older (past your 40s). You eyesight is permanently corrected.
- You can’t misplace it or break it. With contacts, you can forget where you left them, they can fall out, or they can even break apart while they’re in your eye. With LASIK, you have none of these problems.
- It is potentially cheaper over the long-term. Contacts are relatively inexpensive over the short-term, but over the long-term, it may be worth investing a few thousand dollars in order to never have to wear contacts again.
More importantly, for some people, it’s just great to have the freedom to not have to carry around what is essentially a medical device everywhere they go. However, LASIK is not without its risks and downsides. Let’s take a look:
Cons of LASIK Eye Surgery
- It’s expensive. Like installing solar panels on your roof, it may save you money over the long haul, but it will normally cost thousands upfront.
- It might not actually correct your vision entirely. Most people see marked improvement with their vision after having LASIK surgery, but a certain percentage will still have to wear glasses.
- There can be complications and infections, as with any surgery. Basically, until you heal, there will be a loose flap of cornea sticking to your eye using only cohesion. If anything gets under that flap, it could potentially cause problems.
- You might experience dry eye. Sometimes it’s temporary, sometimes it’s not, but LASIK surgery can give you dry eyes.
- There is a recovery period. As with any surgery, things will be annoying for awhile right after the surgery. You will probably have to use special drops and engage in other kinds of eye care. Not to mention, there’s not a whole lot you can do for a few days after the surgery but sit on your couch and wait until your eyes heal.
- There’s little evidence in terms of very long-term consequences. Since LASIK has not been around as long as glasses and contacts, there is only a few decades-worth of evidence about how safe LASIK is over the long run. Probably, there are no major ill effects, but you never really know.
As you can see, both contact lenses and LASIK surgery have their pros and cons. It really depends on what your goals are and what you feel that you are willing to tolerate. Having poor eyesight is never fun, but fortunately, in our modern age, we have many options to correct this problem.