Extended Wear Contacts or LASIK?
Is One Clearly Superior to the Other?
When it comes to vision correction it can sometimes be difficult to “see” the correct answer. Although technology has evolved to the point where most people no longer need to wear glasses or contact lenses, there are many choices available, and it can be difficult to determine what is best for you.
There are two main ways to replace glasses and daily-wear contacts – extended-wear contacts and corrective surgical procedures like LASIK.
Continuous- or extended-wear contacts are made of silicone hydrogel – a material which allows oxygen to pass through the lens, keeping the eye healthy. They can be worn day and night for 30 days, after which they need to be replaced.
LASIK is a procedure where a laser reshapes the cornea. The cornea is the clear front part of the eye which covers the pupil. LASIK is a very precise procedure, approved by the FDA, and has been successfully performed on millions of people. With custom (Wavefront) LASIK, most patients achieve 20/20 vision or better.
Extended-Wear Contacts and LASIK Work in a Similar Fashion
When a person is nearsighted or farsighted, it’s the result of an improperly shaped cornea. Normally, light enters the cornea, which (in tandem with the eye’s lens) focuses the light onto the back of the eye, creating a clear image. If a person’s cornea is too flat, images close up become blurred (this is called hyperopia.) If the cornea is too steep, it’s the far away images which become blurred (called myopia.)
To improve near- or far-sighted vision, the eye must somehow bend light at a different angle. Contacts – continuous-wear contacts included – change the angle at which light enters the cornea. So even though the cornea itself still bends it incorrectly, the contacts make up for that, and the eye receives light such that blurriness is eliminated.
Custom LASIK, however, corrects the problem on a deeper level. An excimer laser, using a three-dimensional map of the eye as a guide, reshapes the cornea itself. After undergoing LASIK, most people no longer require glasses or contacts of any kind.
So which is better – LASIK or extended-wear contacts? There are pros and cons to each.
Both LASIK and extended-wear contacts are effective at correcting three vision problems: myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. Neither is painful. However, there are two key differences: price and maintenance.
LASIK averages about $1,900 per eye. Extended wear contacts cost, on average, about one dollar a day and you must continually purchase them. In the long run, LASIK is cheaper. It is a one-time cost and the results typically last a lifetime.
Extended wear contacts have some advantages:
The prescription can be changed over time
There is no surgery
They also have disadvantages:
They can fall out and be lost
They need to be taken out at night if they are daily. See Sleeping With Contacts for more information on this.
However, for people whose vision problems have stabilized, LASIK treatment is cheaper and more effective – especially now that the LASIK procedure is faster, safer and less invasive than it was originally.
If you wear glasses or daily-wear contacts, and are interested in a more permanent solution to your vision problems, please see your eye doctor today. While there are many options available, only a personal consultation with a professional can give you the specific information you’ll need to make a “clear” decision.