When it comes to vision correction, the two main options that most people decide between is glasses and contacts. But it might surprise you to learn that there are two main categories of contact lenses that people who go this route must decide between – soft lenses and hard lenses. Soft lenses are the more popular of the two, but there are still people out there who prefer hard lenses. Noting this, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that there are some key pros and cons that each exhibit. In order to give you a better understanding between the two contact types, we’ve broken down each of them in this post:
Hard contact lenses as we know them today arrived on the scene in the 1970s. Today, these types of lenses may also be known as “rigid gas permeable,” or RPG lenses, or as just “gas permeable,” or GP lenses, due to a significant improvement that was made back in the ‘70s that made these hard lenses more flexible and allowed oxygen to better pass through them.
Here’s a closer look at the advantages of RPG lenses:
- Eye health benefits: Research shows that RPG lenses have actually contributed to slowing the development of nearsightedness, particularly as it pertains to children and young adults.
- Durability: Compared to soft contact lenses, hard lenses are much more durable, and thereby longer lasting.
- Easy Maintenance: While you still need to care for hard lenses to prolong their effective use, due to the durability of the material, they’re generally much less prone to rips and tears when putting them in and removing them compared to soft contacts.
- Comfort: Soft contacts are generally described as the more comfortable of the two, but as we previously noted, the ability of hard lenses to allow more oxygen to pass through the lens and to the eye, as well as their enhanced flexibility, makes them comfortable to wear too.
- Variety: Unlike many soft contact types, hard contacts are available in bifocal and multifocal formats.
While the benefits largely outweigh the disadvantages of hard contacts, there are a few notable cons to point out:
- Dislodging: Hard contacts dislodge easier than soft contacts.
- Needs Consistency: Hard contacts aren’t designed for people who are only going to wear lenses for a few hours a day. That’s because they require consistent wear to really feel comfortable.
- Not Immune from Damage: Though more durable than soft lenses, they’re still able to be scratched and damaged.
Soft contacts arrived on the U.S. market in 1971 and quickly became the more popular lens type simply for their enhanced comfort during wear.
Here’s a closer look at the advantages to wearing soft lenses:
- Comfort: We already mentioned this benefit, but it’s worth noting again. Soft lenses are made from a flexible plastic that forms better to the eye and takes far less time to get used to compared to hard lenses. These lenses are often combined with water, which better helps oxygen pass through the lens and to the eye. Furthermore, this enhanced comfort is complemented by a lesser chance of them being dislodged.
- Variety: Soft contact lenses come in a bevy of different sub categories. For instance, you can get daily wear lenses, extended wear lenses, extended wear disposable lenses and planned replacement lenses.
- Corrective Ability: Soft contacts are ideal for those who have been diagnosed as nearsighted and farsighted, as well as those with blurred vision or the loss of close-up sight.
- Convenient: There’s no extended care necessary for soft lenses – once they’re at the end of their projected life, which may be as little as one day to as long as a few weeks, just throw them out and put a new pair in.
It’s easy to see why soft contact lenses have surpassed hard lenses in terms of popularity, but soft lenses aren’t without their disadvantages too:
- Less Durable: Soft lenses are more susceptible to rips and tears in the lens, so extra caution has to be taken when putting them in, removing them and caring for them.
- Eye Infections: Those who wear soft lenses are more likely to get eye infections than those who do not, partially due to how easily the lenses soil.
- Vision Quality: Soft contacts generally don’t offer as sharp of sight as hard contacts do.
- More Costly: Because soft contacts need to be replaced more often than hard contacts, they typically cost more in the long-term.
So if you’re weighing the glasses vs. contacts debate, now you know that there are two main types of contacts you’ll have to choose from if you decide to go that route – and there are pros and cons to each.