Are Contacts Expensive?
Contact lenses are a significant investment, but the rewards of contact lens wear also are significant. When asking "Are contacts expensive?" what many people really mean is, "Are contacts worth the cost?" Read on, and decide for yourself.
Contact Lens Costs and Benefits
Contacts offer many advantages over wearing eyeglasses, especially for sports and outdoor activities. Some of these benefits include better field-of-view, increased peripheral awareness, no lens fogging, no worry of them falling off and the ability to wear sport sunglasses and sport-specific headgear.
Most contact lens wearers today are nearsighted and choose disposable soft contact lenses.
If you wear disposable contacts daily and discard and replace them every two weeks the most common lens replacement schedule recommended by eye doctors you can expect to pay roughly $220 to $250 for a year's supply of lenses and another $150 to $200 on contact lens solutions, for a total annual cost of roughly $370 to $450 to wear contact lenses.
[For more details and other cost estimate scenarios, read our article, "How Much Do Contacts Cost?"]
Is that expensive? Perhaps the best way to judge is to compare this annual cost with the cost of prescription eyeglasses and vision correction surgery.
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Cost of Contact Lenses Compared With Eyeglasses
Some experts suggest the average cost of prescription eyeglasses is less than $300. If this is true, contact lenses cost more.
Also, many people who wear eyeglasses do not purchase new glasses every year.
But the cost of eyeglasses can increase significantly if you choose premium features, such as high index lenses, progressive lenses, anti-reflective coating and designer frames. A pair of prescription eyeglasses with all these features can easily exceed $800.
Cost of Contact Lenses Compared With LASIK
It seems obvious that contact lenses are less expensive than vision correction surgery. And they are initially.
Over the past few years, the average cost of the most advanced form of LASIK surgery performed in the United States has remained relatively stable, at about $2,150 per eye.
If LASIK costs $4,300 for both eyes, that's roughly 10 times the annual combined cost of contact lenses and lens care solutions.
But that also means that after 10 years, LASIK surgery (if surgical results are stable and no additional laser treatment or eyeglasses are needed) becomes more economical than the cumulative cost of contact lens wear.
[Read more about LASIK costs.]
What Does Expensive Mean?
Ultimately, the decision on whether contacts are expensive depends on the value you attach to them compared with the value of other elective expenses.
For example, how does the value you get from wearing contacts compare with the value you would get from a designer suit? Or an occasional dinner at an upscale restaurant?
It's up to you.
About the Author: Gary Heiting, OD, is senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 25 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear industry. His special interests include contact lenses, nutrition and preventive vision care. Connect with Dr. Heiting via Google+.
[Page updated February 20, 2014]
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