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How much do contact lenses cost?

How much contacts cost depends on many factors, including your contact lens prescription, the type of contacts you choose and where you buy them.

Other factors that can affect your contact lens costs include manufacturer rebates, discounts for buying a year's supply at once and how frequently you replace your lenses.

"Ballpark estimates" of contact lens costs

Because many factors affect contact lens cost and prices frequently change, it's difficult to describe lens costs accurately.

The following contact lenses price data was updated in June 2021 (before rebates, special discounts, shipping, etc.)

Generally speaking, if you are nearsighted and are prescribed a popular brand of disposable soft contact lenses, these lenses frequently are sold at a retail price of $25 to $40 for a box of six lenses.

If you replace your contacts approximately every two weeks, this means you need about five boxes (30 lenses) per eye, or a total of 10 boxes per year. This comes to an annual contact lens cost of roughly $250 to $400 (lenses only).

A number of factors can increase how much contacts cost, including:

Astigmatism. Contact lenses that correct astigmatism cost more than soft contacts that only correct nearsightedness or farsightedness. Soft contact lenses for astigmatism, called toric contacts, frequently retail for $45 to $65 for a box of six lenses. So if you replace your toric contact lenses every two weeks, your annual lens cost is roughly $450 to $650. In some cases, eye doctors recommend replacing toric lenses less frequently, which lowers this cost.

Colored contacts. Tinted soft contact lenses to enhance or change your eye color are more expensive than clear lenses or lenses with only a faint handling tint (which helps you see the lens in your storage case or helps you find the lens if you drop it). Expect to pay roughly $45 to $90 more for a box of six colored contact lenses. Colored contacts that correct astigmatism can cost significantly more.

Special-effect contact lenses. Special-effect contacts (also called theatrical contact lenses, costume contacts and gothic contact lenses) are popular for Halloween and costume parties. These lenses typically are sold separately in individual glass vials and can range in price from $50 to more than $200 per lens. Beware of low-cost, special-effect contacts sold online. It's unsafe to wear contacts that haven't been fitted by an eye care professional. And some of these low-cost contacts aren't approved by the FDA.

Presbyopia. If you are over age 40 and need bifocals, there are a number of contact lens options to correct presbyopia. The estimated cost of a box of six bifocal contact lenses is $70 to $90. So, an annual lens cost of $700 to $900 is not unusual if you wear the lenses daily and replace them every two weeks.

Daily disposable contacts. Daily disposable lenses are designed to be discarded after a single use. These lenses typically are sold in boxes of 30 lenses at a retail price of $30 to $40 per box. Using this per-box estimate, your annual lens cost for daily disposable contacts is $720 to $960. (Buying in boxes of 90 lenses or purchasing a full-year supply can reduce how much these lenses cost.)

Extended wear (30-day) silicone hydrogel contacts. Silicone hydrogel soft contacts that are designed for up to 30 days of continuous wear will typically cost $60 to $75 per box of six lenses. Most people who purchase these lenses buy about three boxes per eye annually. (This is because they may replace the lenses more frequently than every 30 days.) So, the annual cost of these extended wear contacts generally runs about $360 to $450.

Gas permeable contact lenses. Rigid gas permeable contacts are custom-made for each patient. Because they are not mass-produced like soft contacts, gas permeable (GP) lenses are more expensive than soft lenses (on a per-lens basis). But a single pair of GP lenses can last a whole year. So, the annual cost of wearing gas permeable lenses often is very comparable with the cost of soft contacts. Ask your eye doctor for a cost comparison of GP vs. soft contacts for your specific visual needs.

Custom contacts. Custom-made contact lenses are available in both gas permeable and soft lens materials. Commonly prescribed custom GP lenses are designed to correct vision problems caused by keratoconus and other hard-to-fit-eyes. Custom contact lenses are significantly more costly than conventional GP or soft lenses. Again, consult your eye doctor for the cost of custom contacts for your specific needs.

RELATED READING: Are cheap contacts a good idea?

Cost of contact lens solutions

Don't forget about the cost of contact lens solutions to clean and disinfect your lenses. If you wear contacts on a daily wear basis and clean and disinfect them after each use, expect your annual cost for contact lens care solutions to be roughly $150 to $200.

So to determine your combined yearly contact lens costs for lenses and solutions, add $150 to $200 to the above totals.

An exception to this is calculating how much daily disposable contacts cost on an annual basis. Since you discard these lenses after each use, you usually don't need to buy contact lens solutions if you wear these lenses.

It's a good idea, though, to keep a bottle of contact lens solution handy if you wear daily disposable contacts, in case you need to rinse or rewet your lenses during the day. This is especially true if you live or work in a dry, dusty environment.

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