Eye Health Central

Contact Lenses vs Laser Eye Surgery

Laser Eye surgeryExtended Wear Contact Lenses vs Laser Eye Surgery

For people that need to wear corrective lenses, but don't want to deal with the hassle of wearing eye glasses every day, there are two options left to pick from. Regular contact lenses work for many people, but for those looking for even more convenience, there are two viable options left. Extended wear contact lenses and laser eye surgery both provide means of clear vision, with out the need for daily maintenance, each having their own advantage and disadvantages.

Health Risks

For a large majority of patients, both extended wear contacts and laser eye surgery are completely safe, but there is a small chance of complication, regardless which you choose. Below are the risks you should be aware of if you're considering either option.

  • Extended Wear Contacts

As with any type of contact lens, there is a chance you may develop an infection on your eye. In fact, the risk is slightly higher with extended wear lenses than with standard soft lenses. Fortunately, silicone hydrogel lenses have been developed which allow five times as much oxygen through the lens and into your eye, helping to keep them healthy. If you've worn other types of contact lenses in the past and experienced frequent problems, it's likely you will have issues with extended wear contact lenses, as well.

  • Laser Eye Surgery

The success rate for laser eye surgery is incredibly high, with more than a 95% satisfaction rate among patients that have undergone the procedure. As time passes, new technology only increases that number, and reduces the number of complications. Some examples of new technologies being used are femtosecond lasers, which can make smaller cuts and thinner corneal flaps, and eye tracking technology which helps compensate for eye movement during the procedure. There are even methods being developed that will allow people with unique optical imperfections to benefit from laser eye surgery. There are some patients, though, that experience glare, especially in low light environments, which can make it difficult to drive at night. Dry eyes are also a possible side effect, but one than can be corrected with moisturizing eye drops.


Each offer superior vision quality, but with another set of trade-offs. As before, the major differences between the two are listed below.

  • Extended Wear Contacts

As soon as you put the contact lens on your eye, you'll see a different immediately. If there's any problem with the prescription or fit of the lens, you can change it out for another one in only a moment or two. There are no permanent commitments, and should you ever change you mind about what kind of lenses you wear, or if you even want to wear contact lenses at all, there's nothing standing in your way. As your eyes change over time, your prescription can be updated to match, including multifocal lenses that help to address presbyopia.

  • Laser Eye Surgery

It's a much more permanent solution, but the results are incomparable. Having 20/20 vision after laser eye surgery is common, and some people can achieve even better scores. The down side is that your eyes may still change over time, which means you may need to wear glasses in some situations, like while reading or driving at night. If the changes are drastic enough, a second laser surgery may be needed. Laser eye surgery can't treat presbyopia, which affects the muscles around the eye, not the lens. Monovision treatments may be an option, however. One eye is altered to focus clearly on distant objects, while the other eye is tuned to focus near by.


Likely the biggest difference between extended wear contacts and laser eye surgery is cost. While the laser surgery has a larger up-front price tag, the cost of contacts can add up over the years.

  • Extended Wear Contacts

Depending on the exact brand and your specific prescription, an annual supply of extended wear contact lenses may cost between ₤175-₤225 per year. When compared to standard lenses, you'll have an additional savings on the cost of lens care solution, since you won't be taking them out and storing them each night. You will still need a small bottle of multi-purpose solution, just in case. Over time, costs can add up.

  • Laser Eye Surgery

The cost for laser eye surgery can be somewhere between ₤1500-₤2000 per eye. That's a much larger up-front cost than contact lenses, but the results can potentially last a life time, saving you money in the long run. Some laser eye surgeons even offer payment plan options, so you can spread the cost out over time, making it more affordable. It's important to note that this doesn't eliminate 100% of eye care costs from your budget. Regular eye exams are still strongly recommended, and non-prescription sunglasses should be worn out doors to protect from UV radiation. Some patients experience chronic dry eye after laser eye surgery, and eye drops will need to be purchased frequently.

How to Decide

Discuss with your eye care practitioner which option is best for you. There may be certain medical limitations that make one of these options a better fit for you. If not, the decision comes down to personal preference. You should consider all of the pertinent aspect, including risk, convenience, flexibility, cost, and possible changes in your vision, especially if you're under the age of 40.

Can Opticians Perform Laser Eye Surgery?

Patients who are interested in getting a laser surgery procedure like LASIK will need to see an ophthalmologist at some point. Just like traditional eye surgeries, only ophthalmologists can perform laser surgery procedures.

You can, however, discuss whether or not you’d be a good fit for a procedure like LASIK with your optometrist. After evaluating your specific condition and goals, your optometrist will give you his/her expert recommendation and refer you to a certified ophthalmologist.

Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 13 Jul 2016, Last modified: 11 Sep 2020