Is it normal to have better vision in contact lens than glasses?
August 21, 2010 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Is it normal to have better vision in contact lens than glasses?

I am a contact lens wearer and very rarely wear glasses. I recently had an eye exam after wearing the same prescription for 2 years. There was some slight change, but notably the astigmatism in my right eye went from -1.25 to -0.25. I was suspicious of this change, but I got a pair of contacts in this new prescription, and see great - even though the right eye lens is now the regular kind and does not correct for astigmatism.

I had a pair of glasses made for this prescription, and the vision is worse than in my contacts. For practical purposes it's fine, but distant/small text is noticeably blurrier than in my contacts - but only in my right eye.

I went back to the glasses place (different from where I got the eye exam) and had them verify the lenses match the prescription and do some adjustment. The lenses were fine and they did some minor adjustment which didn't change anything. I'm just surprised at how much more blurry my vision is in glasses compared to lenses. When I first started wearing contacts, it was the other way around.

If I tweak and push the glasses closer to my right eye, my vision is more sharp. I'm not sure what to do - since my contacts are fine the prescription was probably OK, but if the glasses lens are correct too, what could be wrong? Is it normal to see worse in glasses? FWIW, my prescription is quite strong: -10 in my right eye in glasses, -9 in contacts.
posted by pravit to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is normal and happens to me too. My optometrist says it's because contact lenses are closer to the actual eye than the lenses on glasses. It is annoying though.
posted by thesailor at 5:02 PM on August 21, 2010

Do you have hard lenses? A good friend of mine has, how does she put it, funny shaped eyeballs, and the hard lenses pull them into a more effective shape. As a result, she's got near-normal vision with her contacts but much poorer vision with her glasses. I know she mostly wears her contacts as a result .. I don't think she has any particular tweaks/hacks for it. sorry!
posted by circle_b at 5:07 PM on August 21, 2010

According to my optometrist, who is also an ophthalmologist, it's normal for your vision to get slightly better as you age, because some part of your eye (I forget - the cornea maybe) gets thinner, so it alters your vision (in my case, I got better in one eye by .25). Friend of mine has an astigmatism and vision about like yours, and she also experienced this phenomenon.

FWIW, I never see as well in glasses as I do in contacts, but I feel it's mostly due to having zero peripheral vision in glasses. BUT I can see thesailor's theory being correct, especially since my glasses are now in my old, .25 stronger prescription, and if I wear them too close to my eyes, I get a headache - which the doctor says makes sense becuase the farther the lens is from your eye, the weaker it is (and vice versa, of course).
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:12 PM on August 21, 2010

My optometrist wanted to put me in hard contacts when I was in my early teens because she thought they would help slow the deterioration of my vision for the reasons circle_b describes (funny-shaped eyeballs ftw!) I didn't end up getting hard contacts then, but got soft ones some years later, and yes, I can see much better in my contacts than in my glasses. My vision hasn't actually gotten better, though.
posted by coppermoss at 5:16 PM on August 21, 2010

When my rx got -.25 worse in one eye, my optometrist changed my prescription to reflect this for my glasses, but had me keep my old, slightly less strong prescription for contacts. He said that the contacts prescription can often seem stronger than the same one in glasses. I guess because of the lens being closer to the eye. Glasses can also have glare, get dirty, etc., whereas the contacts don't have those issues.
posted by elpea at 5:22 PM on August 21, 2010

My vision in contacts is about the same as with glasses but my wife, who has very poor vision, sees much better with contacts than glasses. We're both nearsighted and have astigmatism.
posted by tommasz at 5:38 PM on August 21, 2010

Astigmatism...yeah, i can confirm this too.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:24 PM on August 21, 2010

I had a similar discussion with my eye doctor - I wear glasses and contacts for being very nearsighted. Everything looks bigger when I wear contacts. My doctor mentioned that if I had been farsighted, everything would look smaller with the contacts.
posted by itheearl at 6:28 PM on August 21, 2010

I can also confirm. My last optometrist gave me a different prescription for glasses than contacts, since the glasses are further away from my eyes than the contacts. I have both astigmatism and extreme nearsightedness (my contacts are in the same prescription range as yours).
posted by watch out for turtles at 6:30 PM on August 21, 2010

Could it be that the contacts are close enough to your eye (and puts a bit of pressure on them), such that for purposes of vision, your eye has effectively been reshaped? Versus glasses, where you're looking through a lens an inch or more away from the eye?

I know that with contacts, I see perfectly. I'm -7 in one eye and -6.50 in another. When I wear glasses, my depth perception is pretty bad. Walls come out to greet me (yes, they actually turn convex). It's so bad that I avoid driving with them - I always make sure I'm wearing my contacts. The lack of peripheral vision is also a bit unsettling.
posted by krisak at 8:39 PM on August 21, 2010

I know that with contacts, I see perfectly. I'm -7 in one eye and -6.50 in another. When I wear glasses, my depth perception is pretty bad. Walls come out to greet me (yes, they actually turn convex). It's so bad that I avoid driving with them - I always make sure I'm wearing my contacts. The lack of peripheral vision is also a bit unsettling.

My prescription is a bit different, but this is exactly my experience, with the addition that my night vision is tremendously worse when wearing glasses rather than contacts.

However, I've also found different brands of soft contacts to be startlingly different in how well I can see, as well as how comfortable they are after a full day of wearing them. So that might play into it, too.
posted by Forktine at 9:13 PM on August 21, 2010

My prescription is the same as krisak, but with 180 CYL (astigmatism) in the -7 eye but only 15 CYL in the other. I wear Acuvue extra-moist daily disposables for astigmatism, with some non-astigmatism moist disposables for when I'm gardening, gym, going out, swimming, etc. The ones with astigmatism correction are way more expensive than the normal ones, so I don't use them if I'm not going to be reading or on the computer much that day.

My glasses prescription is okay, but without the total sharpness I get with contacts. I usually wear glasses indoors, and I find if I change from one pair of glasses to another, I get an initial feeling of wooziness, with depth perception affected, for about a minute or so. This happens occasionally when I change out of my contacts, but usually I have a gap between taking out my contacts and then putting on my glasses, because I'll take my lenses out, then have a shower, then get out of the shower and put my glasses on, so I've had time to become acclimatised to having no lenses in.

My optician said that vision with contacts is usually always sharper than glasses, because the lens is right on the eye, without the variables you get with glasses of them moving down your nose, or the arms becoming bent, making them a bit skewed.
posted by essexjan at 2:09 AM on August 22, 2010

Interesting. I'm facing the same changes, with the similar high numbered myopia (-7.5, -5.75) now with astigmatism in the .25 range and I have never been able to really use contacts for anything more than party wear. I can't read or look at the computer for too long in contacts.

Now as age brings it own challenges in reading small text, my optician took an unusual approach of making up a specific pair of reading glasses with my existing myopia and astigmatism correction that gives me absolutely brilliant vision for small text, reading, computers and clarity in vision to about a meter away (3 feet or so, yard). Then for regular use I have the same prescription but apparently set differently in some way that gives me normal vision for everything except what you'd expect to need reading glasses for. He says I'd probably never be a candidate for bifocals or progressive type glasses and we'll see how this goes along.

Perhaps, all our eyes are different :) just like we are and these tools with their standard metrics fit differently for each of us.

Oh and what essexjan says for depth perception - with every new pair of glasses it takes a few days for the wooziness to settle down. Frequent contact lens wearers don't have that adjustment happen because you're not wearing them long enough/frequently enough to adapt.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 7:15 AM on August 22, 2010

There is less material in the lens for contact lenses, so there is "stuff" in the way of incoming light.

Contact lenses are fixed to the eyeball, so they move with the eye, so there is never any change in focal length as there is when your eye moves around behind fixed eyeglasses.

When I wear my glasses, quarters look like nickels.
posted by gjc at 10:19 AM on August 22, 2010

I'm an optician, and I advise two things:

Go back to the Dr. who wrote the RX. Have him check the glasses, and your vision with them.
If it's been within 3 months, or so, of your initial exam, he should not charge you. Since he didn't make the eyeglasses, his evaluation of them should be an objective one.
If he changes the RX for the right eye, the optical shop should remake the lens at no charge, as a Dr.'s change. That is the industry standard, but some places will put a time restriction on this, so do it ASAP.

Dropping a diopter of astigmatism is a little unusual, but not unheard of. I would get the recheck done.
posted by Stellaboots at 3:39 PM on August 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oddly enough, I've had the opposite experience of many of the above users. I have astigmatism, and see less well with contacts than with glasses (the difference is sufficiently noticeable that I avoid wearing contacts except when running or watching 3D movies). When I asked my optometrist why this was so, she said that my astigmatism was to blame, and that contacts would tend to be less precise for me than glasses in general.

Thinking it over, I speculated that glasses might work better because they allow for a wider range of shapes and thicknesses in their lenses; by contrast, the design of any contact lens is going to be drastically limited by the fact that, at the end of the day, you have to be able to do no less than stick the lens in your eye. (Again, this is pure speculation.)
posted by Maxa at 11:49 AM on August 25, 2010

Opposite as well. My near vision is better with glasses than with contacts, which is somewhat inconvenient since I spend so much time writing/reading/looking at detailed objects on the computer screen. I guess it is due to my slight astigmatism, which I do have, but my doctor didn't explicitly say that was the reason. Far vision seems okay though.
posted by polymodus at 12:40 AM on October 5, 2010

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