It is generally assumed that wearing contact lenses is safer than LASIK. LASIK is a surgical procedure, whilst wearing contact lenses is not.
However, contact lens wear (especially swimming or showering in contact lenses – BIG NO NOs!- or overnight lens wear) can be associated with infection which causes permanent corneal damage and loss of vision. The incidence of visually damaging contact lens-related infection per year overall, is 0.035% or approximately 1 in 3000 eyes per year (Mathers 2009, Dart 2008). This increases to 0.2% per year for extended wear (overnight) soft contact lenses.
Data on the risk of vision loss associated with LASIK can vary widely depending on the source of information. The reported incidence of infection per LASIK procedure is 0.011% to 0.035% (Ortega-Usobiaga 2015, Solomon 2003, Lovet 2008), which is less than or similar to the incidence of contact lens related infection. However vision loss from post-LASIK ectasia and other early postoperative causes also has to be taken into account.
A study by Mathers in 2009 investigating the question of which is safer – LASIK or contact lenses, found that:
- Rigid gas permeable lenses were safer than LASIK in every analysis, but
- The safety of LASIK exceeded that for daily wear soft lenses only when the assumptions were most favourable to LASIK (that is, the eye had no risk of ectasia and no postoperative problems), and that
- The safety of LASIK always exceeded that for extended wear (overnight) contact lenses.
In summary, there is evidence that the risks for vision loss associated with LASIK and with long term contact lens wear are similar.
It’s important to note that these risks for vision loss are low, that is, the studies highlight how safe both LASIK and contact lenses are.
Thanks to technology advances – including faster lasers, all blade-free laser eye surgery, better patient screening, sophisticated eye tracking and a number of related improvements – laser eye surgery is continually improving in terms of safety and accuracy. Similarly contact lens technology is continually improving to increase oxygen delivery and hydration of the cornea, and understanding the biology underlying predisposition to contact lens infection could eventually lead to improvements in lens safety.
Is there anything you can do, to make sure your eyes are safe?
Making sure conditions are favourable for
(A) an excellent outcome with LASIK, or
(B) an excellent outcome with contact lens wear, are the best ways to avoid vision loss either way.
Stay tuned to my blog for more information about how to ensure you get to (A) or (B)!