And the winner is… contact lenses! Face mask wearers choose contacts over specs

When paired with a face mask, contact lenses offer a better vision correction experience than glasses, a new study has found.

The study, published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, also found that when people who usually prefer glasses switched to contacts, they were more likely to use a mask when out and about.

While many glasses wearers worldwide reported throughout the pandemic that face masks caused discomfort and fogging, this is the first time that researchers have compared the experience of mask use between spectacles and contact lenses.

The study took place at the University of Manchester and was sponsored by CooperVision, one of the world's leading contact lens companies.

“Since mask wear became widespread in early 2020, anecdotal reports of problems with fogging when wearing spectacles have been common. Our work agreed with these reports,” said Carole Maldonado-Codina, Senior Lecturer in Optometry at the University of Manchester.

Conducting the research

Thirty habitual glasses wearers with no history of contact lens use made up the participant group. Half were asked to continue wearing their specs as normal, and the rest were instructed to wear daily disposable contact lenses. A surgical face mask was then worn by everyone for at least one hour each day, on four or more days a week.

After two weeks, the participants completed a survey and scored their experiences doing various everyday activities.

The Results

The contact lens group’s scores were significantly higher for enjoying outdoor and fitness activities, socialising and generally being able “to do the things you want to do.”

The contact lens wearers also had much higher scores for breathability, heat, comfort on ear lobes, and overall comfort.

There were no differences in the two groups’ responses to questions about dryness, comfort, or redness, suggesting that mask-associated dry eye (MADE) symptoms are similar when contact lenses or glasses are paired with masks.

Optometry Australia’s Chief Clinical Officer Luke Arundel said: “These findings are interesting in our new, Covid-normal world. We would encourage any patient experiencing fogging issues with mask wear or those that simply want clear vision without glasses to discuss contact lens options with their optometrist. Technology advances in recent years mean that contacts are now more comfortable than ever and can fit a wider range of prescriptions including those with astigmatism or who need distance and reading correction.”

However, all is not lost for those who would like to continue wearing their favourite specs with a mask. Read the Good Vision for Life guide on how to stop your glasses fogging when wearing a face mask.

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