Since the early 1970s, millions of people have used soft contact lenses to correct their vision without glasses. Aside from the cosmetic benefits, patients with high or asymmetric prescriptions often have better vision in contact lenses.
If you’ve been wearing contact lenses for a while or are just using them for the first time, you might know that two common types of contact lenses are daily and monthly lenses.
This article explores the biggest differences between daily and monthly contacts so that you can work with your eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) to understand which one is right for you!
If you are curious, you can see the top daily contact lenses here.
An abundance of materials and power options continue to make soft contact lenses more accessible to patients. This includes more lens brands with differing lens replacement schedules and cutting edge technology.
Soft contact lenses are typically made of materials called ‘hydrogel’ or ‘silicone hydrogel’. Both are types of plastic that efficiently hydrate and become softer, providing dependable comfort. Hydrogel lenses use a flexible polymer to allow for vision correction; however, they pass less oxygen to the cornea than silicone hydrogels.
The Importance of Oxygen for the Eye
The measure of how much oxygen a lens allows into the eye is called oxygen transmission. The higher the number, the more oxygen the material allows to pass through to the cornea.
The cornea is the clear front part of the eye that provides most of its power. It is unique because it doesn’t contain any blood vessels (“avascular”) and must remain transparent to ensure that vision is crisp. Oxygen flow to the cornea is one of the most critical factors in maintaining avascularity–and decreased oxygen transmission (‘hypoxia”) can change the function of the cornea cells, causing it to lose its clarity or even swell.
This swelling can cause distortion, light sensitivity, and even change your glasses prescription if it becomes severe.
Because daily lenses are meant to be worn for waking hours and then discarded, they are usually made of hydrogel material. As a consequence, most daily wear contact lens brands have lower oxygen transmission. That is why it is highly important to never sleep in or overwear lenses, as they can easily lead to new blood vessel growth (“neovascularization”). This can cause permanent scarring on your cornea and may even disqualify you from using contact lenses for life.
Hydrogels also attract deposits from your eyelids and your surrounding environment; another reason why it is an attractive choice for daily disposable lenses, as they are not meant to be used more than once.
Silicone Hydrogel Contact Lenses
Silicone hydrogel (“SiHy”) lenses combine the flexible hydrogel polymer with silicone to allow higher oxygen transmission. These were introduced after hydrogel lenses to enable patients to wear lenses longer without experiencing side effects of hypoxia. This is the reason that lenses meant for monthly or even overnight wear are made of silicone hydrogel. Premium daily lenses are also made from this material.
One of the main disadvantages of silicone hydrogel is that the large silicone molecules repel water, making them drier. This can increase dry eye sensation that can cause lens discomfort and drop out.
This is one reason why some patients who suffer from dry eye benefit from wearing daily lenses. Silicone hydrogel lenses are also more prone to certain types of deposits produced by the eye. Some patients may experience lens awareness, especially towards the end of the day.
Using a hydrogen peroxide-based contact lens cleaning solution can help combat these, so you can consult your eye doctor if you think it can help.
Eye Health and Contact Lenses
One of the strongest arguments for choosing daily over monthly lenses is the health of your eye. After all, we only get two eyes, and they need to last us our entire life.
Wearing contact lenses can potentially lead to an eye infection caused by poor hygiene, decreased oxygen flow into the eye, and irritation.
One of the most important factors in preventing infection is maintaining a proper wearing schedule and not using tap water to rinse your lenses. Sleeping in or wearing your contact lenses for longer than they are supposed to can expose your eyes to harmful organisms as well.
One strong argument for daily lenses is that you reduce the risk of infection by not needing to clean the lenses after each wear. All you do is throw them out.
We’ve all been in a rush or extremely tired and don’t spend the full recommended two minutes brushing our teeth, so it’s easy to imagine how the same thing can happen when properly taking out, cleaning, and putting in contact lenses. Something as simple as forgetting to wash your hands before taking out or putting on your contacts can result in an infection.
Contact Lens Care
Another major difference between daily and monthly contact lenses is how patients are to take care of them. Monthly lenses are designed to last–therefore they need to be cleaned every night with a multipurpose solution.
To clean a contact lens, place it in the palm of clean, dry hands and place a few drops of multipurpose solution on the center of the lens. Then, taking the pads of the fingertips, gently rub the lens around. This will loosen any debris that may decrease comfort before the lenses are set to expire.
The rubbing step is important in ensuring your lenses don’t gather deposits that may make your lenses uncomfortable or blurry.
Some cleaners may advertise that they are “no-rub”, but much like hand washing, the mechanical force of removing the deposits is the most effective.
Studies show that 10-15% of those with significant lens deposits do not perform this rubbing step.
Clean lenses are then to be stored in fresh solution and a clean case. Using old solution, or “topping off” can lead to potentially blinding fungal infections.
Lens cases should be replaced every 3 months (as often you run out of contact lens solution), as they are one of the most common reservoirs for eye infections.
Daily lenses are meant to be single-use–therefore they don’t require storage or cleaning (unless they fall out during the day).
Besides the reduction in the amount of time and materials spent on care, this also reduces the amount of extra chemicals that come in contact with your eye. This can be beneficial for patients who are sensitive to preservatives used in contact lens solutions.
Every year, more and more contact lenses come out to correct a variety of refractive errors and visual needs. Many daily lens brands come in astigmatism and presbyopia (bifocal) correction, just as monthly lenses. Daily color contact lenses have also recently hit the market.
Monthly lenses, however, can fit larger refractive errors and astigmatism prescriptions. If you have a high prescription, you may not be able to be fit in some daily lenses. It is important to discuss with your optometrist which modality can accommodate your prescription.
Another major difference between daily and monthly contact lenses is the cost. Monthly lenses are cheaper because you are purchasing fewer of them. It takes 24 monthly lenses (12 per eye) to supply a years’ worth of monthly disposable contacts.
Compare this to the 720 lenses (~360 per eye) that are needed to provide a years’ supply of daily disposable contacts. However, monthly contact lens costs must also include the purchase of a multipurpose solution for cleaning and storage–about $75 -100 a year if used properly.
When daily contact lenses are bought all at once, manufacturers will often offer rebates that can greatly reduce the cost as well. These rebates can range from $75-$300, and the higher savings come when the full year supply is purchased at once.
Some manufacturers offer rebates for monthly lenses bought all at once, but these tend to be smaller amounts. You can learn more about Acuvue’s rebate program here and about Alcon’s rebate program here.
Check out the example below to see what the actual cost difference is.
Daily vs. Monthly Contacts – Cost Comparison
For example, at the time of this writing, a 6 pack of Acuvue Vita lenses can be found for $48.50 when using our price comparison tool. You would need 4 boxes for an annual supply. Therefore, the cost of these lenses for one year would be $194 ($48.50 x 4). This comes out to $0.54 per day.
On the other hand, a 90 pack of 1 Day Acuvue Moist can be found for $56.99 when using our price comparison tool. You need 8 boxes for an annual supply. The cost of these lenses for one year would be $455.92 ($56.99 x 8). This comes out to $1.27 per day. Using a rebate, this could drop significantly if you can purchase an annual supply upfront.
It’s also important to note that these figures don’t include the cost of cleaning solution or cases that you’d need for monthly lenses.
As you can see, you can expect to pay over twice as much for high-quality daily lenses when compared with monthly lenses. To help defray the cost, you can look for an online rebate or see if you have vision insurance.
There are some cheaper daily lenses on the market that are kind of like the “dollar shave club” of contact lenses, but they are not recommended by the leading eye doctors because they use inferior materials and technology. You don’t want to cheap out on your eyes and their health.
Top 5 Daily Contact Lenses
- Dailies Total 1
- Acuvue Oasys 1 day
- 1 Day Acuvue Moist
- Precision 1 Day
- Dailies AquaComfort Plus
- Clariti 1 Day
Top 5 Monthly Contact Lenses
- Air Optix Night and Day
- Air Optix Plus Hydraglyde
- Bausch & Lomb Ultra
- Acuvue Vita
You can also see a comprehensive list of the best contact lenses here.
Conclusion: Pros and Cons of Dailies
The major advantages of dailies are their comfort, ease of care, and hygiene.
Daily lenses are a simple solution for patients who find it challenging to keep up with contact lenses’ maintenance. Dailies are also an excellent choice for patients who have chemical sensitivities, allergies, or dry eyes.
Patients who want to wear their contact lenses only for special occasions may also benefit from dailies–as monthly lenses must be discarded a month from opening them (no matter how many times they have been worn).
Some patients may find that a 3 month supply of dailies can last a full year with infrequent daily contact lens use.
Besides being the most expensive lens modality choice, some dailies also are made of hydrogel–which doesn’t transmit oxygen readily to the cornea. This means that overwear can quickly lead to changes in your cornea shape and transparency.
Regardless of the material, it is very important to only wear your dailies once, and never sleep or shower in them.
Finally, it’s also important to note that daily lenses are more wasteful from an environmental perspective. Each lens comes individually wrapped for your safety, which means that daily lenses essentially produce 30x as much packaging waste than monthly lenses.
Conclusion: Pros and Cons of Monthlies
The major advantages of monthlies are their cost, higher oxygen transmission, and a wide range of prescription options. Monthly lenses are best for cost-conscious patients and patients with unique prescription needs (like high amounts of astigmatism).
It is essential to thoroughly clean these lenses (with rubbing) every night and never sleep in them (unless you have prior approval from your optometrist).
Proper lens care can be difficult for many patients, and patients who do end up getting eye infections are often wearing monthlies. Some patients say that they also aren’t as comfortable as daily lenses because of their thicker material.
Ultimately, the contact lens that is right for you will depend on your prescription, desired wearing schedule, budget, and level of dedication to proper care. Contact lenses are medical devices and should be taken care of as such.
Dr. Morgan Jones is a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) completing a residency in ocular disease. She has experience in diabetic research, along with several years of clinical research. Along with being a community outreach leader and an avid mentor and tutor, she enjoys educating outside of clinic. Dr. Jones has a B.A. in Biology from Texas A&M University.