Getting a Contact Lens Fitting? Here’s What You Need To Know!

Getting a Contact Lens Fitting? Here's What You Need To Know!

Are you a first-time wearer interested in wearing contact lenses? Maybe you’re an existing contact lens wearer and you’re down to your last pair. Regardless of your situation, you may be wondering, “why do I need to see any eye doctor to be fit and prescribed contact lenses?” In this article, I’ll discuss why you want to get a contact lens fitting through an eye care professional as well as the risks of cutting corners and renewing your prescription online.

First, why even wear contact lenses?

The real question is, why not? Mainstream soft contact lenses come in daily, two weeks, and monthly replacement schedules. They’re also designed for excellent vision and optimal comfort. Plus, they provide you with the flexibility to wear every day or as needed. 

Therefore, if you’re going for a jog and you don’t want to wear glasses, you don’t have to. On the other hand, if you have a special event and you want to make a statement (without wearing your glasses), you can wear contacts. Contact lenses provide you with the visual freedom and flexibility to live the life you want!

RELATED: The Best Contact Lenses Currently Available in Each Category

What is a contact lens fitting?

A contact lens fitting (also known as a contact lens evaluation), is a service where an eye care professional fits you with contact lenses based on your visual demands, eye health, and lifestyle.

When fit with contacts, an eye doctor will assess how the lenses fit on your eyes (i.e. how they cover the eye, how they center up, and how they move with the blink). They’ll also measure your vision and comfort wearing the lenses.

If you’re a new contact lens wearer, you’ll be trained on how to effectively put in and take out the contact lenses. Of course, this process gets easier with practice! You’ll also be educated on how to appropriately wear and care for your lenses. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert in wearing contact lenses!

The contact lens prescription is only one component of an eye exam

When you ask people what sense they value the most, the overwhelming majority of them will tell you it’s their sense of sight. However, when it comes to getting an eye exam, not everyone reports then need to get one. In fact, I’m sure you can think of friends or family members that tell you their vision is “fine”, hence, they “don’t need an eye exam.”

Personally, I recommend yearly eye exams to all of my patients. Just like getting a yearly physical or a semiannual dental cleaning, it’s a wonderful habit to get into! Plus, just like the rest of the body, your eyes do change over time.

With this in mind, a contact lens prescription is only one component of an eye exam (that not everyone opts into). Optometrists and ophthalmologists are the licensed eye care professionals that provide this service. They do so to ensure your eye health and vision meet the necessary requirements to wear contact lenses.

When companies offer to do an “online vision exam” or to “renew your contact lens prescription online”, they’re completely ignoring the evaluation of the lens on your eye as well as the evaluation of your eye health (and what it tells us about the health of the rest of your body).

It’s the law to be fit and prescribed contact lenses

In the United States, you cannot legally purchase contact lenses without a current, valid prescription. In fact, contacts are categorized by the FDA as prescription medical devices. 

As a result, they need to be fit and prescribed by an eye care professional and are not to be sold over the counter without a prescription.

Why is there a contact lens fitting fee?

As an elective service, being fit with contact lenses is not part of a comprehensive eye exam. Furthermore, since it takes more time for your eye doctor to perform this task, you’ll be charged a fitting fee based on the difficulty of your contact lens fit and the probability for follow up contact lens care. Fortunately, most major vision insurances provide benefits for this service. 

Do I need a contact lens fitting if I already wear contacts?

Honestly, yes! As I mentioned above, it’s the law. Plus, technology is evolving, so are contact lenses Think back to when you purchase your first cell phone. Odds are it looked like a brick or flipped open and had a green screen. Fast forward to now, this is much different than the phones we use today. Your contact lenses are no different.

Today’s contact lenses are designed to provide you with excellent vision and exceptional comfort all while preserving your eye health. Therefore, each contact lens fit provides you with the opportunity to get your eyes examined, review any issues you’re having, and discuss advancements in contact lens technology. 

The risk of cutting corners with your contact lens prescription

Yikes! As an optometrist, this is a sensitive topic for me. All too often I see patients abuse their contact lenses. This puts them at risk for numerous eye health complications (some that are vision-threatening). As a result, I always recommend my patients practice good contact lens hygiene, are compliant with their replacement schedule, don’t sleep in their lenses, and get yearly contact lens eye exams. Purchasing contact lenses without a valid prescription or opting for risky online prescription renewals are dangerous habits I strongly recommend you avoid.

Ask your doctor about contacts!

Even if your doctor doesn’t mention contact lenses, it doesn’t mean you’re not a good candidate. Market research shows approximately 50% of people are open and interested in learning about contact lenses but 76% report that contacts are not mentioned by their doctor. Therefore, even if you’re only the slightest bit interested in wearing contacts, ask your eye doctor during your exam!

Final thoughts

In the end, contact lenses are an awesome way to gain the visual freedom and flexibility you need to live the life you want! With this in mind, a contact lens fitting is a valuable service performed during a comprehensive eye exam. Personally, I strongly recommend you establish care with a local eye care professional who can deliver all of your eye care needs (including your contact lens care). You only have two eyes so take care of them (you’ll be thankful you do)!

Do you have questions or comments about wearing contact lenses? Please share them in the comments below.

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Ryan Corte, OD
Dr. Ryan Corte is an experienced leader with a strong passion for health and wellness education and information transparency. He believes that simplifying health and wellness information helps improve comprehension. This drives greater compliance and better life choices. He is an entrepreneurial professional with a Bachelor of Science from Michigan State University and a Doctor of Optometry degree from The Ohio State University. He also completed a residency in primary care and ocular disease at the Illinois College of Optometry. Outside of work, he loves spending time with his wife, family, and friends as well as continuing to stay active in his community and in life.

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