Abby's Guide to Contact Lenses
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Contact Lenses

When it comes to contact lenses, the eyes have it. The most important guideline is to safeguard your eyes while improving your vision.

You are ready to visit an eye doctor for an exam and are thinking you might opt for contact lenses instead of those clunky eyeglasses that hurt your nose and hide the beauty of your sparkling orbs. Before you make that important call to an eye doctor (the term "eye care professional" or ECP includes ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians who are licensed to dispense contact lenses, a.k.a., dispensing opticians) check out your health insurance coverage. Your plan may include eye doctor visits and you will want to go to a doctor covered by your insurance plan. Also your coverage may include a discount on the contact lenses prescribed if you purchase them from a particular vendor OK'd by the insurer. Some plans offer only discounts on particular replacement lenses, so the key here is to know your plan, what is covered and where.

OK, you make the appointment, your vision is assessed and the eye doctor says you are a candidate for contact lenses. Almost all vision issues are correctable by contact lenses these days. The ECP will then make out a prescription with information for the contact lens seller so the proper lens will get into your hands and then eyes.

A prescription is necessary because contact lenses are considered medical devices. If somewhere along the line, mistakes are made, your vision is affected. Poorly prescribed or manufactured contact lenses can leave you with inflammation, abrasions to the eye, possible infection and even permanent damage to your eye.

State laws vary on what needs to be shown on the prescription, but by and large the following information will be there:

  • Your name
  • Your doctor's name
  • Prescription expiration date
  • Brand of the contact lens
  • Contact lens material
  • Measurement details — power, sphere, cylinder and axis if any, diameter and base and peripheral curves

    The federal government passed a law, called The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, which allows you to shop around for the best value in a contact lens. This act requires the eye doctor or "prescriber" to give you a copy of your lens prescription when the exam is completed. You don't even have to ask for it, they must give it to you. This allows you to have a choice as to where you will purchase your contacts. Previous to July 2004, you may have been too intimidated to ask for the prescription, ignorant of the fact that you could get it or refused outright. Now, before you walk out of the eye doctor's door you will have the prescription in hand. The law also says you do not have to pay more money for this piece of paper or release the doctor from any responsibility in order to get the prescription.

    Once you get the contacts, first time or new prescription contact wearers should remember that a fitting is necessary by your ECP. Most likely that fitting is included in the overall cost of your eye care visit, but it is an important step in wearing contacts. Replacement contacts do not require fittings. Also keep in mind that the prescription will have an expiration date, normally a year, but it could be longer depending on the state in which you live, and you will have to have another eye exam to get a new prescription and have the ability to purchase replacement contact lenses. This is done to check for possible damage to your eyes from the lenses and to prescribe a correction if need be. You may not be aware of issues that if not corrected can hurt your eyes and are ascertainable only through special microscopes designed just for this kind of exam.

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