What is a Contact Lens Exam? Do I Need One?
Updated: Aug 5, 2018
With the change of season almost upon us, many of us will be more motivated to wear contact lenses. Even though contact lenses can be purchased anywhere now in BC, it's important for patients to remember that contact lenses are still medical devices that should be properly fit by an eye care professional.
As an optometrist, many of my patients ask, "Why is a contact lens exam needed?" and "How is it different from a routine eye exam?" With this note, I will address those questions and more to provide a better understanding of our clinic's philosophy and policies.
Q. "With a routine eye exam, do I receive my contact lens prescription?"
A. No, a routine eye examination includes an eyeglass prescription only. Routine eye exams allow the optometrist to establish overall health of a patient's eyes and what prescription of eyeglasses is needed to sharpen your vision. The standard of tests performed is used as "baseline" information in a patient's file to determine any changes at future visits.
Q. "How is a contact lens exam different from a routine eye exam?"
A. A contact lens exam involves a different set of measurements that are more detailed than the "baseline" testing seen in routine eye exams. It's essentially a more "in-depth" look at the shape and health of your cornea and the overall state of your tear film.
Q. "How much does a contact lens exam cost?"
A. Fees are determined by the complexity of the fit and also whether the patient has previously worn contact lenses. More complex fittings require more time with the optometrist, as well as potentially more follow-up appointments to determine the appropriate prescription.
Q. "What is covered in the contact lens exam fee?"
A. At the exam, the patient will be given a pair of trial contact lenses to try on and a solution starter kit. If the patient is a first-time wearer, an hour of contact lens training is also included. Once the contacts are in the patient's eyes, the optometrist will assess the vision, comfort, and fitting characteristics of that particular pair of contacts. Patients are then asked to try the lenses for one week to assess comfort and vision during their everyday routine. Follow-up appointments (as needed) are booked to address any issues or questions that the patient may have.
Q. "Follow-up appointments seem like a lot of time and inconvenience. Can't I just order the lenses based on how the lenses feel when I first put them on?"
A. @180 Optometry & Eyewear wants to make sure you are definitely happy with your contacts. Putting on a fresh pair of contact lenses will always feel good in the initial 20 minutes. However, as the day progresses, the contact lenses will begin to "settle" in your eyes and they may not feel as comfortable as when you first tried them on. That's why we encourage our patients to try them out for the full week to adapt to the new material and / or prescription.
Q. "I've been wearing contact lenses for years and I just want to get more contact lenses, do I still need to pay for a contact lens exam? I know what brand I wear, I just need to know the right numbers to order."
A. Yes, a contact lens exam fee still apply. If you need a contact lens prescription, a contact lens evaluation is still needed regardless if you know what brand of contacts works for you. A contact lens prescription cannot be given without an evaluation. After this evaluation, if the optometrist determines no changes need to be made, then a contact lens prescription may be released to the patient. If the optometrist determines the fit or vision to be unacceptable, a new lens may be required to provide a better or healthier fit.
Q. "Do I have to pay a contact lens fee each year?"
A. No, if you are still happy with the contacts that our clinic initially fitted you with, then no additional fees are needed. However, if you wish to try a different brand, then another contact lens exam fee will apply because you are changing lens materials and / or wearing modality. Everyone's eyes are different – the contact lens brand that your friend wears may not work well with your eyes.
Regardless of where you order your lenses, please make sure they are fitted by an eye care professional first. Purchasing lenses that don't fit properly and irritate your eyes not only decreases your chances of being a successful contact lens wearer, but also increases the risk of corneal complications. A contact lens exam is an extra step that ensures your lenses are comfortable so that you can enjoy the many benefits of wearing them.