First of all, congratulations on your decision to try contact lenses. Contacts are a great option for vision correction and you will love the freedom from wearing glasses! Contact lenses today are available for almost any prescription and eye shape and are more comfortable and easier to handle than they have ever been in the past. Even patients who only want to wear contacts occasionally for special events or sports can be great candidates for contact lens wear. They are also surprisingly affordable.
In order to get a prescription for contacts, you will need to see your eye doctor for an eye health and vision examination to be sure that your eyes are healthy enough to wear them. Your doctor will also need to perform a contact lens fitting and evaluation in addition to the examination to find the perfect lenses for your eyes. If you have had an eye exam recently (within the last 6 months), you may only need to be seen for the fitting and evaluation.
When scheduling the appointment to see your eye doctor, be sure to let the scheduling staff know that you are interested in wearing contacts, so that sufficient time can be scheduled for your visit. Have your insurance information ready so that the office can verify any insurance benefits that may cover the examination and contact lens fitting and evaluation, as well as the lenses themselves.
Once your eyes and vision have been evaluated, your eye doctor will be able to recommend the contact lens option that will be best for you based on your prescription and lifestyle needs. There are many options to choose from. The most commonly prescribed lenses today are soft disposables. Different soft disposable lenses have different designs and characteristics that dictate how often the lenses need to be replaced. There are lenses that are thrown away every day, every two weeks, and every month available from a variety of manufacturers.
In most cases, your doctor will have the appropriate lenses for you in stock in the office, so you may be able to leave the office in lenses that day! The doctor will evaluate the contact lens on the eye to be sure that they are fitting well and that you have good vision and are comfortable.
If this is the first time that you have worn contacts, it will take some time for your eyes to get used to them. You might feel a little scratchy or gritty sensation at first, similar to having an eyelash or hair in your eye, but they should not be painful or significantly uncomfortable. This sensation gets better as you wear the lenses, usually improving dramatically within the first ten minutes, and most people don’t feel them at all after the first few days of wearing.
If you are a first time contact lens wearer, your eye doctor or a member of the office staff will sit down with you and teach you how to put the lenses in, take them out of your eyes, and how to clean and take care of them. This can be a bit frustrating at first and can take some patience to get to the point where you are comfortable handling the lenses. Remember that it is your eye’s natural reflex to try to keep any foreign objects out and it takes some time for this reflex to relax. It may take 30 minutes or an hour to learn how to get the lenses in and out the first time, but after you have done it for a week or two, it becomes second nature and usually just takes a few seconds.
Once you are proficient in inserting and removing the contact lenses, your eye doctor will probably let you wear them home to try for a week or two. Your doctor will likely want to see you back for a follow-up visit to be sure that the lenses are still fitting properly to ensure good eye health and that you are experiencing good vision and are comfortable. Sometimes your doctor will need to make slight adjustments to the fit or power of the lenses or may need to fit you in a different lens type or material.
Once your doctor has determined all the lens parameters to ensure the most appropriate one for you, be sure to get a copy of your contact lens prescription so that you can then purchase them. The prescription will contain the brand name of the specific lenses that you were fit in, as well as the sizes and power for the right and left eyes. Disposables come packaged with multiple lenses in a box and can usually be purchased in 3 month, 6 month or annual supply, depending on the type of lens that you have been fit in.
Contacts are a great option for many patients; I hope that you enjoy them!
Updated Jul 2nd, 2014
Clay Mattson, O.D. has been practicing optometry at EyeMax in Nicholasville and Lexington, KY since 2000. Dr. Mattson also serves as a consultant, lecturer, author and advisor to the eye care industry and to other eye doctors.