The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, passed by Congress in November, 2003 and became law in February, 2004, grants the 36 million contact lens wearers in America the right to their own prescriptions, enables them to shop anywhere they choose to shop and promotes better ocular health.
The law gives contact lens wearers the same basic consumer rights enjoyed by eyeglass wearers for the past 25 years. These new rights will give contact lens wearers the ability to benefit from competition. Prior to the passage of this Act, Americans had less freedom than contact lens wearers in almost any other country. Consumers in Germany, Japan, the U.K., and even the People’s Republic of China all have more choices and better access to open markets. A consumer’s contact lens prescription is his or her “ticket” to lower prices and more convenience.
Further, the law eliminates barriers to retail competition which will make contact lenses cheaper to purchase and easier to replace. Studies indicate the most relevant optical health factor for contact lens wearers is the frequency of changing disposable lenses. All too often, contact lens wearers will “stretch” their lenses to save money or because lenses are difficult to replace. Ocular health should be improved behind this legislation because the less expensive contact lenses are and the easier they are to obtain, the more often wearers are likely to change their lenses.
A 1997 investigation by seventeen State Attorneys General found that:
“Purchasers from alternative channels have had no greater ocular health problems than purchasers from eye care practitioners. Our multi-state investigation has failed to reveal any study showing any correlation between compromised ocular health and receipt of lenses through alternative channels.”
Since soft lenses became commercially available in the United States in 1971, they have been successfully worn by tens of millions of consumers. Their popularity continues to grow.
As of year-end 2000, approximately 162.5 million consumers (59 percent of the U.S. population) wore some kind of vision correction, and nearly 36 million of those vision-corrected consumers wore contact lenses (nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population).
Over the decade of the ’90s, the number of Americans wearing contact lenses increased 40 percent.
Ninety-three percent of current contact lens wearers say they are very or somewhat satisfied with their contact lenses.
(Health Products Research Annual 2000 Year-end Consumer Contact Lens Survey) Modern contact lenses can be worn for many years without damaging the cells of the cornea. (Department of Ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation study)
Contact lenses can benefit virtually everyone who needs vision correction. Nearly 90 percent of those wishing to wear contact lenses can. Contact lenses may not be appropriate, however, for people who experience repeated eye infections, suffer from severe allergic reactions, do not produce sufficient or appropriate lubrication, or who are exposed to an extraordinary amount of dust, dirt or smoke.
(Prevent Blindness America)
While contact lenses are safer than ever, it is critical to be diligent when it comes to proper care and cleaning of contact lenses.
If you are going to wear contact lenses successfully, you will have to clean and store them properly; adhere to lens wearing schedules; and make appointments for follow-up care.
Following your doctor’s advice and regular care will prevent most problems. (American Optometric Association)
Almost all contact lens complications develop as a result of improper lens care by wearers who fail to clean and disinfect lenses properly and or neglect going for check-ups as recommended by eyecare specialists. (careforyoureyes.com, Eyecare New Media AG) Studies show that a large percentage of infections and other complications are directly related to improper cleaning, disinfecting and enzyming. (allaboutvision.com)
Strict adherence to schedules recommended by your eyecare professional is crucial for disposable and planned replacement contact lens wearers.
For successful wear, follow lens care and wearing instructions and schedules to the letter. (American Optometric Association)
Wearing contact lenses too long without removing them may deprive your corneas of oxygen. Lack of oxygen can cause blurred vision, pain, tearing, redness and sensitivity to light. (MayoClinic.com, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
Cost of contact lenses is a factor when it comes to wearers complying with recommended replacement schedules.
A 1997 survey conducted by a contact lens manufacturer indicated that 60 percent of all consumers questioned agreed with the statement “if contact lenses cost less, I would replace them as often as my eye doctor recommends.” (McKinsey & Company, Consumer Fact Book, filed in In re: Disposable Contact Lens Antitrust Litigation, at 92)
A 1997 investigation by seventeen State Attorneys General found that “Purchasers from alternative channels have had no greater ocular health problems than purchasers from eye care practitioners. Our multi-state investigation has failed to reveal any study showing any correlation between compromised ocular health and receipt of lenses through alternative channels.”