While contact lenses are an extremely common thing that people use, it is important to remember that they are still medical devices, and require a proper eye exam to ensure you get properly fit contact lenses which will improve your vision.
While “standard” comprehensive eye exams are very important and allow your eye doctor to learn a great deal about your vision and your overall eye health, they cannot replace the more specialised eye exam you need before you can get contact lenses. Getting the proper type of exam before getting prescribed contact lenses will help ensure that your lenses will do what they are designed to do, and not harm your eyes in any way.
A comprehensive eye exam involves additional assessments to detect subtle symptoms of eye disease even before any symptoms appear. It is vital to have routine comprehensive eye exams to diagnose diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration, which can cause irreversible damage to your eye's internal structures long before vision loss occurs.
A comprehensive eye exam also involves dilation of your pupils using certain drops to allow your doctor to better observe the structures within your eye, including the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye and the optic nerve. In order to promptly begin treating many eye diseases, dilation is necessary to assess tiny changes that occur at the beginning of the disease. As part of the exam, the doctor will measure the pressure inside your eye to check for symptoms of glaucoma.
If you are interested in contact lenses or wish to update your contact lens prescription, it is a good idea to let your doctor know this when scheduling an appointment for an eye exam. This will allow the doctor to set aside extra time for the additional tests required for fitting contact lenses or updating a prescription.
surface. This portion of your contact lens evaluation is especially critical in order to ensure your contact lenses produce the results you are looking for.
Depending on the results of these tests, the doctor may recommend certain types of lenses (such as toric contact lenses if your eye’s surface is irregular due to astigmatism) that will be more likely to provide you the sharpest possible vision.
The doctor will also discuss with you the various options available with contact lenses. This includes lens types (such as soft daily disposable lenses, rigid gas permeable lenses or orthokeratology lenses which are worn overnight), and the option for colored lenses if you’d like them.
With the results of the contact lens eye exam in hand, the doctor will be able to provide you with a prescription that is tailor-made for your eyes.
At this point, you will be able to decide, with the doctor’s input, what sort of contact lenses you would like (such as extended wear contacts vs daily disposables).
You will then be given a trial pair of contacts to wear for a few days, to help you get used to putting them on, wearing them, and taking them off. Additionally, if any discomfort or other problems arise during this trial period, your doctor will be able to address them and make any necessary adjustments at your follow-up appointment.
Following this, you’ll be able to get your contact lenses.
It is still advisable to return for a yearly eye exam, so that if anything changes in your vision, the necessary changes to your prescription can be made, ensuring continued vision correction from your contacts.
While glasses are also a vision correction device, a prescription for glasses cannot be used in place of a contact lens prescription. This is due to the simple fact that glasses are worn just in front of the eyes, while contact lenses rest directly atop the surface of the eyes. This difference in distance might not seem like a lot, but when we’re talking about lenses, even a few millimeters’ difference can have a massive impact on what they will do for your vision.
In fact, a wrong prescription, or an improper fitting, can be detrimental to your eye health. As with all other aspects of your health, your eyes deserve the best possible care. Trying to cut corners now only makes it more likely that more problems (potentially more expensive ones) will arise down the line.
Getting a proper contact lens eye exam prior to getting your contacts is not an optional thing, and no other type of eye exam or prescription, whether a standard comprehensive eye exam or a glasses prescription, is sufficient to get the contacts you need to correct your vision.