What’s the Difference Between an Eye Exam and a Contact Lens Exam?
A routine eye exam is not the same as a contact lens exam. For contact lens wearers, a contact lens exam is necessary to ensure the lenses are fitting both eyes properly and that the health of the eyes is not harmed by the contact lenses. Before we take a closer look at what happens during a contact lens exam, let’s talk about normal eye exams.
Comprehensive Eye Exam
A comprehensive eye exam is an important part of caring for your overall health whether you need vision correction or not. By looking into your eyes, your doctor can check for signs of serious health conditions like hypertension and diabetes. During a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor will look for signs of glaucoma, perform tests to check your vision sharpness, determine your prescription strength, examine how your eyes work together, and check the fluid pressure in your eyes. She may also dilate your eyes or photograph your eye with a special camera to see if you have any eye conditions or signs of other serious health conditions.
Why Contact Lens Exams Incur an Additional Fee
If you wear or want contacts, you need a contact lens exam in addition to a comprehensive eye exam. Your eye doctor will perform special tests during a contact lens exam to evaluate your vision with contacts. With the results of those tests, your eye doctor can provide a contact lens prescription that is the right fit for your eyes. An eyeglass prescription is no substitute for a contact lens exam because the two are very different. An eyeglass prescription measures for lenses that are positioned approximately 12 millimeters from your eyes; whereas a contact lens prescription measures for lenses that sit directly on the surface the eye. An improper fitting or prescription of contacts can damage the health of the eyes.
Some Tests Involving Contact Lens Fitting:
A corneal curvature test will help to ensure the proper fit of a contact lens to your eye. An ill-fitting contact can cause damage to the eye, so using this test to measure the curvature of the eye will determine what fit is best for your eye.
Pupil or Iris Size
Testing the pupil or iris size is an important part of a contact lens exam, especially if you are considering specialized contact lenses.
Tear Film Evaluation
A tear film evaluation is an important test in determining if contact lenses are right for you. A common problem in contact lens wearers is dry eyes. A tear film evaluation will help to determine if you have sufficient tear film to keep the lenses moist and comfortable.
Contact Lens Trial and Prescription
After deciding which pair of lenses could work best with your eyes, the eye doctor may have you try on a pair of lenses to confirm the fit and comfort before finalizing and ordering your lenses. The doctor or assistant would insert the lenses and keep them in for 15-20 minutes before the doctor exams the fit, movement, and tearing in your eye. If after the fitting, the lenses appear to be a good fit, your eye doctor will order the lenses for you. Your eye doctor will also provide care and hygiene instructions including how to insert and remove your lenses, how long to wear them, and how to store them if relevant.
At Complete Family Eyecare, we carry the following brands of contacts:
- Baush & Lamb
Your eye doctor may request that you schedule a follow-up appointment to check that your contact lenses are fitting properly and that your eyes are adjusting properly. If you are experiencing discomfort or dryness in your eyes you should visit your eye doctor as soon as possible. Your eye doctor may decide to try a different lens or a different contact lens disinfecting solution. In addition, they may decide to try an adjustment in your wearing schedule. It is important that contact lens patients be seen at least once a year by their eye doctor. Annual eye health evaluations by your eye doctor can pick up small problems with your eyes or vision that you can’t feel or see. Unlike glasses, contact lenses are foreign objects that rest and move around on the surface of the eye, therefore there is a higher potential for serious eye problems. Additionally, changes in your health, medications, home, or work environment can affect the way a contact lens interacts with your eye health.
Commonly Asked Question About Contact Lenses
Why can’t contact lenses be sold without a prescription?
Contact lenses are recognized by the FDA as medical devices that need monitoring by your eye doctor. Although the risk of complications to an individual patient is small, it is real. Six percent of contact lens wearers will have a complication annually. It is important that the diagnosis and treatment of complications happen rapidly to prevent permanent vision loss.
Does my contact lens prescription expire?
Yes. Contact lens prescriptions just like any other prescription will have an expiration date. The expiration date will be one year from the date that the contact lens prescription was determined unless your eye doctor believes that a short-term prescription is necessary for your eye health. If your eye doctor issues a contact lens prescription for less than one year, he or she will tell you the reason why it is necessary. As a result, they will document that reason in your record. The medical standard of care, as described in the preferred clinical practices of the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists (CLAO) recommends routine follow up of all healthy contact lens patients on a six to twelve-month basis. Therefore, your eye doctor will advise an exam at least once a year before extending your contact lens prescription. However, at your request, your eye doctor may issue a one-time minimal extension for emergency situations. Whether you wear glasses or contacts, it’s a good idea to see if you have new or existing vision problems and see your eye doctor on an annual basis to see if you need vision correction.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask the doctor or our staff.
Call Complete Family Eyecare at 618-942-5465