They’re called contact lenses for a reason. And that reason – because they’re in contact with your eyes – demands a different approach than wearing glasses. In the eyecare world, doctors refer to contact lenses as “medical devices.” It’s a clinical term that doesn’t inspire the warm fuzzies, for sure. But it does highlight the special steps eye doctors and patients alike should take to make the road to contact lens happiness smooth.
A whopping 30 million Americans wear contacts. But, one optometrist quipped, “People seem to treat contacts like a six-pack of soda!”
Bobby Christensen, O.D., an eye doctor with almost three decades of contact lens fitting under his belt, shares some good guidelines for finding the best fit between a patient and a lens.
He says, “Patients need to be careful to get a proper fit, and also learn how to clean and store them safely. Getting contacts from an eyecare doctor, complete with a special exam, is the way to go, not through mail order.”
Dr. Christensen breaks down the road to contact lenses into three easy steps.
“At the first appointment, the patient receives a contact lens evaluation designed especially for those who are switching to contacts. Unlike the annual routine eye exam we recommend for all patients, this exam focuses mainly on eye-health issues related to contacts. Once that evaluation is completed, the doctor will find a lens with exactly the right amount of curve, thickness and diameter for the patient’s particular vision needs.”
“The second step involves a careful fitting of the lens to the eye, along with detailed instructions to the patient on cleaning, storing and handling of contacts. This part of the process is extremely important — which is why a new contact lens fitting and evaluation often require an hour or so, in order to obtain the best results.”
A follow-up visit is key, and is usually planned one or two weeks after the original fitting. “This visit is really important,” says Dr. Christensen, “because it gives the doctor a chance to see how the patient’s eyes are responding to the contacts. During this second appointment, the doctor will determine how well the lens fits the surface of the eye and whether or not it’s causing any irritation. The additional visit also allows the doctor to review care and cleaning of the lenses. This is helpful because it helps reduce the risk that the lens-wearer may accidentally infect the contacts with bacteria during usage or storage.
“It’s important to prevent such infections, which can range from mild cases of pinkeye to more serious problems that may actually threaten your eyesight.”
The follow-up visit may seem like a hassle, but don’t be tempted to skip it, says the veteran eye doctor.