What is a contact lens exam?
This is a professional service provided by optometrists to their patients. It is separate from the annual eye exam, because there are unique procedures used only on contact lens wearers. Those unique procedures are:
1) Anterior ocular surface evaluation: An optometrist checks the health of your eyelids, conjunctiva, corneas, and tear film to ensure that you can wear or continue to wear contact lenses.
2) Determination of the actual contact lens prescription and material: Your contact lens prescription depends on a number of extra factors and may or may not match your glasses prescription. Other factors considered during a contact lens exam include determining the material most suitable for your eyes. These other factors include your age, ocular health, occupation, and lifestyle. An optometrist will discuss the materials that are healthiest for your eyes based on these factors and what the latest contact lens technologies are. There may be a healthier option than the contacts you have been wearing for years; your optometrist will be able to use his/her expertise in the field to discuss these new options. In the case of a new material or prescription, your optometrist will provide trial contact lenses to test for 1-2 weeks. A follow-up visit provides an opportunity for you to discuss any issues and make whatever adjustments are necessary. As soon as you are happy with the comfort and vision of the contacts, and the doctor determines that the lenses are a good fit, you may order a supply of contact lenses. Using trials allows you to test drive any changes before investing in new contacts.
3) Recommendations for care: The solutions and cleaning schedule you use are also an important part of your contact lens experience. Factors such as your age, ocular health, occupation, and lifestyle may require a specific contact lens care system and tear supplement which the doctor can customize to your needs for optimum wear experience.
Since your eye health is constantly changing, it is important to perform these procedures annually. Even the shape and curvature of your eye can change over time, which may have bearing on your contact lens fit. Texas state law states that contact lens prescriptions are valid for one year or less, if deemed medically necessary. While infrequent, complications can occur from contact lens wear. These complications usually progress slowly and are not always felt by the contact lens wearer. Early detection by an optometrist can prevent further problems.
“It’s important to remember that contact lenses and the solutions used with them are medical devices regulated by the FDA. Just as when using other medical devices, patients should stay in close contact with their optometrists to ensure they are receiving appropriate and up-to-date clinical guidance based on individual eye health needs.” – Louis Sclafani, O.D., chair of the American Optometric Association’s Contact Lens and Cornea Section (http://www.aoa.org/x8999.xml)