Q. How is a “Contact Lens Exam” different from a regular eye exam?
A. A regular eye exam is a comprehensive analysis of your visual and eye health systems. It does not include any of the contact lens fitting or evaluation process. Additional measurements of the eye and more extensive evaluation of corneal health must be done before a contact lens fitting is completed. One of the steps in arriving at an accurate contact lens prescription is placing diagnostic lenses on your eyes and evaluating how they fit and how well you see. An eye exam which includes a contact lens prescription incur an added fee due to the additional services provided, the amount of which is determined by the complexity of your vision correction. This fee is called a contact lens fitting or contact lens evaluation, which may or may not be covered by your insurance. This fee is charged each time that you renew your prescription.
Q. Why can’t contact lenses be sold without a prescription?
A. Contact lenses are recognized by the FDA as medical devices which need monitoring by your eye doctor. Although the risk of complication to an individual patient is small, it is real. 6% of contact lens wearers will have a complication annually. It is important that diagnosis and treatment of complications happen rapidly to prevent permanent vision loss.
Q. My doctor told me that I need to come in every year for an eye examination since I wear contact lenses. Why do I need an annual eye exam if I am not having any problems?
A. 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.
Q. Does my contact lens prescription expire?
A. 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, and will document that reason in your record.
Q. Can my eye doctor extend my contact lens prescription past the expiration date?
A. Yes. Your eye doctor may extend your contact lens prescription past the expiration date without completing another eye examination if your doctor believes it is in your best interest. However, 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.
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