Eye Exams for Contact Lenses

For many people, contact lenses provide greater convenience and more satisfying vision correction than eyeglasses. Here is what's involved in a typical contact lens exam and fitting:

A Comprehensive Eye Exam Comes First

Before you are fitted with contact lenses, a comprehensive eye exam is performed. In this exam, your eye doctor determines your prescription for corrective lenses (just a glasses prescription at this point) and checks for any eye health problems or other issues that may interfere with successful contact lens wear.

If all looks good during your eye exam, the next step is a contact lens consultation and fitting. 

What to Expect During a Contact Lens Fitting

The first step in a contact lens fitting is a consideration of your lifestyle and your preferences regarding contact lenses, such as whether you might want to change your eye color with color contact lenses or if you're interested in options such as daily disposables or overnight wear. Although most people choose soft contact lenses, the advantages and disadvantages of rigid gas permeable (GP) lenses will likely be discussed as well.

If you are over age 40 and need bifocals, your eye doctor or contact lens specialist will discuss ways to deal with this need, including multifocal contact lenses and monovision (a prescribing technique where one contact lens corrects your distance vision and the other lens corrects your near vision).

Contact Lens Measurements

Just as one shoe size doesn't fit all feet, one contact lens size doesn't fit all eyes. If the curvature of a contact lens is too flat or too steep for your eye's shape, you may experience discomfort or even damage to your eye. Measurements that will be taken to determine the best contact lens size and design for your eyes include:

In some cases, a detailed mapping of the surface of your cornea (called corneal topography) may be done. Corneal topography provides extremely precise details about surface characteristics of your cornea and creates a surface "map" of your eye, with different contours represented by varying colors. 

Trial Lenses

In many cases, trial lenses will be used to verify the contact lens selection. Lenses will be placed on your eyes and your doctor will use the slit lamp to evaluate the position and movement of the lenses as you blink and look in different directions. You will also be asked how the lenses feel.
Typically you'll need to wear these trial lenses at least 15 minutes so that any initial excess tearing of the eye stops and your tear film stabilizes. If all looks good, you will be given instructions on how to care for your lenses and how long to wear them. You will also receive training on how to handle, apply and remove the lenses.

Follow-up Visits Confirm the Fit and Safety
Your contact lens fitting will involve a number of follow-up visits so your doctor can confirm the lenses are fitting your eyes properly and that your eyes are able to tolerate contact lens wear. A dye (like the one used to evaluate your tear film) may be used to see if the lenses are causing damage to your cornea or making your eyes too dry.

Often, your doctor will be able to see warning signs even before you begin to notice them. If such warning signs are evident in your follow-up visits, your doctor may recommend trying a different lens or lens material, using a different lens care and cleaning method, or adjusting your contact lens wearing time. Occasionally, it may be necessary to discontinue contact lens wear altogether.

Your Contact Lens Prescription  

Once you find a contact lens that fits properly, is comfortable for you, and provides good vision, your doctor will write a contact lens prescription for you. This prescription will designate the contact lens power, the curvature of the lens (called the base curve), the lens diameter, and the lens name and manufacturer. In the case of GP contact lenses, additional specifications may also be included.

Routine Contact Lens Exams

Regardless of how often or how long you wear your contact lenses, your eyes should be examined at least once a year to make sure your eyes remain healthy and tolerant of contact lens wear.

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