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Focusing on Contact Lens Safety

Getting a Prescription

When you get an eye exam, you have the right to get a copy of your prescription. You can then use it at another vendor or to order contact lenses on the Internet, over the phone, or by mail.

As per FTC regulations, a prescription should contain sufficient information for a seller to completely and accurately fill the prescription: examination date, date you received the prescription after a contact lens fitting, expiration date, and the name, address, phone and fax number of the prescribing professional.

The prescription should also offer information about material and/or manufacturer, base curve or appropriate designation, and diameter (when appropriate) of the prescribed contact lens.

Tips for Buying

With a valid prescription, it is possible to purchase contact lenses from stores, the Internet, over the phone or by mail. But be extremely cautious when buying contacts from someone other than your eye care professional.

Contact lenses are NOT over-the-counter devices. Companies that sell them as such are misbranding the device and violating FTC regulations by selling you contact lenses without having your prescription.

Avoiding problems

  • Make sure your prescription is current. Don't order with an expired prescription, and don't stock up on lenses right before the prescription is about to expire. If you haven't had your eyes checked within the last year or two, you may have eye problems that you are not aware of, or your lenses may not correct your vision well.
  • Order from a supplier that you are familiar with and know is reliable.
  • Request the manufacturer's written patient information for your contact lenses. It will give you important risk/benefit information and instructions for use.
  • Beware of attempts to substitute a different brand than you presently have. There are differences in the water content and shape among the brands. The correct choice of which lens is right for you should be based only on an examination by your eye care professional.
  • Make sure that you get the exact brand, lens name, power, sphere, cylinder (if any), axis (if any), diameter, base curve, and peripheral curves (if any) noted on the prescription. If you think you've received an incorrect lens, check with your eye care professional. Don't accept a substitution unless your eye care professional approves it.

Proper Care Required

Contact lens users run the risk of infections such as pink eye (conjunctivitis), corneal abrasions, and eye irritation. A common result of eye infection is corneal ulcers, which are open sores in the outer layer of the cornea. Many of these complications can be avoided through everyday care of the eye and contact-lenses.

To reduce your chances of infection

  • Replace your contact lens storage case every 3-6 months.
  • Clean and disinfect your lenses properly.
  • Remove your contact lenses before swimming.
  • Never reuse any lens solution. Always discard all of the used solution after each use, and add fresh solution to your lens case.
  • Avoid using non-sterile water (distilled water, tap water and homemade saline) on your lenses. It can be a source of microorganisms that may cause serious eye infections.
  • Never use homemade saline solution, as tap and distilled water are not sterile.
  • Never transfer contact lens solutions into smaller travel size containers. This can affect sterility and may also leave you open to accidentally applying a harmful liquid to your eyes.
  • Never put your lenses in your mouth; saliva is not sterile.

WebMD Public Information from the FDA