How do I get started with contact lenses?

I called up my optometrist and the secretary said I’d need something like six appointments over the course of two months. I was really surprised, and that doesn’t quite work for me-- I have to go back to school halfway across the country fairly soon. Is the optometrist the only option I have? Can I use a different than “my own” this fall?

Six appointments? Huh?

I wore contacts for years. The exam to get them is a bit more involved than a glasses exam, and costs more, but I never had to go more than once a year to get a new prescription (even though mine NEVER CHANGED…stupid laws). They should sit you down and teach you how to get them in and out at your fitting, but I don’t know why you’d have to go back multiple times unless you have real problems finding a lens that works for you.

I’ve never had to go to more than one appointment to get contacts. Call a different optometrist.

IME there’s usually 3 appointments- one for the eye exam, one to teach you how to put them in/care for them, and one a couple of weeks later to make sure you’re doing well with them.

I first got contacts 4 years ago. Made an appointment, showed up, got a more thorough check-up than with glasses, then was taught how to insert/remove the lenses, then on my way. I had to come back in about a week to get my supply of lenses (I first left with just the one pair). The most they would give me was one year worth. They explained that they have to check my eyes once a year to make sure the contacts aren’t causing anything physical to my eyes. So, 6 visits sounds absurd. Even 2 may not be required, if the place has your lense type on hand. Oh, and getting the lenses out that first night was very frustrating! But you get used to touching your eyeball in no time.

Yeah, that sounds weird. I never had to go to six appointments, just one. Most optometrists keep a supply of contact lenses in varying prescriptions on-hand so they can teach you how to put them in. I always get a freebie pair when I go to see my optometrist (who, btw, is totally awsome).

Really weird. I’d say they’re trying to suck money outta ya - look for a new person?


At my optometrist, all contact-related eye exams are free, since I buy my lenses from them (might be a canadian thing). I certainly don’t remember six appointments. I had one walk-in exam/tutorial and maybe two follow-up exams.

I recommend Night & Day contact lenses to anyone who wears contacts. You can wear them 24/7 for 30 days straight; no drops, no fuss. My eyes are actually more comfortable when I wear them than when I don’t. They cost more than a month’s worth of disposables, but I haven’t had to buy any lens fluid in over a year. They may not be ideal for those just starting out with contacts, but they’re great when you get sick of putting your lenses in every morning.

Night and Day lenses are more convenient, yes. My optometrist, however, doesn’t endorse them. He says that they cause a lot more infections than daily wear. He also says that, especially if you have a high prescription as I do, your eyes need the oxygen they get when unlensed. Mine have gone to growing extra blood vessels to get more oxygen, and that’s apparently a bad thing. He advised me to wear glasses whenever I’m at home.

It is my job to educate people who are new to contact lenses. I work for an ophthalmology practice. Oddly enough, it’s also my job to talk to people about LASIK.

For your first time for contacts lenses, I would expect at least 2 appointments. If you need toric lenses, it may take more than that (because it’s simply not reasonable to stock every prescription of toric trial available and your “first free pair” may have to be ordered).

Your first appointment should be for your refraction and fitting. I would hope your eyes would be dilated as well, but that is at the discretion of your doctor. If you do get the dilating drops, chances are that you would have a hard time learning how to use the lenses, so you would set up an appointment for that (and in our practice, that is where I come in!). The doctor should check the fit of the lenses on your eyes and your visual acuity before you go home with them. You should also not leave the office until you are confident that you will be able to get them out on your own. I make my patients sign a checklist saying I taught them well, gave them printed instructions, and that they are confident in their own ability blablabla…

Our optometrist makes patients come in for a “one week check” in many cases. Those cases would be: a new contact lens wearer; a patient who is new to our practice; a patient whose prescription has changed by 1/2 diopter or more; a patient who is changing brands of contact lenses. If the patient has been with us for 2 or more years, and little has changed, he will generally send them on their way after just the one appointment.

So, initial exam/fitting plus one week check. That’s 2 appointments. I have worked with doctors who insist on a 6 month checkup, but the practice I’m with now does not. The one week check is just to make sure that your eyes won’t react badly to having a little piece of plastic placed on them every day. (I react to the new silicone hydrogel lenses, and would end up with corneal problems if I were to wear them).

Just to address a few things that have already been mentioned in the thread:

Yes, extended wear contact lenses lead to more infections than those you remove every night and clean. Seriously, just google the phrase “acanthamoeba keratitis”. I read an article showing that Wills Eye Hospital saw more acanthamoeba keratitis in 2005 than in the previous 5 years combined, and all in contact lens wearers. If I could remember the publication, I’d offer a cite. Sorry.

The “you need an exam every year” thing is because contact lenses are regulated just like drugs. Your doctor wouldn’t just keep writing you a drug prescription year after year without monitoring you, and your eyes are at least as important as every other part of your body. You can’t even be on birth control pills without yearly exams. Yes, it is an annoyance to those whose prescriptions don’t change. But you probably still visit the dentist every 6 months for a cleaning even though you brush your teeth daily.

Another thing: every single one of your “follow up” appointments should be “no charge”. Your initial exam fee should cover everything. If they want to charge you for every followup, you should question that.

I’m here for any questions you might have.

WishIHadACoolName accurately describes just about every contact lens fitting I’ve had over the last 18 years, except this last one.

I’ve developed pretty significant problems with dry eye, and combined with needing toric lenses in a fairly uncommon axis (which is rarely part of a doctor’s standard fitting set) means I had to have 9 appointments before we found the right combination of material and correction to suit my eyes.

I would never trust a doctor who prescribed new lenses for me and didn’t want to see me a week or two later.