Contact Lens Exams
Contact lenses correct many of the same vision problems as eyeglasses, including nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. You need an eye exam before and after you start wearing any contact lenses, including colored or novelty contacts. The doctor will check that your eyes are healthy, prescribe the correct fit and recheck your eyes after you wear the contacts for a few days.
Prescription contact lenses undergo testing to make sure they are safe to wear. Non-prescription contacts are not tested, so they could harm your eyes.
What are the different types of contact lenses?
Doctors can prescribe many types of contact lenses, including colored contact lenses and disposable contacts. The main types of contact lenses are:
- Soft contact lenses — Soft contact lenses are the most common. They are made of soft, flexible silicone or gel that is breathable, so oxygen can reach the eyes. Soft contacts are usually very comfortable. They come in a wide range of strengths, including correction for astigmatism. You can also get bifocal soft contacts for presbyopia.
Types of soft contact lenses include:
- Disposable contact lenses — Disposable contacts are soft contacts you wear for a specific amount of time and then throw away. Daily, weekly and monthly disposable contacts are available. Except for daily disposable contact lenses, you must clean these contacts every night.
- Extended wear contact lenses — Extended wear lenses can be worn overnight, but you need to remove them regularly for cleaning. The risk of eye infections and other problems is higher than with other types of contact lenses.
- Colored contact lenses — These are soft contact lenses designed to enhance your eye color or change it completely. (Some regular contacts are tinted to be easier to find, but this doesn’t change your eye color.) Colored contact lenses include Halloween contacts and other novelty contact lenses.
- Rigid gas permeable contact lenses — These lenses are also called RGPs or hard contacts. They are made from a sturdy plastic that usually includes silicone. Like soft contact lenses, RGPs are breathable so oxygen can reach the eyes. RGPs are smaller than soft contacts and hold their shape when you take them out. They are not as common as soft contacts, but work better for people with certain vision conditions, such as astigmatism or keratoconus.
Other contact lens options include:
- Bifocal contact lenses — These can be soft contact lenses or RGPs. They are used to correct presbyopia (the loss of reading vision that happens with age). True bifocal lenses correct both close-up (near) and distance vision in each lens. These lenses are now available to correct astigmatism and in a daily disposable lens.
Another option for correcting your reading vision is called “monovision” or “blended vision.” For this, you wear a contact lens for near vision in one eye and distance vision in the other.
- Toric contact lenses for astigmatism — These contact lenses correct two problems in the same lens: nearsightedness or farsightedness and astigmatism.
Except for daily disposables and extended wear contacts, all contact lenses must be removed and cleaned each night. If you sleep in extended wear lenses, be sure to ask your eye doctor how often to remove and clean them.
Do I need a contact lens eye exam?
You need an eye exam to get contact lenses. If you wear contacts, you need regular eye exams every year even if you have worn them for years.
Your contact lens eye exam should include:
- Vision testing, including visual acuity (how well you see detail at a distance)
- An exam of your cornea, the clear front part of your eye where the contact lens rests
- A contact lens fitting
- Instructions on how to wear and take care of your contact lenses, including handling the lenses and using solutions for first-time wearers.
Learn about general eye exams. A contact lens eye exam includes a full general eye exam plus specific tests to make sure contacts are right for you. Our doctors will also help you find the most comfortable contact lenses that fit your lifestyle.