Purchasing contact lenses online may save consumers time, but the process could cause more problems in the long run, suggests a new study in Optometry: Journal of the American Optometric Association. The researchers found that individuals who did not purchase their contact lenses from an eye doctor, but from an online site or store, are potentially placing themselves at greater risk.
Optometrists provide a copy of the contact lens prescription at no charge to the patient, so consumers have the option to purchase their lenses elsewhere. With the Internet becoming a more recognized source for health and medical information, consumers are increasingly purchasing their contact lenses online.
"We found that a pattern exists regarding the method of contact lens purchasing and following recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)," said researcher Johua Fogel. "Those who bought contact lenses at their doctor's office followed a number of FDA recommendations more so than those who bought contact lenses elsewhere."
One of the largest discrepancies found between in-office and out-of-office contact lens purchases was seen in the number of individuals who saw an eye doctor for a follow-up appointment to ensure the proper fit of their lenses. Fifty-seven percent of individuals who purchased their lenses from an eye doctor went in for a follow-up appointment; as compared to only 29 percent of online purchasers.
"Contact lenses are among the safest forms of vision correction when patients follow the proper care and wearing instructions from their eye doctor," noted Louise Sclafani, chair of the American Optometric Association's Contact Lens and Cornea Section. "However, it's important to remember that contact lenses and the solutions used with them are medical devices regulated by the FDA. Although buying contacts online can be more cost-effective and convenient, we strongly urge patients to understand that there are risks involved to wearing contact lenses. Because of this, it's necessary that patients visit their eye doctor on a regular basis and communicate any recent visual changes and discomfort experienced as a result of contact lens wear."
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Source: American Optometric Association