What to Expect at a Contact Lens Fitting & Eye Exam

Evaluating your eyesight is just one part of a contact lens fitting.

Whether you’ve never worn contacts before or are ready for a new prescription, a contact lens fitting is essential. Not only do contact lens eye exams include special tests that aren’t typically performed during routine exams for eyeglasses, but you can’t purchase contact lenses online or in-store without a valid (and current) contact lens prescription. When making an appointment for a contact lens fitting, be sure to explain that you’ll need your contact lens prescription updated during the call – this will ensure your exam includes the extra time necessary for a contact lens fitting or prescription update.

The Goal of a Fitting

The goal of a contact lens fitting is to find the most appropriate contact lens for you. While there are plenty of types, styles, sizes, and colors of contact lenses available on the market, your optometrist will use the fitting as a time to find the type and brand that’s the most comfortable and provides the best vision correction. If your eyeglass prescription needs an update as well, it’s usually more convenient to have both exams performed at the same time, with the same eye care professional. If you have these performed by different doctors, they may repeat certain tests and you may incur additional fees.

The Consultation

Typically contact lens fittings are divided into two parts: a consultation and the fitting. During the consultation, your optometrist will ask you questions about your lifestyle, preferences, and medical history. This consultation is used as a basis for your fitting: for example, some contact lenses may be better for athletes, while others may be better for office workers who spend a lot of time staring at a screen. Similarly, if you’d like your eye color to be changed or enhanced, you should tell your doctor during the consultation. Once your doctor has determined the type of contact lenses you’d like, it’s time to move onto the next step: the fitting.

The Contact Lens Fitting

While it might not be obvious, our eyes come in different sizes, and one size contact lens doesn’t fit all. If the curve of the lens is too flat or steep, it could irritate or damage your eye. During this portion of the exam, your optometrist will gather several measurements, the most common being the curvature of your cornea. In some cases, your pupil and iris size may be measured and, if you tend to have dry eyes, a tear film evaluation may be performed to ensure you’re prescribed a contact lens that will keep your eyes moist. Once the fitting is complete, your doctor will give you a set of trial lenses. With the lenses in place, your doctor will evaluate the position and movement of the lenses. If this is your first time wearing contact lenses, your doctor will go over how to care for your lenses and provide basic training.

At the conclusion of the fitting, your eye doctor is required by law (Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act) to provide you with a written copy of your contact lens prescription.  This will allow you to shop online for the best prices, saving you hundreds of dollars over the period you wear contact lenses.

Follow-Up Appointment

If this is your first time wearing lenses or you’ve switched brands, your doctor may schedule a follow-up visit. During this visit, he or she will confirm that the lenses are right for you. It’s rare that contact lenses cause problems, but during this appointment your doctor will be able to detect any issues before they become major problems. After finding the right lenses, your doctor will write a contact lens prescription which includes the contact lens power, curvature of the lens, diameter, lens type, and manufacturer. You can then use this prescription to purchase contact lenses online or from a retail store.