How to Order Contact Lenses Online
The rise of online shopping has afforded the convenience of shopping for pretty much everything from home, and this includes contacts. Over 40 million Americans wear contacts and over 20 percent of Americans order their lenses online. This works out to over eight million people buying their contacts online! However, before you rush out to join the crowd, there are some very important considerations that must be taken into account. Here is everything you need to know before shopping for contacts on the web.
What are Contact Lenses?
Contact lenses, more commonly referred to as just “contacts,” are thin, removable lenses placed on top of the lens of the eye. Contacts work identically to eyeglasses to correct vision through magnification. Contacts are also worn for purely cosmetic purposes, such as to change eye color. Contacts are available in soft and hard varieties.
What are Contacts Made of?
Contacts are made of polymers, AKA plastic. While hard contacts are sometimes referred to glass, these contacts are also made from an acrylic polymer compound of polymethyl methacrylate, or PMMA.
Why Wear Contact Lenses?
Many people do not like the way they look in eyeglasses and over 150 million people around the world wear contacts for therapeutic or cosmetic reasons. Contacts offer more natural vision than eyeglasses as the lens moves with your eye and does not fog up. This makes contacts a great choice for physically active people.
Why are Contacts Used?
Contacts are used to correct for near and farsightedness, presbyopia and astigmatism.
- Nearsightedness: This means you can see objects up close but you have trouble seeing things in the distance.
- Farsightedness: This is the opposite of being nearsighted and you can see distant objects but have trouble seeing things up close, such as when reading.
- Presbyopia: This is a form of farsightedness caused when the lens of the eye loses elasticity, often due to aging.
- Astigmatism: This condition is the result of irregularly shaped corneas that cause blurriness.
How Long Do Contacts last?
The type of contacts will dictate its useful life. Soft daily wear lenses will last for one to seven days, depending on the manufacturer. Some brands of hard contacts can last for up to two years, if properly taken care of. Always follow the recommendation of your eye doctor and the manufacturer.
Types of Contact Lenses
There are various types of contacts and the ones you need will depend on your prescription and personal preferences.
Daily Wear: These are lenses that you remove and clean every night. Daily wear lenses need to be replaced periodically.
Daily Disposables: These are lenses that are worn for a single day and then disposed of.
Extended Wear: These lenses can be worn continuously for up to seven days and then removed for cleaning or disposed of, depending on the type.
Bifocal and multifocal: These are like bifocal eyeglasses that correct for both near and farsightedness.
How Much do Contacts Cost?
Depending on the type, contact-lens cost will vary from $200 to $400 annually. Typically, the more convenient the lenses are to care for the greater the cost. For example, daily disposable lenses that are designed to be worn for one day and then discarded will typically be the most expensive. Extended wear hard contacts are typically the most cost effective. However, this is not a hard and fast rule as manufacturers are always finding new ways to reduce costs and prices.
What Contacts are the Best?
Soft contacts are the most popular type as they are more comfortable than hard lenses. This is because soft lenses do not actually come into contact with the cornea. However, hard lenses are much more durable and easier to maintain than soft lenses. Hard contacts also provide better vision for people with conditions like astigmatism and work better for allergies sufferers.
How to Order Contacts Online?
First, eye-care professionals warn that patients should not buy contacts with an outdated prescription. You should have your eyes checked if it has been more than two years since your previous eye exam. Depending on the state you live in, the Federal Trade Commission states a prescription for corrective lenses should be valid for either one or two years.
It is important to note that all contacts are FDA-regulated medical devices that carry a real, albeit small, risk of infection and even possible vision loss. The FTC adds that all types of contacts must have a prescription even if the lenses are not designed to adjust your vision and this includes cosmetic contacts that only alter the color of the eyes.
Prescriptions for buying contact lenses online can be written by any eye doctor, such as optometrists and ophthalmologists, as well as licensed contact-lens fitters. Businesses that sell any type of cosmetic lenses without confirmation of a valid prescription are selling them illegally.
Picking a Retailer
Begin your search with one of the larger search engines. Searches will offer price comparison for specific bands and types of lenses that will be listed across the top of the search-results page. You can look for the specific type of lenses you want, such as continuous wear or one-day disposable, in the price comparison or on specific websites listed in the search results.
Because the web is full of fraudsters, you must beware of shady operators. If you think you have found a good deal, then you need to check the customer feedback for the business before submitting an order. This is best done by performing another search for reviews on the specific website. Do not just believe any reviews posted on the website of the business you are considering purchasing from as fly-by-night businesses will often post phony reviews to entice consumers to buy from them.
Another telltale sign of an illegitimate or reputable online retailer is whether or not they ask for your prescription. Online retailers are legally required to obtain a current prescription before they can sell contact lenses. You should avoid any online contact lens seller that makes any claim the “No prescription is no problem.”
While larger companies that have been around for awhile may be more reputable, smaller retailers should not be avoided as these companies will often provide better customer service and have more competitive pricing. Remember, even the online giants started out as babies. Here are a few other tips to discern reputability:
• Look for a phone number. This shows there is an actual company tied to the flashy website.
• Check that the company has a return policy and if it seems fair.
• Look for at least a 30-day money back guarantee.
• If the company offers a bulk deal, do they allow you to return unopened packages if your prescription should be changed?
• Check to be sure the ordering system is secure. Look for the little locked “padlock” symbol to the left of the web address that designates the site is secure.
Purchasing contacts online will be less expensive for several reasons:
• Many online retailers have no brick and mortar business so they have minimal staff and far less overhead.
• Online retailers only have to concentrate on selling contacts and don’t have to comply with as many regulations as your optometrist does.
• Buying your lenses online will also save you money, and time, by not having to make a trip to pick up the lenses yourself.
If you plan to order your contacts online, it is important to shop around to save money. The exact same lenses on two different websites can be priced very differently. Additional money saving tactics are looking for coupon codes, rebates, free shipping offers and “new customer” discounts.
Some websites will offer a ‘subscription” plan where they will send you new lenses on a regular schedule. However, you may want to try a pair of their lenses first before you lock yourself into a contract. Some online retailers will offer a free trial period so you can do just that. Be sure to check your insurance to see if it covers contacts.
The Mayo Clinic warns consumers that over-the-counter lenses designed to alter the appearance of your eyes should be avoided as these carry a risk of eye infection or injury. It is also imperative for consumers to understand that prescriptions for contacts and eye glasses are very different. This means that a prescription for one cannot just be substituted for the other. This is because contacts are placed directly on the lens of the eye and the lenses of eyeglasses sit approximately 12 millimeters away from the eye.
Know Your Rights
While purchasing your contacts online has many benefits and a few possible pitfalls, contact-lens consumers also have some special rights. The “Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act” was enacted on February 4th, 2004 and gives special protection to people who wear contacts.
The FCLC Act mandates that contact lens prescribers and sellers must release prescriptions to a patient and may not require the release of the prescription to buy contacts from the prescriber. This gives patients the right to buy their lenses from whomever they choose.
Now that you know how it should be done, buying your contacts online can save you a tremendous amount of time, money and hassle. Once you have found a reputable online retailer you can refill your prescription in just a couple of minutes with just a few clicks of your mouse right from the comfort of your home.