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23 Aug 2008
Many buy contacts without a valid prescription

Many buy contacts without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional, and use it without appropriate follow-up care
Contact lenses are miraculous pieces of plastic that allow us to see without glasses. In most cases, contact lenses are used as a substitute for glasses, allowing us to dispense with glasses. Numerous types of contact lenses are available such as soft contact lenses made of flexible plastics, rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses made of semi soft material and are less likely to tear, extended wear contacts, disposable (Replacement Schedule) contacts and cosmetic contact lenses. Contact lenses are also now being increasingly used cosmetically to change the apparent colour of the eyes.

Some even go to the extent of buying different coloured pairs to match different dresses. These decorative contact lenses are being marketed and distributed directly to consumers through convenience stores and the Internet. Along with changing eye colour, the latest variety of decorative contacts are used for producing special effects, such as mimicking the eyes of cats, and displaying written messages.

However the trouble is when contacts are bought and used without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional, or without appropriate follow-up care. This can lead to significant risks of eye injuries, eye infection, including blindness. With cosmetic lenses, biocompatiblility with the eye is at least as important as it is with conventional lenses, if not more important, since they may allow less oxygen to reach the surface of the eye than clear lenses, in addition to disrupting the tear film.

Not over-the-counter

Contact lenses should never be treated like over-the-counter products. They should always be taken from an eye doctor after he/she has checked your eye power, your external eye condition, external eye measurements.
Appropriate handling, cleaning and disinfection techniques are essential and it is important to comply with the recommended wearing times and frequency of lens replacement. Numerous cases of serious corneal infections are associated with wearing of contact lenses. In extreme cases, this condition can result in blindness and eye loss. Other risks associated with the use of these lenses include conjunctivitis (an infection of the eye), corneal swelling, allergic reactions etc. 

Wearing contact lenses can actually be a very rewarding experience. These days, contact lens technology has improved by leaps and bounds, ensuring that the vast majority of users wear their lenses without experiencing any discomfort. Successful contact lens wear requires a "partnership" between the fitter, which is, an ophthalmologist, and you, the wearer.

Remember to...

*Always buy contact lenses from qualified eye care professionals
*Make sure your prescription is current
*Beware of attempts to substitute a different brand than you presently have. There are differences in the water content and shape among the brands
*Make sure that you get the exact brand, lens name, power, sphere, cylinder and axis (if any)
*Proper cleaning, and disposing of lenses should be followed
*In case of any irritation or redness, stop wearing the contacts and contact your eye doctor immediately.
The author is Academic Dean, Head of Department and  Consultant, Cornea, cataract and  refractive surgeon, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital  

Authored By: Dr. Vandana Jain