It is easy to assume that getting an eye exam and receiving contact lenses and eyeglasses is as easy as walking into the eye doctor’s office and walking out with a prescription. However, eye exams for contact lenses tend to involve a surprising amount more of variables than one might expect.
Eye exams for contacts, once drenched in a strictly medical and non-commercial aura, have now become something that you can stumble into on your way out of Wal-Mart (assuming you have an appointment). It would be, as it turns out, deceiving to also assume that this on-the-go process for scheduling an eye exam makes the check-up itself any less complex.
Unlike eye exams for eyeglasses, which can sometimes be as simple as having your eye blasted with oxygen and reading off a few letters on an eye chart, an exam for contact lenses involves a step-by-step series of question and answer-style interviews and tests that determine your specific needs for contact lenses.
Beyond the initial conversation you will likely have about the options of colored contacts or rigid gas permeable lenses (an oxygen-welcoming, deposit-resistant soft lens), the rest of your time spent with the eye doctor will be consumed with a process that could be likened to trying on shoes.
As contacts lack a one-size-fits-all design, your doctor will measure the curvature of your eyes with a device referred to as a keratometer. This device uses light reflections to produce an accurate measurement of the surface of your eye in and around the cornea. This may be followed up by a more precise measurement via corneal topography, which is completed with a more modernized technique using computer imaging to produce a “map” of sorts of your eyes’ surface content.
The next step of this process involves a method a little less impressive and a little more antiquated, but necessary all the same. Your pupil size, both of the entire area and its colored portions, will be done using a grade school-esque ruler displaying a variety of pupil sizes to match up with yours. While automated methods for this part of the exam do exist, they are found to be less common and, in some cases, unnecessary.
The most uncomfortable part of this procedure may come in the form of a test that uses a small strip of paper placed under your eyelid (while closed) to measure the natural moisturizing process of your eyes. In layman’s terms, the test is designed to determine whether you suffer from dry eyes. This is done to further understand the type of contact lens you may need, or whether contacts are right for you at all. (Many eye doctors recommend not wearing contacts at all if you have a tear production deficiency.)
The final part of your examination can, for some, be a little more exciting. You will try on pairs of contact lenses for several minutes at a time as a microscope observes the exact fit of the lenses. This is followed-up with, of course, the prescription write-up you have been awaiting.
As you assess your availability and eagerness to have an eye exam for contacts, be careful in considering where you go and how mentally prepared you are for what can be a time-consuming and particular process.