Purchasing contact lenses online may lead to problems in the long run, say Brooklyn College researchers.
Dr. Joshua Fogel and Chaya Zidile say that people who purchase their contact lenses from an online site or store, rather than from an eye doctor, are less likely to adhere to the contact lens prescription.
"We found that a pattern exists regarding the method of contact lens purchasing and following recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 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," said Dr. Fogel.
In a survey, the researchers have found that 86 per cent of people who purchased their lenses from an eye doctor receive a yearly comprehensive eye exam. However, only 76.5 per cent of the people who purchased their lenses through the Internet saw an eye doctor on a routine basis.
"Frequent optometric examinations are a vital part of a contact lens wearer's preventive health care routine. Having one's eye health and vision examined on a regular, timely basis is important to maintaining overall health and can even lead to early detection of various diseases," said Dr. Louise Sclafani, chair of the Contact Lens and Cornea Section of the American Optometric Association (AOA).
The researchers said that during a comprehensive eye exam, one of the most important tests a doctor of optometry administers is a contact lens prescription assessment.
They have revealed that wearing contact lenses with an incorrect prescription can result in eye discomfort, fatigue, blurred vision and headaches.
They reckon that 35 per cent of online purchasers do not check whether or not the prescription is correct, even if they are suffering such uncomfortable side effects.
The researchers have also found that only 29 per cent of online purchasers see their eye doctors for a follow-up appointment, compared to 57 per cent of individuals who purchase their lenses from a doctor.
"Contact lenses are among the safest forms of vision correction when patients follow the proper care and wearing instructions from their eye doctor," said Dr. Sclafani.
"However, it's important to remember that contact lenses and the solutions used with them are medical devices regulated by the FDA. Just as when using other medical devices, patients should stay in close contact with their optometrist to ensure they are receiving appropriate and up-to-date clinical guidance based on individual eye health needs," Dr. Sclafani added.
The researchers have also discovered that 89 per cent of people feel confident purchasing contact lenses from a familiar eye doctor, while 91 per cent consider it better to buy lenses from a reliable store.
However, by contrast, 77 per cent people feel confident purchasing contact lenses online.
"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," said Dr. Sclafani.
"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," Dr. Sclafani added.
The findings of the study have been reported in Optometry: Journal of the American Optometric Association.