Subscription Contact Lenses - Great Choice or Bad Idea?

Contact lenses are wonderful devices. They allow us to see clearly without needing to fuss with glasses. The very first contact lenses that were invented were terrible for our eyes but people still wanted to wear them to get away from glasses! They've come a long way but contact lenses still carry a risk and people still can, and do, go blind from using them improperly.

Why am I telling you all that? To remind you the importance of a proper contact lens assessment by a contact lens fitting optician, an optometrist or an ophthalmologist.

What does that have to do with subscription contacts?

"... an improperly fitting contact lens can lead to vision loss."

Ordering your contacts from a subscription service may seem like a great idea but you must make sure that a professional is checking the fit of them on your eye. The problem, and the problem with all online orders, is they currently do not require you to provide a proper, up to date contact lens prescription (which IS different from your glasses prescription) to order a supply! That means you can order without anyone checking them on your eye! Many people assume if a contact lens doesn't fit them, they'll know. Sadly, that isn't true and an improperly fitting contact lens can lead to vision loss.

"Some Subscription contacts only provide 30-40% of the oxygen your eye needs which just isn't enough. Modern contacts allow 80-100% of the oxygen to your eye."

It's also vital to discuss your contact lens and vision needs with your doctor. We've studied a long time to understand how contacts and the eye work best! For example, did you know that the material used in the largest subscription contact lens service, methafilcon A, is a very old material that doesn't breathe well? That can cause the cornea, the front clear part of the eye, to swell. A swollen cornea has an increased risk of infection. That's no good.

Essentially the lower the Dk/t, the less oxygen that gets to the eye. The lens used by a major subscription contact lens service is made with a material,   Methafilcon A, with a Dk/t of only 18. Compare that with a different material, etafilcon A, found in Acuvue 1 Day Moist with a Dk/t of 28 which doesn't sound much better but when we check the graph, the curve is so steep that a Dk/t of 28 means we jump from 30-40% of the oxygen the eye needs when we have a Dk/t of 18 all the way to 80%.   Modern lenses have a Dk/t of more than 100. What that means is with a subscription lens your cornea only gets between 30-40% of the oxygen it needs. With a modern lens, you get 90-100%.

Essentially the lower the Dk/t, the less oxygen that gets to the eye. The lens used by a major subscription contact lens service is made with a material, Methafilcon A, with a Dk/t of only 18. Compare that with a different material, etafilcon A, found in Acuvue 1 Day Moist with a Dk/t of 28 which doesn't sound much better but when we check the graph, the curve is so steep that a Dk/t of 28 means we jump from 30-40% of the oxygen the eye needs when we have a Dk/t of 18 all the way to 80%. Modern lenses have a Dk/t of more than 100. What that means is with a subscription lens your cornea only gets between 30-40% of the oxygen it needs. With a modern lens, you get 90-100%.

But they're so cheap, right? Maybe. Let's do the math.

"Cheaper? Think again! A common subscription contact lens service costs $528/year. A year supply of dailies from Eye Spy costs only $460/year."

In Canada, a common subscription contact lens service costs you $40/month plus $4 shipping. Over 12 months that means you've spent $528 on your daily contact lenses.
Compare that to an equivalent daily lens at our office, the Acuvue 1 day Moist. A year supply from us costs you $560. I can hear you saying, "Aha! That costs more!" and you're right! But here's the thing, Acuvue offers a $100 rebate on a year supply of contacts which brings your cost down to only $460 for a year supply. Even better, we can direct bill to your insurance provider which lowers your out of pocket expense even more.

At the end of the day, you get to choose what you think is best for your eyes and your health. You get to decide where you want to purchase your contacts and glasses and that's okay! My job, and the job of eye care professionals everywhere, is to make sure you're making an informed decision. Subscription lenses aren't cheaper, they aren't healthier and they aren't safer but they are convenient and it's a neat idea to have contacts show up on your doorstep every month.

If you have questions about subscription contacts, any contact lens, or anything else feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

Why should I replace my contacts regularly?

“Dr. Ross, why should I replace my contacts regularly?”
“They feel fine.”
“I just replace them when they start to bug me.”
“I know I should replace them every month but sometimes I just leave them in for a few months and I haven’t had a problem.”
“You guys always tell me to replace my contacts every month. It’s a scam, isn’t it? You just want my money!”

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Contact lens exams - why do they matter?

Contact lenses and the need for contact lens exams are confusing and also misunderstood.

I know what you're thinking. What is he talking about? Contacts aren't confusing! You stick them in your eye and they make you see.  What could be more simple?

Let's dive into this.

Contact lenses can be great if they're used properly. If they aren't fit properly or cared for in the right way they can be dangerous and cause permanent loss of vision.

Contact lenses can be great if they're used properly. If they aren't fit properly or cared for in the right way they can be dangerous and cause permanent loss of vision.

Contact lenses are a medical device

First and foremost contacts are a medical device. They're classified this way because they can cause serious harm if they aren't fit or worn properly. Contact lenses are actually not allowed to be sold without a contact lens prescription nor can they be sold by just anyone. Since they are a restricted medical device only ophthalmologists, optometrists and contact lens fitting opticians are allowed to legally sell contact lenses. That means all contact lenses in costume shops and from some online vendors are not legally sold.

But can't I just order my contacts online without a contact lens prescription or fitting?

Currently you can, it's true. This is something that is under investigation and review by numerous agencies both governmental and medical. Since there can be serious harm buying contacts without an up to date contact lens prescription it is not recommend. Optometrists, ophthalmologists and contact lens fitting opticians are all held to a higher standard and cannot sell or provide contact lenses without ensuring they are safe!

Contacts need to be fit properly to be safe

Contact lenses can be too tight, too loose, too big or too small. Any of these can increase your risk of an infection. A lens that is too loose is obvious to you as the person wearing contacts because it will be uncomfortable and the vision will change every time you blink. Other problems, like being too tight, is something only your eye care professional can tell since it will feel very comfortable... until you get an infection.

Contacts need to be fit properly to be able to see

This is especially true of astigmatism correcting (or toric) and multifocal contacts. These lenses interact with the shape of your eyes and your eyelids and if they aren't sitting in the right spot your vision will be blurred. This is easily corrected by visiting your doctor of optometry for a proper fitting.

Contacts need to be tried first to make sure they're comfortable

When you have a contact lens fitting you are given trial lenses. In part this is to allow the doctor to make sure your contacts fit you properly and that you're seeing clearly, but it's also to let you feel that lens on your eye. Each contact lens is made with different materials and coatings that are supposed to make them more comfortable. Different people react differently to these materials and what is comfortable for one person may not be comfortable for another. Trialing lenses (at no charge) gives you the chance to make sure that the lens feels comfortable in your eye. A lens that fits great and your vision is perfect isn't any good if you can't wear it because it feels like sandpaper in your eye!

So what is a contact lens prescription?

A proper contact lens prescription is different from a glasses prescription. It will specify the exact lens that the doctor has trialed with you, the base curve and diameter of the lens and the power (sometimes called the prescription) needed in the contacts. The power in your contacts is often different from your glasses either because of differences in what is available in contacts (low powers of astigmatism are not available, for example) or because your prescription is altered when we move from glasses, which sit on your nose, to contacts, which sit directly on your eye. After a proper fitting and trial your doctor of optometry can provide you with a finalized copy of your contact lens prescription. Before that process is completed you actually only have trial contact lens information but not a finalized prescription.

You need to be trained on how to wear your contacts

If you're new to contacts, a contact lens exam will also involve getting you set up with a training. We show you how to put the contact lens in and take it out and make sure you can do it confidently. You might think it's easy to get a contact lens in  and out but without the proper training it can be really hard! We also make sure you know how to take care of your contacts, how to clean them and how often to replace them. This is all vital to making sure your eyes stay healthy.

Choosing the right lens can save you a lot of hassle and money too!

There are a lot of different contact lenses out there. There are monthly contacts, biweekly contacts and daily contacts. Some contacts you can sleep in and some you can't. Some let in more oxygen and some are more moist. Some lenses that sound like a bargain because they're cheap may be really old technology that could cause damage to your eyes. How do you know which one to choose? Talking with your optometrist is the best place to start. We're familiar with all the different contact lenses available and can find one that works for you based on how you want to wear them and what your budget is.

What solution to use?

One thing that isn't talked about enough is solution. Many contact lens wearers think that any old solution will work fine and that they can switch from one to solution to another without issue (just buying whatever is on sale). Your optometrist will discuss which contact lens solution is the best for the type of lenses you wear. Switching back and forth from one solution mixes up all sorts of chemicals and can make your contacts uncomfortable and really hard to wear. Using the right solution makes a big difference when it comes to comfort and cleanliness!

To sum up, it's important to have a contact lens exam to ensure good comfort and vision, proper fit to reduce the risk of infection and get advice on which lenses to use, how to use them, how to take care of them and which solution to use.

If you have any questions about this or anything else feel free to contact us on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, via our website or phone us at (403) 474-6744.

UV and you: Why sunscreen isn’t all you need to protect yourself from the sun

Everyone knows how important it is to wear sunscreen, especially if you’re going to be spending the day outside. Sunscreen has become a part of many of our daily routines and is in most skin creams. Enjoying our short summers here in Calgary usually means spending as much time as possible outside while the weather is nice and we all know we need to wear sunscreen when we’re outside all day. Protecting your eyes from the sun though is just as important.

In my last blog I talked about cataracts and how UV light increases your risk of getting cataracts sooner. Several blogs ago I talked about macular degeneration and how one of the main preventable risk factors in the disease is exposure to UV light! If you’ve been reading my blogs you already know how important protecting your eyes from the sun is. UV light also increases your risk of certain eye and eyelid cancers as well as wrinkles, lumpy fleshy elevations on the white of your eye called pingueculae or even fleshy growths over the clear part of your eye called pterygia!

So I’ve convinced you how important sun protection is (I hope!) and you get it now. Even though sun protection is really important did you know that almost one third of people don’t wear sunglasses at all? When we talk about kids that number increases to almost 50%! While it is definitely important for people of all ages to wear sun protection it is extra important for kids. A combination of very large pupils, a more transparent lens inside of their eye that allows far more UV to penetrate inside and spending more time outside than most adults leads to 80% of lifetime UV exposure to the eye to happen before the age of 18!

UV light is sneaky and may be getting to your skin and your eyes in situations you might not expect such as underwater, on cloudy days or getting a double dose from light reflected off of snow or water!

All sunglasses are the same though, right? Wrong. Not all sunglasses block all UV light rays. All sunglasses sold in Canada have some degree of UV protection but not all block 99% of UVB rays which is what is recommended to best protect your eyes! If you have sunglasses and want to know how much UV they block feel free to bring them in to our office and we can measure how much UV is blocked at no cost to you.

So you’re saying to yourself alright, I get it, I need to wear good sunglasses: I have more news. Sunglasses are often not enough. Even nice big sunglasses still let some light in around the edges and especially some of the extremely cool aviator frames are flat (they don't 'wrap' around your face) and don’t offer much protection from the side. You have some options to help protect yourself further. A good hat with a wide brim helps prevent as much sunlight from getting around your sunglasses. Another option though is to wear contacts!

I know you’re wondering how on Earth contact lenses could help. It’s a fair question since most do not. All contact lenses offered by Acuvue though have some degree of UV protection. They have many that will block over 99% of UVB!  This is a great option for protecting your eyes from the sun and at Eye Spy Optometry we carry a wide variety of Acuvue products.

So which is best? Sunglasses? A hat? UV blocking contact lenses? The answer is all of them together. All these options will work together to give you comprehensive UV protection for your eyes. It’s important to remember as well that UV exposure doesn’t decrease  very much on cloudy days, under water, in the winter or at dawn or dusk. If you think you only need sun protection from 10:00am-4:00pm on sunny days in the summer you’re going to still get a heavy dose of UV the rest of the time! Think about all those times on the ski hill when you’ve ended up with a burn on the few exposed areas of skin you had.

Remember to protect your eyes, protect your skin and protect your health with as many UV blocking options as you can find. Your body will thank you for it!

If you have more questions about this or anything else always feel free to contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Google + or via our website. For more information feel free to follow the links below:

The Vision Care Institute

Doctors of Optometry Canada - Risks Associated with Sun Exposure

Doctors of Optometry Canada - Children and Risks Associated with Sun Exposure