Bargain Contact Lenses: Are They Really a Good Deal?

May 9, 2013

Cheap contacts not always a good deal

You may wonder whether the low-priced contact lenses advertised on television and in the newspapers are as good as a bargain as they seem.  As with most things, there are many factors to consider, and price is only one of them.  Even more important are the care and follow-up you are given and the integrity of the person fitting and providing the lenses.

All contacts on the market today have been approved by the FDA for safety of materials.  The lenses sold by cut-rate outlets may even be the same brands you would obtain at regular prices.  But since wearing contacts poses some minimal risk to the health of your eyes, you need to consider the total eye care offered.  There are hazards in wrong choice of lens material or type, in poor fit, and in failure to have regular examinations during the fitting process and in the years thereafter.

If anything makes you suspicious that the fitter may not have the experience and integrity you deserve, don’t risk your precious eyesight, or even your money.

The following questions can help you decide whether a “bargain” is really a bargain:

What are the professional qualifications of the person doing the fitting?  Is (s)he skilled and experienced?  Has (s)he had special training in contacts?

Do you have any knowledge as to the ethical reputation of the fitter other than his/her own advertising claims?

Does the fitter seem more interested in selling the contacts than in what is really good for you?  Making the problems associated with wearing contacts seem too trivial – they are not – and avoiding your hard questions can be a tipoff.

Before the fitting, will you have a complete diagnostic evaluation of your eyes to determine if you have any eye or lid problems that would make it inadvisable for you to wear contacts? (If you are a poor candidate for contact lenses, an ethical fitter will discourage you from wearing them at all rather than waste your time and money.)

Is the cost of the eye examination and the fitting procedure included, or is it in addition to the advertised price of the lenses? 

Is there any “bait and switch” going on?  Were you told that the advertised price does not apply to your “type” of eyes and that your “unusual” eyes require a more expensive lens?

Is the cost of the follow-up visits included in the price quoted?  If so, for how long?  (It is often 3 to 6 months.) 

What provision is made by the fitter for treating any medical eye problems that might arise during the fitting process or afterwards?  Is any of this care included in the price?

What is the cost of a service agreement or an insurance policy that will allow for lens replacement at a reasonable price?

If you are getting extended-wear or disposable lenses, has the fitter discussed all the facts and not minimized the risks? Has it been explained that they require even more careful follow-up, frequent replacement, and are certainly not without problems? 

What is the cost of materials and solutions that you will use regularly?  Does the fitter have a way of reducing those costs to you?

If the fitter has discouraged you from getting the lenses you might need (such as toric lenses to correct astigmatism or a bifocal type), is it because (s)he has determined that it is not in your best interest to wear them, or is it just that (s)he doesn’t know how to fit them?

Do you get the feeling that once you are fit, you will be “kissed goodbye” and no one cares how well you will do from that point on?

In addition  to everything above, IT IS NOT SAFE TO SLEEP IN CONTACT LENSES!  DON’T DO IT!

Excerpted with permission from Triad Notes 

Dr. Jeffrey Gold is the medical director at Liberty Vision in Hamden CT. Dr. Gold is an award winning surgeon who has performed more than 11,000 laser vision correction procedures. LIberty Vision was recently named THE BEST PLACE FOR LASIK in the New Haven Advocate Readers' poll for 2013, 2014 and 2015.