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Posted on 08-09-2016

Putting myself in the shoes of a patient, it must seem terribly unfair when an eye doctor refuses to sign a new contact lens prescription so the patient can purchase new contact lenses.  Before you boil over with anger, please let me try to explain; there are indeed good reasons that - believe it or not - have your best interests in mind.

The following 3 bullet-points will hopefully be beneficial:

  • Your prescription for lenses to put into frames for glasses is most often different than your prescription for contact lenses.  Therefore, no matter how thorough an eye exam you received, if the exam did not include specific tests for contact lenses, taking THAT prescription and expecting to purchase contact lenses will not be valid.  Again, these prescriptions are not the same.
  • When can a patient be handed a valid contact lens prescription?  The answer is - as soon as the doctor knows what that contact lens prescription is.  That requires actually seeing and evaluating contact lenses on your eyes, performing appropriate tests to determine a proper fit (lens curvature, diameter, material, etc.), determining the appropriate lens power to provide optimal eyesight, knowing the lenses are providing an acceptable level of comfort, knowing that proper handling and care techniques have been imparted, and of course, being as certain as possible that the lenses will cause no harm.  It is virtually impossible to know these things without seeing lenses on your eyes; even lenses that you have worn successfully in the past.    
  • In most cases, a contact lens prescription is valid for 1 year (there are a few exceptions).  After that period of time, it would be unusual for a doctor to write a valid contact lens prescription without an evaluation with contact lenses.  I do my best to educate my patients about why this is so.  Occasionally I will have a patient say, "I've worn these same contact lenses for years and have never had a problem.  Why do I need a new exam - a new valid contact lens Rx - just to purchase additional lenses?  Please just update my same prescription and I'll be on my way."

NOW TELL ME... if I comply with such a patient's wishes and he/she develops a corneal ulcer or some other problem because I did not bother to evaluate the lens fit and therefore did not see a potential developing problem as a result of ill-fitting contact lenses, whom do you think the attorney, judge and jury is going to fault - the patient who relies on the doctor's professional judgement, or the doctor who should have known best?  Just because a contact lens wearer isn't aware of developing problems at the time he/she wishes to have more contact lenses, doesn't mean their eyes are problem free.  I would rather lose the patient that mistakenly thinks I am being unfair, then risk a patient losing their eyesight.  And, yes... I know, on the surface, it doesn't seem right.​

Fortunately, through good doctor-patient relationships and a willingness to take the time to answer questions and educate, I have had very few "issues" with the above.

As usual, I am interested in your comments.  Please write to me at info@drcharm.com. 

Be well,
Dr. Harry J. Charm, Optometrist

Anaheim Hills Family Optometry
6200 E. Canyon Rim. Rd., Suite 101
Anaheim Hills, CA 92807
(714) 998-2020

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