What is the Internet Telling Your Patients About Contacts?

Recently, I was doing some online research related to a project for a client, and stumbled across a website from the UK. The information this website posted was absolutely terrifying, and made me wonder what else is out there, for public viewing, and how little most of us know about this ‘mis’ information.

The site I found is www.contactswithoutaprescription.com. It lists links to other sites that sell contact lenses without an Rx as well. On their front page, in plain black and white, was the following:  Is it perfectly legal to order contacts on-line without a prescription if you live in the United States?  It is not legal for a US based company to sell and ship contacts to a US address without a prescription.  That means a possible alternative source to buy contacts, like many prescription drugs, could be outside of the United States…..The UK (United Kingdom) for example has different trust levels with consumers and different governmental laws.  They evidently trust that people have been to the eye doctor at some point in the past and know their base curve and left and right eye powers and wouldn’t spend good money on contact lenses that don’t fit or don’t correct their vision properly.

Umm…WHAT????  So, not only will these sites allow you to order your contact lenses without a prescription, I suppose guessing at the base curves and powers, they also insinuate that we as ECP’s don’t trust our patients as much in the United States. Nothing about health care issues, about the possible adverse effects and ramifications of wearing lenses you haven’t been fit for. Nowhere did I find a link or information about corneal abrasions, corneal scarring, infections, swelling, neovascular growth or potentially loss of vision.

This is terrifying, and indicative of the real harm the internet can inflict on unsuspecting consumers. An old adage says something about a little bit of knowledge being a terrifying thing, and this proves it true. It’s why education, both at initial visit as well as follow up and future examinations, is so paramount to the continued eye health of our patients. They are being bombarded with this type of spiel anytime they go online.

And now that it has been revealed that Google is ‘scroogling’ people, this issue cannot be ignored any longer. In essence, when you use google to find something, companies pay google to become part of the ‘featured listings’, and other companies, that haven’t paid, don’t even show up. So, imagine sites like the one I found paying google to push them up in the search. Your patient sees this, clicks it, and proceeds to buy contacts. They are the wrong base curve, leading to edema and an abrasion. The patient shows up in your office for an emergent situation. Now, your dilemma. Do you see this patient, treat them? Because once you do you are assuming their care, and if they continue to use the poorly fitting contacts after you treat their eye health issue, you are now potentially liable as well.

It’s becoming a very scary, litigious world we live in. The only way we can fight this is through communication. And that communication needs to be consistent and constant.

Nikki DiBacco, ABO/NCLE, is an educator, writer and owner of DnD Consulting&Design. She is also co-founder of The Visionaries Group. Learn more at www.visionariesgroup.com

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Comments

  1. On internet there are so many websites providing fake and cheap non-prescription contact lenses. I think this is totally wrong to sell non-prescription contact lenses online. This may badly harm human’s eye.

  2. I agree with most of these comments but not all. I too came across the site Nikki references and another one, http://www.contactlensespedia.com with similar content albeit not as focused on no prescription verification. However unlike Nikki I’m one of those contact lens patients she refers to who was looking to do just what she warns about. To buy contact lenses without a current prescription! I admit it I’m guilty. But before you crucify me let me mention 2 items. As you probably already know there are no laws against BUYING contacts without getting your Rx verified, only against US distributors selling them to US patients. I’m 46, mother of 3, on a limited budget and while I wear eyeglasses most of the time I like to wear a disposable contact lens once a week to give my ears and nose a break from glasses. I’ve been wearing the same Acuvue daily lens for the last 20 years. For the past 8 years I’ve gone to my local eye doctor every year to get my prescription and it hasn’t changed one click in either eye. I understand there are benefits to getting the health of my eyes checked annually and maybe every 6 months would even be better but I don’t have eye care insurance and the expense of the eye exam puts a dent in my budget for lenses. I’m not going to GUESS at my base curve or my diameter or eye power! They are all clearly printed on my packaging from J&J. I lost track of time this year and my prescription expired just as I ran out of contact lenses. So now I’m a week overdue and yes I was looking for a site that would sell me contact lenses without a current prescription and I’m not ashamed to admit it. And for what it’s worth I got my lenses from the UK site in less than a week, used a coupon code and saved over 30 dollars from what 1800contacts was charging with a current prescription. So while I’ll go back next year and get another eye exam and think people should take their eye health seriously I also think for situations like mine 1 year on the prescription is to stringent. Being that you are ECDs you probably won’t approve this if you review your comments but I felt like at least in some cases you should look at things differently and if the US prescription laws for contacts were more flexible you would have less people like me buying them from Canada or the UK. – Unashamed… Jill