Is there some way to get contact lenses when your prescription is expired?
April 15, 2010 2:32 PM   Subscribe

My contact lens prescription has expired. I can still see just fine, my current contacts are comfortable, and I don't have a lot of extra cash right now, so I'd rather not pay $90 for an eye exam in addition to the not cheap contacts. Is there some business that you think will be willing to look the other way with respect to expiration issue and just sell me the contacts anyway?

I promise I'll go back to getting regular eye exams when I have more cash on hand.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You could order them online from a Canadian supplier (no verification of prescription needed, which I've found helpful even when holding a perfectly valid prescription).
posted by chalkbored at 2:35 PM on April 15, 2010

I feel your pain. Several years ago I used an online retailer. Unfortunately, that loophole has closed. I am not aware of any legal way in which to obtain contact lenses without a doctor's prescription.
posted by anansi at 2:35 PM on April 15, 2010

Not sure where you are, but by law, in MA anyway, a business cannot legally fulfill any eyewear prescription that is more than 2 years old. Won't happen if your prescription is that old.
posted by Melismata at 2:36 PM on April 15, 2010

1-800-contacts asks for your doctor's name and phone number. Give it to them, you'll still get contacts no matter what. As long as your doc has your name and prescription on file, that's good enough.

I have been ordering from them for the past few years. The last exam I had was in 2007 and got contacts as recently as a few months ago.
posted by ijoyner at 2:38 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have had the same experience as ijoyner (and I'm a Massachusetts resident).
posted by ericb at 3:01 PM on April 15, 2010

1-800-contacts asks for your doctor's name and phone number. Give it to them, you'll still get contacts no matter what.

That used to be the case, ijoyner, but it may no longer true.

I just tried to do that with a newly expired prescription about a month ago, and my order was canceled by the (online) retailer, citing "doctor refused to verify prescription".

On the other hand, not one but two friends have had luck buying contacts without exam/prescription from brick-and-mortar optometrists in their respective Chinatown neighborhoods, most recently earlier this year.
posted by halogen at 3:02 PM on April 15, 2010

I'm in Seattle, Washington.
posted by halogen at 3:03 PM on April 15, 2010

I had an experience similar to the one that ijoyner mentioned, although it was several years ago. What happens is that 1-800-Contacts will contact your optometrist to verify the prescription and if they don't hear back from him or her within a certain time frame (24 or 48 hours?), they'll just go ahead and fill the prescription. A lot of this probably depends on who your optometrist is and how they feel about it or how responsive they are to these sorts of requests.

Again, this may have changed but I've been able to get prescriptions at least a year or two after they officially expired. I finally had to get a new prescription when the optometrist mentioned to them that it had been too long. At that point, someone from 1-800-Contacts called me to apologize for the inconvenience of having to cancel my order. She even gave me a $20 coupon to use in the future. It might be worth a shot. The worst that happens is that they don't process the order.
posted by dhammond at 3:16 PM on April 15, 2010

I have worn "disposable" contacts for more than a year with no problems. Just keep them clean regularly.
posted by AltReality at 3:40 PM on April 15, 2010

I ran into the same problem recently. Apparently, some kid got an infection from contact lenses that he ordered online, there was a huge lawsuit, and now they've closed all these loopholes and gotten ridiculously strict, even though the issue had nothing to do with the kid's actual prescription. It's very frustrating, and coincidentally a great way for optometrists to fleece you out of the money for a separate "contact lens fitting."

Where are you? There's a chain in New York called Myoptics that will do the fitting and give you a prescription for around $30. If you're not near NY, shop around for chains- these will be a lot cheaper than your local eye doctor, who I've seen charging upwards of a hundred or a hundred and fifty for the fitting.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 3:41 PM on April 15, 2010

Well, I just took advantage of's free glasses deal, and they didn't ask for any information about who issued my lens scrip or "expiry". If they'll ship to you, give them a try.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 3:46 PM on April 15, 2010

As long as they are comfortable, just keep wearing them until you either can't stand to any more, or get the $$$. I've had my current prescription for 2 years now; I ordered a 6-month supply then ($5-60 total) and I've only gone through 5 of the 6 packs. The pair I'm wearing right now have been used daily since late December. On average I wear them 14 to 16 hours a day.

I wear mine until:
1. they're still burning my eyes after a few minutes of putting them in, and no amount of taking them back out and rinsing them helps.
2. I start getting some chronic eye fatigue, where I'm not remotely tired but my eyelids feel like they're sagging shut.

I'm sure there's some reason my eye doc says to wear them only for 4-6 weeks then crack open a new pair, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm not going to toss a pair in the garbage that feels no different after 3 months of use than they did the day I opened them.
posted by ChrisLSU at 3:46 PM on April 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

OP forfeiting his anonymity here: I posted as anon on the off chance that buying contact lenses without a prescription was illegal; after further research it seems like while it's not illegal to buy contacts w/o a scrip, it is illegal for a company to sell you them under such circumstances. FTC notice:
Requires contact lens sellers either to obtain a copy of a patient’s prescription or verify the prescription before selling contact lenses, and deems a prescription “verified” if, among other things, a prescriber fails to respond to a seller’s verification request within eight business hours;
So presumably the 8 hour window is why some people have had success obtaining them without a valid scrip and others have not. Unfortunately, given that I have already had my attempt to purchase contacts denied by one online retailer, I'm thinking that my optician is actually on the ball about verifying prescriptions. Attempts to find an overseas retailer that will mail to me haven't been successful so far. Looks like I'll probably be biting the bullet and paying the $90 for a new exam.

posted by epugachev at 4:04 PM on April 15, 2010

Not, uh, that I would suggest this - but what in particular would be stopping you from putting your own phone number as the "optometrist" contact?
posted by odinsdream at 4:10 PM on April 15, 2010

Yep...Canada doesn't require a prescription for purchase of contacts. I guess they figure you're a big girl/boy and if you don't have the right prescription, that's tough for you. Which makes TONS of sense. Anyway, I found the best deal on my particular lenses here, and it looks like they'll ship to the U.S.
posted by nosila at 4:15 PM on April 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

Thanks nosila! I just ordered from and since they didn't ask me for my doctor's contact info, presumably the order will actually be processed. Price per box was marginally higher than the minimum price I found at US-based retailers, but fairly competitive overall.
posted by epugachev at 4:38 PM on April 15, 2010

Great! I got my lenses pretty quickly, IIRC, and with no contact (har har) with them or problems whatsoever. Here's to being able to see!
posted by nosila at 6:21 PM on April 15, 2010

1800contacts is on the expensive side. I got mine through contact lens king. Same thing, just cheaper!
posted by choochoo at 6:22 PM on April 15, 2010

I ordered from a few months ago and was not asked for a prescription. I'm not sure if they attempt to verify prescriptions for buyers with US addresses.
posted by pravit at 7:28 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm sure there's some reason my eye doc says to wear them only for 4-6 weeks then crack open a new pair, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm not going to toss a pair in the garbage that feels no different after 3 months of use than they did the day I opened them.

lease don't do this.

Basically -- a lot of scientists spent a great deal of time developing special plastics which let a good amount of oxygen through into the eye. Now the only problem is that the protein that floats around in your eyes starts to bind to the plastic of the contact lens, and, over time, less and less oxygen goes through the contact lens.

Since the cells of the eye require oxygen to live, the cells signal the body to start growing blood vessels. Unfortunately, blood vessels are not transparent, so if this gets way out of hand, you can go blind. (Corneal Neovascularization)

You only get one set of eyes, please don't ruin them over $60. If you really can't afford it, consider glasses.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:25 PM on April 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

Just confirming that you can't necessarily do this with 1800contacts anymore. It worked in the past (they said they did periodical, random check of prescriptions), but now they definitely verify. My order was definitely cancelled.

So I went to WalMart, where I could get a cheap exam at the last minute, and ordered way more than one year's worth of contacts. This doesn't sound like an option for you right now, but it could work when you do have more cash.

You could also try calling your eye doctor's office, making an appointment for down the road, and asking for a sample pair to get you through til then. Couldn't hurt.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:27 PM on April 15, 2010

I've had good luck with Coastal Contacts. They supposedly verify, but I haven't had an eye appointment in years, and my order always goes through. Plus they're cheaper than 1800contacts in my experience.
posted by zazerr at 11:21 AM on April 16, 2010

seconding Comrade_robot. your eyes get almost all their oxygen supply through the front surface and almost none from vascular sources (because see above).

because of the lack of oxygen supply, injuries and infections are much slower to heal, more likely to become chronic and more likely to blind you. I am acquainted with several people who sustained minor cuts on their corneas from paper cuts, poke in the eye by a child, etc, and these injuries took years to heal. if you have diabetes or prediabetes, you are even more at risk.

so as much as I too resent the ludicrous markup of everything optical (and it's just as bad for eyeglass frames), part of the reason contact exams, fittings and the lenses themselves are so expensive and carry a mandate for annual re-exams is that, unlike bad glasses, bad contacts (and bad use of contacts) can blind you. it's that simple.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:04 PM on April 16, 2010

Nthing please, please get an eye exam.

If there is a local school of optometry, perhaps they have a low-cost clinic you can afford?
posted by NikitaNikita at 7:37 PM on April 16, 2010

In my experience, online places are much stricter about making the call these days. However, you're still "verified" if the doctor's office doesn't respond. Assume that they're gonna call, but make it harder for them to get a response. A few times when I was in a similar position, I ordered online and gave a random nearby mall optical place I looked up as my doctor contact. Figured a doctor's office has a full time receptionist, but the Pearle Vision down at the mall has "sales associates" who might not be inclined to answer the phone, or return the message. This worked almost every time.

My current eye doctor caters doesn't open on Fridays or any Jewish holidays. While my prescription is current, should I find myself broke, expired, and in need of contacts, I will definitely use this knowledge to my advantage.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:48 PM on April 21, 2010

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