I'm looking for a place online where I can get a bunch of non-prescription soft contact lenses that I could use to practice putting stuff into my eye.
November 16, 2011 10:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a place online where I can get a bunch of non-prescription soft contact lenses that I could use to practice putting stuff into my eye. I went for my first contact lens fitting about a year ago, and it took me a good 30 minutes of trying to get them in. At the end of this torture my eyes were red and teary and I had to keep blowing my nose. Things got busy and I never ended going back after the 3rd fitting (I have a crazy astigmatism that requires toric lenses and is apparently hard to fit). I also never got the hang of putting the lenses in without sitting in front of a mirror for a long, long time. Before going back, I'd like to get the hang of it. That's where you come in. Since I don't have a prescription, I'd like to use lenses that don't correct vision. Maybe color lenses -- would that work? I'd imagine they're all pretty similar, or no? Are color contacts soft? Is there maybe a site that gives away samples lenses with no prescription somewhere?
posted by Feel the beat of the rhythm of the night to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There are no reputable places online that sell without a prescription even non correcting lenses. This is I believe because eveyones eyes are different shapes and there is no one size fits all contact lense. You could buy some online but I'm not sure this would solve your problem because they are likely not to fit your eyes, causing pain or discomfort.
posted by boobjob at 11:05 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

OK, you are me at age 14. First two weeks I had contacts, it took a MINIMUM of 30 minutes to put them in. In pain, I thrashed once and broke a full-length mirror with my foot. But with -11 diopter vision, contacts would change my life so much that I stuck with it.

Then a neighbor heard about my troubles, and invited me over. He wore them. He taught me how to put them in - not as the optometrist's assistant learns how, but as a contact wearer has to do it for themselves.

Get yourself a contact-wearing old-hand, and learn under their wings.

Here's my tips, padwan.

1. Wet contact, dry (or barely moist) fingertip - so the contact doesn't slide around.

2. Practice a couple times with no contact, but a moist fingertip, touching your eye away from the pupil, so you can teach your eye that the world won't end if it gets touched lightly. Just a touch. Just a sanity check, to forestall panic - you are doing something that by any evolutionary context is nearly suicidal!

3. Now, put the contact on your finger. Make sure it's right-side-out. If it's not, the edges will not look right; kinda recurved. Flip it both ways, to make sure you know the difference.

4. A drop of saline in the contact to rewet now; swirl it a bit gently; tip the excess out on another finger.

5. Approach the eye (this won't hurt!), look slightly away, and gently push it flat against the eye. Hold it there.

6. If everything went well, you will hear a slight, subtle "burbling" of bubbles sliding out from underneath the contact as it adheres to your eye. This is your success sound.

7. Close your eyes, and let your eye adjust to this weird feeling, before moving it about.

8. Assuming you haven't gotten a hair in your eye, or some dirt trapped under the contact (both unlikely), or inserted it inverted (step 3 above), it won't hurt. It will continue to feel weird for a little while, but it won't hurt.

9. A drop of saline in your eye at this point, if it's feeling unloved from too much time not blinking, is fine, but won't be needed as you get better.

Now, go get a contact mentor! Sorry I can't help with locating the practice contacts...
posted by IAmBroom at 11:09 AM on November 16, 2011 [17 favorites]

I am not sure how you'd get practice lenses, but IAmBroom gives good advice here. Your optometrist might be able to hook up up with demo disposables, but that might depend on a lot of factors. You should talk to them about it.

There's no two ways about it--placing a lens on your eyeball is a really unnatural act. After a few weeks of struggling, though, you'll have it. In the early days, I planned on 30 minutes to put them in because of all the false starts. A contact mentor would have really helped me with the two big issues: finding the trick that works for me in terms of reaching in there and slapping the lens on, and learning how to tell when you've got a lens inside-out.

A piece of advice: your eyeball is far more resistant to scratching than you think. I'm not suggesting you drag a nail across it, or doing anything rough. But my eyes tolerate looking away, placing the lens on my eyeball, then rotating the eyeball until the lens is properly seated.
posted by Hylas at 11:19 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think the colored non-vision correction lenses still require a prescription.

You need to talk to your doctor about this. Your eye care professional can help you through this and possibly give you weak or non-prescription strength lenses if that's what you need. My optometrist would give me as many samples as I needed of the actual lenses and strength I needed. Also, you reuse most lenses so you can use the same "practice pair" to take out and remove every hour if you wanted.

You don't really need to practice putting the lenses in. You just put them in and it gets easier over time. Under most circumstance, you put the lens in in the morning and take it out at night. It isn't like an hourly thing unless you live in a dust storm.

If it takes 20 minutes on Monday, it might take 19 on Tuesday. By the end of the month, you won't need to budget any time for it.

I've worn lenses for decades. It used to take minutes to put in, now I can do it half asleep in a second. When there's saline solution in the contact, it often will "suck" into the eye while your finger is still a millimeter or so away.
posted by birdherder at 11:20 AM on November 16, 2011

Hmmm. I'm not sure a "mentor" will do much more than IAmBroom has already done for you above. The difficult part here is just acclimatisation. I was just like you at first (the whole thing was deeply traumatic and some days it would ruin an entire morning for me--the tears involved weren't just a physiological response), but now I stick my finger into my eye without thinking about it.

I think your instinct to get a bunch of lenses to practice with is good. Your optometrist should have a whole stack of free sample daily/weekly disposables in your size and at the correct myopia correction (if not, alas, the astigmatism). Ask him/her for as many of those as he/she is willing to let you have. Get a contact lens storage kit (again, your optometrist should be willing to give you one free) and some cleaning solution and you can use one disposable lens over and over (you're not planning to leave it in the eye for long, so it won't hurt to reuse it for a few days). After a while you'll train yourself not to feel the automatic panic response to sticking something into your eye.

By the way, a couple of corrections/additions to IAmBroom's list above:

3: Making sure the contact is right side out is crucial, but I find that sometimes the "inspect the lip of the contact" thing is misleading. My contacts actually have "123" printed in little translucent dots on one edge. It's printed in such a way that someone looking at you should be able to read it properly. Thus you need to be seeing it in mirror-writing form as you stick the lens into your eye. See if your brand has anything like that because for me discovering those numbers (they're hard to see) was a huge help.

6: I have never heard any sound of liquid burbling out from under my lens as I put it in my eye. The lens just silently gloms to the eyeball. I imagine this depends on the precise type/thickness etc. of the lens you're using. You may get this noise too, but if you don't it doesn't necessarily mean you're doing anything wrong.
posted by yoink at 11:31 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's hard. I talked to my eye doctor about my vague desire for dress-up contacts in June 2009, and we found a prescription that doesn't correct my slight astigmatism, but I can see well enough, like 20/40-20/60 or so. If I were going to be wearing them every single day for all purposes, I'd want full correction and toric lenses, but the standard kind are cheaper (and maybe he said more comfortable and/or easier to do? I'd need confirmation of that.) So I went in a second time and they gave me a couple of boxes (3 5-packs for each eye?) of daily-disposables (doctors get free samples), he showed me how to put them in and take them out, then he coached me through putting them in again, and I went home. I felt very naked with my eyes showing. I wore them a few times that summer, when I wanted sunglasses (hiking/beach), for costume parties, etc, which was totally the goal. I was supposed to go through a box of samples in the first 2 weeks or so, and he'd place a full order for my 3-month supply, but I never called him back. Basically took the free samples and ran. I opened the third of the 5-packs on halloween (2011) so I might need need more lenses sometime next summer or fall.

Anyway, that was to point out (1) standard spherical lenses might be easier to work with than perfectly-correcting toric lenses, (2) doctors have sample packs of standard things that you could play around with, (3) I'm not very good at this, and though it took me only 5 minutes to get the lenses in last time, it took me 10 minutes, storming away in frustration, and another 10 minutes to get them off when I was ready for bed. The degree of difficulty of each step can vary wildly from one attempt to the next.
posted by aimedwander at 11:37 AM on November 16, 2011

IAmABroom has it right - lots of practice following that list will make it easier with time. The drop of saline solution tip made a huge difference when I was learning.

But you do have to have some kind of prescription for contacts because contact prescriptions are different than glasses prescriptions. A contacts prescription will contain your vision correction and several measurements of your eyeball to make sure you get lenses that are the same shape as your eye. If the lens doesn't fit right, it will be uncomfortable.

Asking your optometrist about getting some trials packs is probably the cheapest and easiest way to do this, but if you can't get in for a visit there and you have the old prescription you can order contacts in your eye shape/size online - in Canada clearlycontacts.ca is the main vendor, I don't know about the US or other places.
posted by kyla at 11:48 AM on November 16, 2011

Oh, forgot the best part of my story: AFTER meeting with my "contact mentor", it never again took longer than 5 minutes to put them in. Within a week, that was more like 30 sec.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:38 PM on November 16, 2011

you can order contacts in your eye shape/size online

Where I am, when you order online you need to fill out the info for your optometrist who has to confirm the prescription.
posted by yoink at 12:42 PM on November 16, 2011

IAmBroom's advice is all good--i'd just add, if you're getting a perscription for daily disposables, you might want to ask your eye doctor to let you practice with a normal lens in your perscription first. When I was learning how to put contacts in, I just couldn't get the daily lenses in my eye, since they are very flimsy. Practicing with a less-flimsy lens did the trick.
posted by inertia at 12:51 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure I have a box of brand-new but old-prescription contacts at home that I'd be happy to send you to practice with. Message me if you're interested.
posted by jabes at 2:21 PM on November 16, 2011

If you know someone who uses daily lenses, I bet they wouldn't mind giving you a few to practice with. It doesn't matter if they are prescription, and someone else's prescription, because you are just going to put them in and then take them right out again, right? Several times in a row, maybe?

If we lived nearer, you could have a pile of mine. I buy them in lots of 600 at a time, so I wouldn't miss 10 or 20.

My own epiphany was when I discovered among my friends at least THREE different methods of putting in lenses. Different things work for different people.

One friend slides the lens into the bottom of her eye and then blinks it into place. That absolutely doesn't work for me.

Another gets really close to the mirror and kind of jabs it into the middle of the eye fast. That's what my optometrist taught me, too.

And another taught me the method that works best for me. That's without a mirror at all. (Staring into a mirror just makes me blink a lot more than normal). I put the lens slowly and carefully against my eye, looking slightly away from it, and then hold it there while I move my eyeball around. Eventually I can feel that the lens is moving with the eyeball instead of sticking to the finger, and then I remove the finger. This method only works if you are comfortable holding onto your eyeball for a good period of time, though.
posted by lollusc at 2:32 PM on November 16, 2011

I wear toric lenses, and I would add that when you put them in, it can take time for them to orient correctly. Blinking rapidly and waiting it out for a couple minutes is usually all it takes, but you may need to drag the lens to the side a bit and blink some more. On mornings when my eyes are dry, this can take up to five minutes. While it's settling, it feels funny (though it shouldn't hurt) and your vision will be blurry. The toric-ness, or whatever, of my prescription has gone up a couple of times, and with the increase, it takes them longer to settle, so be patient and don't take the lens out right away thinking you've done it wrong. I've found having the lens too wet can help. I guess it swims around better until the extra moisture is blinked away.
posted by syanna at 2:40 PM on November 16, 2011

IAmBroom has good suggestions above. I personally have had a lot of problems keeping my eyes open to get my contacts in. Here's how I've combated that:

1. Put the contact on the tip of my pointer finger of my dominant hand (right in this case).
2. With my left hand I hold open my eye with my pointer finger on my upper eyelid, and my thumb on the lower eyelid.
3. I look upwards (away from the finger coming at my eye).
4. Place contact in my eye, then look forward and the contact usually comes right into place.

Every person that has demonstrated how to put a contact in at the eye doctor does some weird thing that involves holding your lower lid and inserting the contact with the same hand. I simply do not have the coordination for that, especially not when I'm intentionally poking my eye.
posted by fyrebelley at 2:54 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another take on getting these in. I do what fyrebelley does but hold my eye open by having my non-dominant hand rest on my forehead palm down with my fingers pointing down and holding the top eyelid open by resting on the eyelashes.
posted by merocet at 3:51 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best/safest thing to do would be to go into the doctor and get them to give you a freebie.

It took me about an hour to get the contacts in and out for years. Eye burning, tears streaming, cursing at the mirror years. Sometimes it still gives me trouble. Not only was it difficult to get the hang of, but I have a kind of... ick factor involving eyes that made it extremely hard for me to even think about getting in there. But practice does help, and I actually use two methods for my eyes. I do the "pull down and place at the bottom of the eyeball" and the "look opposite direction and place on side of eyeball." Both end with blinking the thing in place, although sometimes it requires a finger massaging my closed eye to get it to move along.
posted by sm1tten at 4:14 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

One last little thing: besides prescription strength (which won't matter much, as long as you're just practicing putting them in), contacts are also rated by eye curvature, which is akin to shirt size - smaller eyes require more curved contacts.

Not sure how big the variation is, but if your eyes are size XL, and the contacts you borrow are XS, it may be more frustrating to use them.

The lens curvatures should be listed on the prescriptions as "BC" or "Base Curvature". Typical values are 8.0 to 10.0 mm, in 0.5 mm increments. A slight mismatch shouldn't matter much.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:15 AM on November 17, 2011

IAmBroom's instructions are great, so I want to chime in about taking the darn things OUT, just to complete this thread. I've worn contacts since I was 11 (which is 18 years now, holy crap) and when I was a kid I adapted pretty quickly to putting them in but removing them was the thing that made me scream and cry. So:

1. Try not to stress about it. That is, if you're trying to take them out and it's a struggle, STOP and walk away and go do something else for a while to give your tear ducts a chance to chill out for a little while. Sometimes the wetter (slimier?) your eyeball is, the more the contacts want to stay there.

2. Use the pads of your fingers -- keep your nails out of it! Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to just reach in and grasp the lens and slide it right out.

3. You don't really need the mirror for this, I can take my contacts out anywhere.

4. Here's what I do: pull down your lower eyelid slightly with your middle finger, look up and away from your nose (just a little), touch the lens in the middle of your eye with your pointer, pull down a tiny bit (until you feel the lens is out of place), then grab with your thumb and pull it out. Again, if your eyes are watering a lot it gets harder, so take your time.
posted by eleutheria at 9:18 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

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