Fitting for contacts seems iffy; help!
September 9, 2016 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Two weeks ago I went to the UC Berkeley eye clinic for my annual eye exam and decided to be fitted for contacts because it turns out there are contacts that don't require solution. I didn't know! But it feels like I'm being railroaded into buying the most expensive kind of lenses; am I?

At my appointment the student put one brand of disposable contact lens in my right eye and a different brand in my left eye without telling me which was which, like the Coke and Pepsi test. Then I was asked which one felt best. I said my right eye, which was true. The lens in my left eye felt scratchy or some flavour of uncomfortable. It turned out that the right contact was the more expensive (and modern! and healthier because of air flow or whatever!) model/brand. The problem is that when the student put a fancy-pants expensive contact lens in my left eye, it still didn't feel okay. Felt terrible. Turned out that that particular lens had a small (to the supervising professor) flaw.

Then the professor explained that disposable lens sometimes have flaws and/or something gets stuck to them and then feels awful on your eyeball. Got it. But maybe that's what happened with the less-expensive brand I first tried, right?

These will be contacts I will wear on weekends, not every day. Even so, I feel like I'm being railroaded into buying expensive contacts, which sucks. My ex used to have terrible trouble with disposable contacts; he'd open a package and there's be 3 bad ones in a row. That's like a buck-fifty each for these particular lenses, and I don't have that kind of budget.

1. Am I being railroaded? My attitude is that I never got to feel a left lens that was comfy so until that happens, I haven't agreed to get the pricy lenses--or any. I have a follow-up appointment tomorrow, and my student will be Gravely Disappointed in my bad attitude, and I don't care. Should I?

2. Contacts wearers, anything else I should look out for? The answer to an earlier question noted that counterfeit contacts is a thing. So I will not be buying contacts from a dubious online source. But given how things have played out thus far, not convinced I want to buy them from the Cal eye clinic, either.

Share your wisdom, hive mind. What should I do? Thanks!
posted by Bella Donna to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ask for a week's sample of them both. Wear each pair for a day and switch to the other paid the next day.

The more expensive dailies are much more comfortable for me.

I buy all of my contacts online. I've never had counterfeit contacts.
posted by barnone at 1:02 PM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Did they flip your left eyelid inside out? The reason I ask is I have GPC which are bumps on the inside of your eyelid and they can make contacts uncomfortable. It would be good to know if the discomfort is due to the contacts or your eyelid.

Yes to getting samples. I'm surprised they didn't offer them. I've tried probably six different brands before I settled on the one I use now (which is the most expensive). And I've had only one defective daily lens in about 250 lenses, so I'm not sure if this is as much of an issue these days.
posted by umwhat at 1:14 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes fully agree on samples. You should be able to wear both brands for a day or so each and then see if you noticed a difference in them.

I also will say I don't think there is anything wrong with saying that you have a budget and if there truly is no difference in the brands you would like to stick to the lower price. I got new glasses recently and they first showed me all the really pricey ones until I said, "Hey, any chance you have glasses that fit within the funds my insurance covers?" and they were like, oh hell yeah. So I wouldn't be shy about the $$ point.
posted by kmr at 1:28 PM on September 9, 2016

If you're not satisfied with your experience during the exam, say something. I've been going to the UCB eye clinic for years, in part because they've always been responsive to my questions. If you're concerned that you can't make an informed decision because there may have been a problem with one of the lenses they tried, tell them and ask them to re-do it.

Would they like it if you bought your lenses from them? Sure. Is that their priority, to the point that they'll ignore patient concerns and push an inappropriate treatment? Not in my experience.
posted by Lexica at 1:50 PM on September 9, 2016

Every time I have gotten fitted for a new brand/model/whatever of contact lenses, I have been given AT LEAST a week's worth to try. No decent eye doctor expects you to determine on the spot if they are going to work for you because you have to wait and see how they feel after several hours each day you wear them.

The last time, my doctor actually gave me a week's supply of two different kinds so I could compare on my own. Ask them to do this!
posted by joan_holloway at 2:06 PM on September 9, 2016

(I'm the one who wrote about the counterfeit contacts). I order my contacts online from a reputable source (the 1-800 Contacts app is pretty handy).

Came to encourage you to request trial packs of both brands. This is pretty standard. I finally switched to disposables for the same reason: they may be a bit more expensive (not much), but I don't wear them every day. My prescription is the same in both eyes, so I buy one $85 box (of 90 lenses) and that lasts me six months. I just checked, and the expiration date for those 90 lenses is April 2019, so even if you use contacts very infrequently they're not going to go bad.

I've had good luck with product quality. More often than not, the tears in lenses come from me handling them roughly before I put them in. That happens maybe once a year? But I can tell immediately, pop out the bad lens, and swap in a new one (or forgo the trouble and wear glasses that day if my eye's irritated).

I'm in the bay area, too. The air's relatively dry here, so I tend to need lubricating eyedrops once a day when I'm wearing lenses (especially if I'm staring at a computer for hours). Take eye breaks, focus on objects far away from time to time.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:11 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're only wearing them on weekends they will probably always feel "off" but they shouldn't feel so off that your eye is watering or turning red or otherwise so uncomfortable that you can't deal with it. My optometrist has often tried to 'upgrade' my lens and I've only ever done it once in 25 years of wearing contacts, because what they wanted to upgrade me to felt inferior to what I was wearing before.

These are your eyes, if there's anything uncomfortable absolutely take care of it.

I currently wear Air Optix (the Optix 2 they wanted me to wear felt worse). I can't even remember what I wore at first. But I only ever made the one switch.

Are you going for daily disposables? I've had worse experience with them even though I do wear mine daily. I couldn't use them. I stuck with the monthly.
posted by one4themoment at 2:19 PM on September 9, 2016

Your contact lens fitting is not done until you have lenses that feel good and correct your vision appropriately. Last time I saw the optometrist, he fitted me with lenses and had me come back for a (free) followup appointment a week later because we weren't sure about the prescription in one eye. He refracted me again and changed to a different one and it was perfect.

If you haven't at minimum left in a pair of lenses that you don't notice with your vision sharp, you haven't been fitted right. And they should be willing to offer you enough samples for you to give them a good try.
posted by mister pointy at 2:55 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Every single answer was helpful and much appreciated. My experience with UC has always been excellent (a major time investment because students, but still excellent) so this last visit threw me for a loop. Now I feel equipped to march into my contact-wearing future happily thanks to your advice. Y'all rock, thanks so much! One follow-up question to late afternoon dreaming hotel (and/or others): I am a proofreader doing serious visual focusing for long chunks of time not on the computer and then hours on a computer. Plus, I already have dry eyes. For those of you who use lubricating eyedrops, care to make a recommendation? That's a bonus round and participation, as always, is completely optional!
posted by Bella Donna at 3:53 PM on September 9, 2016

I only wear contacts on the weekends and also just made the switch dailies. So happy I did. But I've always felt a fresh pair feels better than an old pair, regardless of being a daily or just a weekend wearer. Do you generally notice a difference? The daily part feel better than anything I've worn before.

I've never switched brands or scripts without having a week to try the new ones out. I went back twice tweaking the left one (it's a weirdo, usually a tricky fit). So it's odd to me that that wasn't automatic.

I've not had any problems yet, but supposedly the company is very good at replacing bad lenses. This came from my optometrist, who I adore and am considering keeping even though I'm traveling out of state, but obviously I only have his word. I didn't feel pushed into dailies, they were just one of the options discussed.

On preview: I use Bausch&Lomb for lubrication, Alaway for allergies. The Alaway are a godsend. I have more allergy than dry eye problems (I went in for a contact issue, turned out my irritated eyes had been dislodging the contact slightly. I used the drops and I was amazed! It had been so long that I'd forgotten what nonirritated eyes felt like. Fit issues also resolved), so YMMV.
posted by ghost phoneme at 4:05 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

To your follow up question - I find that putting eye drops in before I put in the contacts seems to help keep my eyes moist. I find store brands work just fine but the best were Oasis Tears - I got it from my eye doctor (the same eye doctor who convinced me to get awful, devilish dailies) but you can buy it online.
posted by sm1tten at 7:54 PM on September 9, 2016

My student eye docs recommended Systane Ultra for lubricating eye drops and they have been far better than the stuff I've used previously.

(The absolute best experience I've ever had with eye drops is Restasis but those suckers are EXTREMELY expensive and prescription only. Restasis may be worth asking your UCB folks about anyway.)

Finally: I agree with some above who said that dailies felt too uncomfortable for them. That's definitely the case for me--I use monthlies and Clear Care eye solution helps extend my hours of wearability. If you find that you can wear dailies but only certain ones then by all means, get those contacts! Contacts are extremely uncomfortable when they're not right for your eye. Even weekend wear deserves the best fit that you can afford.
posted by librarylis at 7:58 PM on September 11, 2016

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