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Eye Care Lacking in Many Who Buy Contact Lenses Online

But those who bought from doctors checked their prescriptions, kept exam dates, study finds

MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- While buying contact lenses online may save time in the short-term, people who do so tend not to follow proper eye care, new research shows.

Time saved with an Internet purchase may translate into more trouble down the line, warned the investigators, who found that people purchasing lenses from wholesale clubs or optical chains were also less likely to follow the healthy eye-care practices most doctors would recommend.

"We found that a pattern exists regarding the method of contact lens purchasing and following recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration," lead author Joshua Fogel, assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Brooklyn College, said in a prepared statement. "Those who bought contact lenses at their doctor's office followed a number of FDA recommendations, more so than those who bought contact lenses elsewhere."

A Brooklyn College team surveyed 151 university students about Internet use, contact lenses, time pressure, and FDA recommendations for purchasing contact lenses online.

When they analyzed the data, the researchers found that 86 percent of people who bought their lenses from an eye doctor also had a yearly eye exam, compared to 76.5 percent of people who shopped online. An annual exam is an important part of maintaining eye health, noted the researchers. Continuing to use contact lenses based on an old prescription may lead to eye discomfort, tiredness, poor vision and headaches, they warned.

The researchers also found that while 15 percent of people who wore contacts and saw their doctor regularly did not check to see if they had a current prescription, 32 percent of Internet shoppers used a prescription that had not been updated.

People who purchase contact lenses from a doctor are asked to return for a follow-up appointment to check the fit of the lenses. More than half (57 percent) of people who bought lenses from the doctor returned for a check-up, while only one in three (27 percent) of online shoppers saw a doctor after purchase.

More than 30 million people wear contacts, according to the Contact Lens Institute.

People who bought lenses at their doctor's office or a store expressed greater confidence in that purchase than those who shopped online, the researchers said.

The study was published in the January issue of Optometry: Journal of the American Optometric Association .

More information

To learn about the proper care of contact lenses, visit the American Optometric Association.

-- Madeline Vann

SOURCE: American Optometric Association, news release, Jan. 4, 2008

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