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Can You Wear Contact Lenses to an Eye Exam?

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Smiling woman holding a contact lens case.

Contact lenses are an excellent alternative to glasses. A frequently overlooked fact is that not all patients use contact lenses as their primary means of vision correction. Each patient is unique, with some only wearing contact lenses on weekends, special occasions, or for sports.

That is the allure of contact lens wear: the freedom it provides each patient and their way of life. You might think that your eye doctor would want your vision at its best by wearing your contact lenses to your exam, but that’s not always the case.

It’s crucial to note that not all eye tests contain the same processes before continuing. There are different guidelines for how to prepare for routine eye exams for adults and follow-up appointments after contact lens exams.

The type of eye test you are having will typically determine whether or not you should wear contacts.

Comprehensive Exam vs Contact Lens Exam

There are two different types of exams you might take, so it’s critical to know which one you’re taking in advance. Comprehensive eye exams and exams for contact lenses are the two types of exams.

Comprehensive Eye Exam

Regular eye and vision exams are a crucial component of preventive healthcare. You might not be aware that there is a problem because many eye and vision issues don’t have obvious symptoms or signs. 

Vision loss can be avoided with early detection and treatment of eye and vision issues. The tests that are carried out will depend on the signs and symptoms of each patient and your optometrist’s professional judgment. A typical comprehensive eye exam consists of:

  • Health background of the patient and their family.
  • Visual acuity testing.
  • Preliminary evaluations of vision and eye health, including tests of color vision, depth perception, peripheral vision, and pupil response to light.
  • Refractive test to identify the presence of astigmatism, nearsightedness, or farsightedness
  • Eye focusing, eye teaming, and eye movement skills are assessed.

When getting a routine eye exam, it’s best for you to wear your everyday correction, whether it is your glasses or contact lenses. This will help your doctor determine how well you see on an everyday basis.

Some people choose to get fitted for new contacts in addition to having their eyes examined. If this is the case, it may be simpler to keep your contacts out so that your eye doctor can examine your eyes more easily.

Contact Lens Exam

A contact lens-specific eye exam differs from a standard comprehensive eye exam in that it includes additional measurements that help identify your ideal contact lens type and the shape and size of your eye’s surface. 

You can specify your color preferences, the frequency of contact lens replacement, and the hardness or softness of your ideal contact lens during a contact lens eye exam. Things that your eye doctor will measure include:

  • Corneal measurement
  • Pupil and iris measurements
  • Tear film evaluation

It’s typical for you to have to return to your eye doctor to have the lens fit checked if you have already had an eye exam and been fitted for contacts. Therefore, you must be wearing your contacts for this follow-up appointment, that way the doctor can check to see how they settle onto your eyes after wearing them for a longer period of time. 

Your eye doctor will examine the fit of your lenses and make sure that your eyes are relaxed and functioning properly.

Arriving at a contact lens follow-up exam with your lenses in will also allow your eye doctor to determine whether or not you’ve been properly wearing them. If you haven’t already, your eye doctor will be able to advise you on how to make the best use of your lenses.

Half of a phoropter against a blue background.

Ways to Prepare for an Eye Exam

There are some similarities between comprehensive exams and contact lens exams, and it’s all in how you prepare yourself for them. 

Avoid Unnecessary Eye Strain

You should avoid straining your eyes whenever possible. Many problems can arise as a result of eye strain. Straining your eyes can cause them to dry out, as well as headaches and difficulty sleeping. Eye Strain can come from:

  • Too much screen time
  • Exposure to bright light or glare
  • Reading for long periods without pausing to rest

Avoid Caffeine

Caffeine can raise your blood pressure, which many eye doctors consider when performing an eye exam. Elevated blood pressure may indicate an increased risk of glaucoma.

During your eye exam, your eye doctor will most likely measure your eye pressure. Reduce your caffeine intake to ensure they get the best and clearest reading possible.

Caffeine should not have a detrimental effect on your appointment, but it may make getting an accurate reading more difficult. Try not to have a large cup of coffee right before your exam.

Book Your Appointment

Knowing when or when not to wear contact lenses before an eye exam allows your eye doctor to gather the necessary information to keep your eyes healthy and your vision sharp. Book an appointment online with Bettner Vision today to speak with an experienced member of our team who can answer your questions about contact lenses and how best to prepare for your exam.

Written by Dr. Christopher Bettner, OD

Dr. Christopher Bettner has been serving the optometric needs of Colorado Springs since 1995. He is trained in ocular pathology with an emphasis in the treatment and management of ocular disease, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and pre- and post-operative care.

More Articles By Dr. Christopher Bettner, OD

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