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can i buy contacts without a current prescription?

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You cannot legally buy contact lenses in the United States without a valid prescription written by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist. Period.

It's against the law to sell contact lenses in beauty parlors, convenience stores, flea markets or other non-optical outlets. And it's a bad idea to buy contact lenses from such sellers, because you may be getting unregulated lenses from unscrupulous producers that can cause harm to your eyes.

You Are Entitled To Your Contact Lens Prescription

The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act gives you the right to request and receive a copy of your contact lens prescription from your eye doctor so you can shop around when buying contacts to get the best deal, based on price, convenience and other factors.

The Act was passed by Congress in 2003 and required the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to develop guidelines that spell out the Act's requirements and enforce its provisions.

The FTC issued these guidelines — called the Contact Lens Rule — in July 2004. The Rule establishes requirements both for eye doctors who prescribe contact lenses and retailers who sell them.

Rules For Contact Lens Prescribers

The Contact Lens Rule says that eye care professionals who are permitted under state law to fit and issue prescriptions for contact lenses must:

Give a copy of the contact lens prescription to the patient at the end of the contact lens fitting — even if the patient doesn't ask for it.
Provide or verify the contact lens prescription to anyone who is designated to act on behalf of the patient, including contact lens sellers.
When responding to a contact lens verification request from a seller, correct any inaccuracy in the prescription being verified and inform the seller if the prescription has expired or is otherwise invalid.
Rules For Contact Lens Sellers

The Contact Lens Rule requires contact lens sellers to:

Provide contact lenses only in accordance with a valid prescription that is directly presented to the seller or has been verified by the contact lens prescriber.
If verification is required — such as when a consumer decides to buy contact lenses online and provides their contact lens information by filling out a webpage form — sellers must contact the prescribing doctor to verify the accuracy of the prescription before filling the order.

Contact Lens Verification

Under the Contact Lens Rule, if a contact lens prescriber fails to communicate with a contact lens seller within eight business hours of receiving a complete verification request from the seller, the contact lens prescription is considered verified and the retailer can sell the contacts to the consumer without a response from the prescriber.

The Rule also requires contact lens sellers to maintain records of the contact lens prescriptions they fill, the prescription verification requests they send to doctors and prescriber responses to these requests.

All stipulations of the Contact Lens Rule apply to so-called "non-prescription" contact lenses — lenses made for Halloween and other color contact lenses or special-effect contact lenses with no corrective power — as well as standard contact lenses.

Remember, no matter what you call them, all contact lenses bought and sold in the United States require a valid contact lens prescription from an eye doctor.

You can get more information about the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act and the Contact Lens Rule by visiting the FTC website or calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
asked Feb 12 in Health by smyadmin

2 Answers

0 votes
No, you cannot legally buy contact lenses in the United States without a current, valid prescription. We’re very sorry, but it had to be said.

Here’s why. The FDA (responsible for the safety of our food and drugs) categorizes contact lenses as prescription medical devices, not to be sold over-the-counter without a prescription. The FTC (consumer protection and other noble causes) implemented the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act or FCLCA, which mandates that contact lens sellers obtain a copy of or verify your prescription before we can sell you contact lenses. Both great things if you ask us, so we comply with the law and require a prescription before shipping your lenses.

But I want to buy non-prescription colored contact lenses. Do I still need a prescription?
Yes, you still need a prescription. These types of contact lenses can be referred to as decorative, plano, Halloween, or special effects lenses, and are designed purely to change the appearance of the eye. Though they have no vision correcting power, they are regulated medical devices. They have to play by the same rules as your every-day, less colorful contacts.

My vision hasn’t changed in the last year, but my contact lens prescription expired. Can I buy contacts with an expired prescription?
You will need a current, valid prescription before you order more contacts. A lot can happen to your eyes over a one or two year period that you may not know about unless you see your eye doctor. Also remember that contact lens manufacturers create lenses to be comfortable and safe for specific periods of time. If worn for longer than recommended, lenses may deteriorate or develop protein buildup.

As inconvenient as it may be to visit your eye doctor for a new prescription, your healthy, happy eyes will thank you later.

I don’t have a prescription but I want to try contact lenses to see if I will like them.
Ask your eye doctor about trying contacts. Your doctor will help you to find the best possible lens and will make sure they fit correctly. Typically the doctor will see you for a contact lens fitting and examination, and will teach you how take good care of your contacts. Then they will give you a chance to wear them for a week or two to see how they work for you.

But before you visit your eye doctor, check out our contact lens finder to find out what contact lenses are best for your eyes. Then take the list of recommended lenses to the doctor’s office to get things started.
answered Feb 12 by Kelly
0 votes
So what happens when one wants to purchase contact lenses, but doesn't have a prescription? Every year, thousands of people ask this question, and many are confused about whether they can or can't buy contacts online without visiting an eye doctor.

Most often, individuals who want lenses without a prescription want to avoid the costs associated with visiting an eye doctor, or they simply don't need a formal prescription since they have 20/20 vision already. While it may seem silly for someone with perfect vision to want contact lenses, it's important to remember that many people want to wear contacts for cosmetic purposes, and don't need any actual vision correction.

United States FDA Laws And Regulations Regarding Contact Lens Sales

Contact lenses are defined by the United States FDA (food and drug administration) as medical devices, and subsequently, they can not be legally purchased within the United States without a prescription written by an eye care professional. Even for contacts that do not correct or alter vision, a prescription is required from an eye doctor.

Why Does The FDA Require a Prescription For Contact Lenses?

While most people do not have problems with wearing contact lenses, not everyone is suited for wearing contacts, and some may not be able to wear specific types of lenses, so it's important to get an eye exam prior to wearing contact lenses. Wearing improper lenses can lead to a wide variety of eye problems, ranging from mild discomfort to eye infections and permanent damage. Having a prescription be a requirement prior to lens purchase ensures healthy lens wearing habits, as eye doctors not only prescribe the right lenses, but can also assist in showing the proper way to care for contacts.

How To Get a Prescription For Contact Lenses

If you're looking to purchase new contact lenses, you need to start off by setting an appointment with an eye care professional. An Opthalmologist or Optometrist will be able to provide a full service eye exam, and can fit you with the right size lens for your eyes. Eye exam costs can vary depending on where the exam is taken, and what the exam covers. Eye exams are covered under most vision insurance plans, and typically will range from $50-$100.

Eye exams rarely take a long time, and most cities have local eye doctors and optical retailers that can provide eye exams. If you're interested in scheduling an eye exam online, visit our partner TwoPair.com here to schedule a local exam with an experienced vision professional.

If you're shopping for special effects or costume contact lenses for a special occasion such as Halloween, a theatrical performance, or any other event, it may be a good idea to schedule an eye exam far in advance so that contacts can be purchased prior to said event.
answered Feb 12 by Brandee Wings

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