Contact lenses and the internet
A few years ago, internet purchase of disposable contact lenses was identified as a major risk factor for contact lens-related infection in an Australian study published in a major ophthalmic journal. The study found that the risk of infection was almost 5 times higher for those patients who bought their lenses from sources other than their optometrist, such as the internet or mail order, and these patients were also less likely to comply with instructions and advice from their optometrist with respect to matters such as lens care, lens replacement and the need for regular contact lens aftercare.
It goes without saying that contact lenses purchased over the internet are of the same quality as contact lenses purchased through your optometrist. As the authors of the Australian study noted, the higher risk associated with internet/mail order purchase of lenses is probably related more to patient attitudes and behaviours with respect to contact lens care. This assumption seems to be supported by another study in which internet purchasers did admit to having less frequent eye examinations and were often found to be wearing older types of lenses due to the fact they were simply reordering online what they had been fitted with 5 or 10 years ago.
All this does not mean that patients should refrain from purchasing their disposable contact lenses over the internet. In our practice, we recognize that it is sometimes more convenient for patients to purchase their lenses online and so many chose to do this through our website. We are more than happy for them to do this provided we continue to see them on a regular basis – usually six monthly or yearly – for aftercare and the majority of our patients are very compliant in this regard.