Finding a contact lens practitioners
When fitting you with contact lenses, your contact lens practitioner has hundreds of products to choose from and, for a given product, there may be thousands of possible specifications. It is reassuring if you are confident your practitioner will select the best contact lenses for your needs. Your choice of practitioner can make the difference between being a happy, successful experience of contact lens wear or not.
Wearing contact lenses involves regular check-ups, often over many years, and it is therefore helpful if you can find a practitioner in whose company you are comfortable, as well as one who inspires confidence. In the UK, there are three categories of professional qualified to fit contact lenses although, within each category, not all practitioners choose to fit contact lenses.
Optometrists (ophthalmic opticians)
Optometrists are qualified to examine the eyes, test sight and prescribe and fit spectacles and contact lenses. Some optometrists who fit contact lenses may have undertaken additional training to attain a diploma in contact lens practice (DipCLP, DCLP).
Contact lens opticians (dispensing opticians qualified to fit contact lenses)
Dispensing opticians dispense, fit and supply spectacles. Some dispensing opticians undertake additional training to become qualified to fit and supply contact lenses and register a specialty in contact lens practice. Those dispensing opticians with an additional qualification in contact lens practice are known as contact lens opticians and will usually have letters after their name that indicate their specialty, such as FBDO CL or FBDO (Hons) CL.
Ophthalmologists are doctors specialising in eye disease. Some ophthalmologists fit contact lenses but generally specialise in medical contact lens fitting.
What makes a good contact lens practitioner?
A good contact lens practitioner will:
• Carefully question you about your eyes, health and specific visual needs
• Explain what contact lens options are available to you and the relative merits of those options • Involve you in any decision-making
• Have available a wide range of contact lens products
• Take care to explain how to look after your lenses and what steps to take to avoid problems
• Make any necessary changes or modifications to your lenses to ensure that you get the best possible comfort and vision
• Keep up-to-date with new products and techniques
• Have knowledgeable, efficient support staff who will answer minor queries, know when to arrange check-ups and help organise replacement lenses when you need them
How do I find a good contact lens practitioner?
As with other professional services, recommendation is one of the best ways to find the right practitioner. Ask friends and colleagues in your area about their experiences. If you have a less common eye problem (such as keratoconus, high astigmatism or previous eye surgery) and may require special contact lens care, it is particularly important to find a contact lens practitioner who has been trained to deal with your problem. Before making an appointment, check that the practitioner has adequate experience in dealing with your eye condition.
Our 'Find a BCLA contact lens practitioner' service can also help you to find a practitioner in your area who is a member of the BCLA. BCLA membership does not guarantee that they will be the ideal practitioner for your needs. However, this usually indicates a commitment to ongoing training and a desire to keep abreast of new developments.
What questions should I ask my contact lens practitioner?
Useful questions to ask might be:
• Are you restricted in which contact lenses you can fit?
• How many days a week are you here?
• What will happen if I am not comfortable with my lenses?
• Are there any indications that my eyes will be more difficult to fit with contact lenses than the average person? • How much experience have you had in dealing with my particular problem?
• How do you keep up to date with developments in contact lenses?
• Are you a member of the BCLA?