Friday, May 24, 2013

Prescription Lenses

Let me start by saying that I think we have the best healthcare system in the world here in the US, and that includes those in the optometry field. But I have a slight issue with the way we treat prescriptions for contact lenses. Here is my story.

I began wearing glasses when I was 11 years old. When I was 19, I spent two years in South Korea. While I was there, I decided to get contact lenses. So I went down to a place where they could be purchased cheaply, the open market. (Open Market is not like a free market, it is a street or field where people setup carts and sell stuff off of them to customers. If you go back the next day because you were not satisfied with your product, the seller might not be there.)

At the open market, I found a seller of contacts. He looked at my glasses to get the prescription, and then asked me if I could read with them. He then sold me two contacts and some saline. I wore these for two years.

But back in the states when I tell this story to eye doctors, (which I do to get their reaction) they react with something akin to horror. As if I were buying Viagra off the internet. (To which no one seems to react with horror these days.) And here in the states I have to get a new prescription each year, even though the one from last year is the same, so that I can continue to legally by contacts. And each time they look at my eyes and do tests to tell me that my eyes are still fine, I still don't have glaucoma, or cataracts, or any other eye disease or damage.

Of course I know this because unlike my blood pressure I literally have to look my self in the eye every day to get my contacts in. (except for some that I can wear for a whole week, but then it is still every week.) And I will know before anyone else if my eyes start to worsen, feel bad, or give me pain. But I still can't get more than a years worth of contacts, (some states let me go 2 years, thank you! (sarc)) without a doctor telling me that my eyes don't hurt.

Really people. They are my eyes. I pay good money to be able to see out of them. Do you really think that would do that and then not care if my vision blurs or my eyes start to have pain?

Yes, eye health is important. But so is foot health. Lots of people wear shoes that contribute to back pain and other problems. Some women wear shoes that produce long term damage to their feet and legs. Why don't they have to get a prescription for shoes?

To be clear, I am not advocating prescription shoes.

Glasses and contacts are not something that I put inside my body. They are something that I wear on the outside. And the eye is a sensitive organ that will let me know when there is a problem. I think that I should be able to buy glasses and contact of any prescription, size, color, etc that I want to just like I can buy shoes. I will know if they don't fit or are not comfortable as soon as I put them on and try to use them.

And I am not advocating that we don't need eye doctors.

Having eye doctors allow me to see and I am very grateful that they exist. I like to see. I plan on using my eyes the rest of my life. But I don't think that I should be held to a yearly visit if I can still see. It just seem like a waste of time and money. (Time may be money, but they are not interchangeable  Try buying more time and see what happens.)

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