How To Renew A Contacts Prescription When You Can't Visit Your Eye Doctor

You have options for new contact lenses, even if you can't see your ophthalmologist or optometrist in person because of the coronavirus pandemic.

If you’ve worn a mask during the coronavirus pandemic, you know that contact lenses have one advantage over glasses: They don’t fog up as glasses do.

“Everyone is wanting to wear their contacts because it’s so much easier with the masks,” said Ashley Brisette, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “They are safe and fine to wear, but just make sure you are washing your hands before and after [use], and not rubbing the eyes at all.”

But you do need a current prescription to order more contacts, and you may not be able to visit your eye doctor in person. During the coronavirus pandemic, many routine health checkups are being delayed until it is safer for patients and doctors to interact face-to-face.

Renewing your current contact lens prescription is a better option than wearing your contact lenses for too long, said Sophia Saleem, senior director of teleophthalmology at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai.

“These days, people might be overwearing their lenses because they don’t want to deal with going to the eye doctor,” Saleem said. “Most ophthalmologists are very in favor of renewing contact lenses online, because it prevents their patients from getting bad infections.”

If you want to wear contact lenses for the first time, it’s better to wait until you can go in person to do a contact lens exam, said Saleem.

“When you first get a pair, you have to go in to check what brand is good for you and the fit of the contact lens on your eye,” Saleem said. “There’s no way you can do that unless you go in to see someone. Contact lens renewal is really renewals. You can’t really get a new pair.“

So, if you already wear contacts and can’t meet up in person, you have several options, depending on your eye health and your reason for getting a renewal:

You can ask your eye doctor to renew your prescription for you.

If you already have a relationship with a doctor, you can call and ask them to renew your previous contact lens prescription. Brisette noted that offices are more lenient with renewing prescriptions right now, given the difficulty with office visits. “At our office, if you call in, we’ll just renew if for you for at least three months so that you don’t have to come in and get refitted,” she said.

An advantage with going to a doctor who has seen you before is that they can access your medical history to explain any vision changes.

“They can look back at your old exam, review your history with you, and they know you a little bit better,” Saleem said.

Contact lenses are popular to wear with face masks. Here's how to renew your prescription during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Contact lenses are popular to wear with face masks. Here's how to renew your prescription during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can renew your contacts prescription online.

Ordering new contact lenses online is best for when you’ve already been checked for contact lenses and you feel like your prescription is probably the same, Brisette said. “I recommend sticking to what you’re currently wearing, not making any changes to the brand or the fit,” she said. “If it’s not fitting properly on your eye, that can lead to irritation or to damage.“

Brisette said 1-800-Contacts does a free online eye exam for prescription renewal. But no matter how you choose to renew your prescription online, make sure that an eye care specialist reviews your eye test and renewal request.

“Wherever you go, you want to make sure that you have an ophthalmologist that is reviewing your result,” Saleem said. Keep in mind that the online test doesn’t replace a full eye exam, but “it does save you that trip that you may not need to take right now,” Saleem said.

When to consult a doctor before getting new contact lenses

Contact lenses can cause damage to your cornea when they are not worn properly. If you are having drastic changes in your vision, or pain with your eyes, it’s time to talk with a doctor before you renew your contacts prescription.

“The last thing you would want is to develop an eye infection or something that could cause damage to the vision, especially in these trying times,” Brisette said. “If you’re having any trouble, definitely make an appointment to see somebody.”

Saleem said patients should schedule a telemedicine appointment first. “I think that’s safer for the patients, safer for the doctors, and it really prevents unnecessary visits,” she said. “Schedule your telemedicine visit first, get triaged, and then if you need to come in, your doctor will let you know.”

Experts are still learning about the novel coronavirus. The information in this story is what was known or available as of press time, but it’s possible guidance around COVID-19 could change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.