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Aug 4, 2013

Contact Lenses

I hemmed and I hawwed and I hawwed and I hemmed. And I even hrmed a couple of times. But eventually I decided I wanted to try wearing contact lenses (again).

I have worn them in the past. Two stints actually. When I was a young adult (maybe 20 or so) I decided that they would be a welcome change from glasses (and they were). The problem was that they needed to be removed every night, and cleaned and reinserted each morning. Not to mention the "protein removal bath" once each week. Now, for a normal responsible individual, that's probably not asking a lot. But in reality, I (like many others) slept in my contact lenses (often wearing them for a week between cleanings). This was not good for the lenses and doubly not good for my eyes. I wore those lenses until they expired (about a year) and returned to wearing eyeglasses.

My second stint was in 2006. I was just looking to get a break from glasses. I went to Eyewear Emporium on Kennedy Rd. in Scarborough (I figured if glasses were $29.00 [now $59], then contacts had to be cheaper than they were in my last foray). They took my existing eyeglass prescription, measured my eyes and sent me home with 2 pairs of contacts (each pair good for 6 months of daily wear). Weekly protein baths were (I think) now a thing of the past, so I had just to remove them each night, clean them and soak them overnight, and then insert them in the morning. Seemed a might simpler than before (I hated those protein baths). I did pretty good at removing them each night (unlike my first attempt). I'm not sure if that was because I was more concerned about my eye health that time around or if the contacts just didn't feel as good overnight. In either case I was following the rules better that time around. The novelty wore off before it was time to use the second set of lenses and I went back to wearing glasses.

A couple of years ago I stopped wearing the big plastic framed glasses and switched to wire frame glasses. I like the wire frame glasses much better, except that they use those little plastic "feet" to rest on my nose. My mother (after years of wearing glasses) developed two pits on her nose which I always found horrifying. Recently, I noticed I was beginning to develop 2 little indentations where those feet rest (not yet anywhere near the pits I recall my mother having). I decided that I had to either go back to the plastic frames (with no feet) or wear contact lenses for a while to give my nose time to lose the dents. Being summer and knowing how sweaty those plastic frames can become in the heat, I decided to go for contact lenses.

Unlike the days of yore, everything is available online now, so I decided to try to find contact lenses online (easy as pie). And to top it off, I still had that second pair of contact lenses that I did not use from the last time (thus a usable prescription value). So I looked and I looked. And things have changed. Now we have contact lenses approved for up to 30 days of continuous wear (woo hoo!). I almost order, then I see daily wear disposables (in the eye in the morning and in the garbage at night - yay!). I almost order again. Ewwww coloured lenses. Hmm maybe I'm just looking for something new now, I had better not order. So I put off ordering while I do some research.

Well, it turns out that you can do an awful lot of research when it comes to contact lenses. And at some point during that research, a little tick of common sense kicked in (don't you hate when that happens?). Am I really going to order contact lenses based on a prescription from 2006 (which itself was based on an eyeglass prescription from who knows how many years before that)? So I decided that common sense could win this one and I arranged an eye exam (I haven't had my eyes checked since well before the government stopped covering the cost). I called Eyewear Emporium (from whom I have been buying my $29 [now $59] glasses for years) to get my eyes checked.

We set up an appointment with their roving optometrist and I paid him his $60 to check my vision. He wrote me a prescription for glasses. It's significant to note that I informed him I wanted to get contact lenses. Had I decided not to purchase contact lenses from them (Eyewear Emporium) I would never have been measured for a contact lens fitting. I figured what the heck, I'm here, so I had a contact lens fitting and purchased contact lenses from them. At the time I explained to the optician that I did not trust myself to follow a daily schedule and would need "extended wear" lenses as I almost certainly would not be taking them out each night. He assured me that these lenses were extended wear but they do not "let" their patients wear them overnight without a proper followup, and that I should come and see them the day after I have slept with them, in order for them to check my eyes (and presumably advise me as to whether or not I should be allowed to continue to wear them overnight). I agreed, paid for my lenses, said "See you tomorrow" and headed out.

As soon as I got in my car, it was plainly obvious that my vision was nowhere near as clear as with my glasses. Later I found I could not read my appointment book or my phone. But the real kicker was when I got home and couldn't read my computer screen. I began to wonder if I had always moved my glasses out of the way without realizing it to read all this close stuff (although I was sure that I hadn't). Yes I'm getting old and because I'm near sighted, to read, I usually just removed my glasses (where other people hold things out at arms length to accomplish the same thing). I was NOT a happy camper.

And when I got home and started playing with my computer (which I was having great difficulty seeing) one of the first things I did was to download the brochure for the particular contact lenses that the Optician had sold me. And there (as large as life) was a warning that these are Daily Wear lenses and under no circumstances should patients be allowed to wear them overnight. Now, I was just angry.

The next day (having removed the contacts overnight as recommended by the manufacturer) I returned to the store to complain. However most of the vision related issues seem to have corrected themselves. I attributed this to the Optometrist having put drops in my eyes and was relieved that this (at least) was not going to be an issue. I complained to the person on duty (the optician that sold me my contacts was not yet in) in particular that I had specified that I wanted extended wear contacts because I intended to sleep with them. He said I wanted "night and day" lenses (by which I assumed he meant Air Optix Night and Day) and that they could get them for me but they would be a little more expensive. I said a little more expense is not an issue, and I definitely want extended wear lenses. Having already priced these particular lenses online at about $55 per box I was ready for a bit of a hit (needing 2 boxes). He had me leave my already purchased lenses there (both of us assuming he would be ordering the Night and Day lenses). A little later I received a call from that second optician that he was ready to order the lenses for me and just wanted to be sure that I still wanted them. He told me $99 per box but he would give me credit for the lenses that I had already returned. I honestly didn't hear how much credit as I was astounded at the price, but as a best case scenario, it would have been the full $60 I had paid for the first sets of lenses from the new cost of $198 would put my "added" cost at $138. To keep things in perspective, I can order them myself online with no consideration of my just purchased (and not wanted) Daily Wear lenses for a total cost of $106 including product, delivery and insurance. I asked if I could get the measurements they took (on which they based my contact lens prescription) and was told that the policy is to not give this information to the customer "so they can buy lenses somewhere else".

Sadly, I can understand the policy, but lets be fair. I already paid their optometrist $60 for an eye exam and I paid them an additional $60 for the Daily Wear lenses (that I don't want). And, at this point I was clearly not going to be purchasing further contact lenses from them anyway, so they already had my money. What would it hurt to give me this information (keeping in mind that I and many of my family members will continue to buy glasses here)?

To keep things in perspective the information I was asking for was more of a "it might be handy to know if by some chance I have multiple options when ordering my new lenses". It was by no means essential to ordering new lenses. The 2 useful pieces of information would tell me the ideal "BC" and "Dia" measurement to order (if multiple values are available). In reality many lenses are available in only a single size which makes this information relatively useless anyway and I can just try to come as close as possible to the same measurements on the lenses that they did sell me. Now, at this point, some people might threaten to take their business elsewhere and to tell all of their friends and relatives not to shop there etc. But I've got to be honest here, in spite of this less than pleasant experience trying to get extended wear contact lenses, I have always been happy with their service and their product. I will continue to buy my glasses at Eyewear Emporium. And if you're looking for Daily Wear contact lenses, I'll even recommend them for that.

It is important to note that your contact lens prescription and your eyeglass prescription are not necessarily the same and you should not simply order contact lenses blindly based on your eyeglass prescription. You should absolutely get your first pair of contact lenses from a qualified optician who can measure your eyes, convert your eyeglass prescription and make any allowances for astigmatism, add values etc.. You will also want the follow-up visits after beginning to wear your lenses to ensure your eye health has not been adversely affected. I cannot stress the importance of having an accurate "base" on which to base your online order. Particularly the BC (Base Curve) which is essentially the degree of curvature of your cornea. This will (more than anything else) determine the "fit" of the lenses to your eye. The Diameter is "perhaps" not as significant (provided you have the correct base curve). Another thing to consider before you get contact lenses is that you have to put them in and take them out. I know it seems obvious, but you really have to consider if you can touch your eyeball every single day (many people simply can't).

That said, U.S. citizens need a prescription to order contact lenses online, and that prescription must also include the particular brand of contact lens You don't need a prescription in Canada to order contact lenses online. And you should order them online. Simply put, you get the exact same product at a fraction of the cost. After much consideration and deliberation (and many changes of mind) I finally ordered PureVision Toric lenses which (like Night and Day) can be worn continuously for up to 30 days without removal as well as being toric (corrects for my astigmatism) at a cost of $106.85 ($32 less than the optician would have charged me after getting credit for my daily wear lenses).

I ordered my lenses from which appears to be a mirror site of There are a number of other sites and the prices vary (sometimes by quite a lot) so it's worth it to shop around.

Now... If you think this is a bad review of Eyewear Emporium, please think again. Admittedly this was not a good experience. But I walked in there knowing what I wanted and perhaps failed to adequately convey the importance of my choice (perhaps not). Things did not go my way. But, having said that, I have been there many times and purchased many pairs of eyeglasses from them (for myself, my wife and numerous other family members) and have always been happy with the selection, the products I have purchased and the service I have received from them (both at the time of purchase and after the sale as well). If you want to pay $59 (previously $29) for your complete glasses you can. If you would rather buy expensive designer frames and all kinds of lens treatments you can do that as well. With this one exception I have always been happy with the service I have received there (and had I not had expectations walking in, I would likely have been happy this time around as well). And to be completely fair, remember, that they did offer to correct the situation by ordering lenses for me that would have matched my stated criteria. The reason the situation was not corrected is that I found the price to be too high (after finding much lower prices online), but they would have been happy to give me what I asked for, for the price they would have normally charged. So any failure to remedy the situation was my fault, not theirs (I'm just cheap). Oddly enough, opticians in Ontario are required to sell glasses to you at their wholesale cost (plus their dispensing fee) but there appears to be no such rule regarding contact lenses (I could be wrong).

My contact lenses arrived (from in short order and while I might like to give them rave reviews, I can't as yet. What I can say is "What a difference sleeping with these lenses makes". Now I appreciate that those of you who do not wear contact lenses have no idea what it can be like when you just want to nod off for a half of an hour or so with your lenses in. To give you a quick sense of what it feels like here's a general description.

Falling asleep with contact lenses in your eyes is no more or less difficult than sleeping without them. The problem comes when you get up. With normal soft contact lenses this can be uncomfortable to say the least. The feeling can range from (slight to extreme) dryness in your eyes to feeling like your eyelids are glued shut. The usual remedy (for me) was always just to keep my eyes open extra wide until they started to tear up. The tears would then lubricate the lenses and I would move the lenses with my finger. On a good day, this was all that was needed. On a bad day, I would have to remove and clean the lenses and then replace them (it is VERY uncomfortable trying to remove lenses from dry eyes). Of course if you just nodded off in a place where you don't have your normal eyewear care available, it can be quite uncomfortable waiting for your eyes to "recover" from having slept in your lenses.

Sleeping with Continuous Wear lenses is somewhat different. You sleep, you wake up. There is no immediate discomfort associated with having slept. My only real issue is that because I wear toric lenses they sometimes turn on the eye while I sleep and are then in an incorrect position when I wake. Normally they would automatically reorient when I blink a few times, but after I sleep my eyes are somewhat dryer than usual and this does not work until I've been awake for a short time. Most days I need do nothing. after a short time awake my eyes' moisture level recovers normally and the lenses reorient on their own after a short time. If however I need to re-orient them more quickly (if they are uncomfortable or their orientation is affecting my vision) a drop of lens wetter usually does the trick. If (following the drops) things still aren't going as planned, I can then take them out, rinse them quickly and reinsert them. This might make you ask, "then how is it any different from normal lenses?". Most importantly the discomfort and dryness is nowhere near as bad with the continuous wear lenses (not even close). And if I am required to remove and reinsert them to restore "normal" feeling, with the continuous wear lenses, that is usually after I am fully awake (and fully functional) whereas with the normal soft lenses, it was usually immediately upon waking (when messing with your eyes is very low on the list of things you want to do).

I don't think I'll ever be able to wear the continuous wear lenses for a full 30 days without cleaning, but I can easily wear them for a few days non-stop and then remove them only long enough to rinse them and re-insert. That (of course) is much more convenient than trying to put them in each morning. And there's much to be said for being able to see when I get up in the middle of the night (and first thing in the morning). I do find these lenses a little more difficult to remove than normal soft contacts (although I expect this is due to their being toric lenses more so than because they are continuous wear). Having worn the daily wear lenses for 3 weeks and the continuous wear lenses for only a couple of weeks, I can say without reservation that I prefer the continuous wear lenses for their comfort level (day and night). And while I probably have cleaned these lenses almost every day since starting to wear them. it has always been when it was convenient for me (when I was wide awake) and almost never first thing in the morning. One of the problems with my earlier attempts to wear contact lenses was that I would have to put on my glasses first thing to function in the morning and sometimes just couldn't be bothered to put in the contact lenses afterward.

I would absolutely recommend Continuous Wear contact lenses to anyone who wears contact lenses (or wants to) who might like to have a nap now and again or who might find occasion to sleep overnight with their lenses in (the difference in comfort level at waking is well worth any cost difference). I also recommend buying your name brand prescription contact lenses online if cost is a significant factor for you.


Please keep in mind that contact lenses should not be uncomfortable. If your eyewear causes you discomfort please see your eye care professional.

Remember that your annual eye exam checks for much more than simply the refraction required to correct your vision. Do not let your ability to purchase contact lenses online discourage you from seeking regular annual eye examinations. Contact lens wearers are at an increased risk of eye disease and corneal abrasion and should see their eye doctor with increased regularity (as compared to eyeglass wearers).