Starting with contact lenses or glasses - getting a prescription

Whether you’re looking to buy yourself a snazzy, new pair of glasses online or you’re thinking of making contact lenses part of your routine, this page will tell you all about how to get started. Before you can start wearing contact lenses or be frames fitted with prescription lenses, you must undergo an eye examination. Any eye doctor or optician must provide you with a prescription, regardless of whether you’ll be buying glasses or lenses with them or elsewhere. If you’re looking into contact lenses, you’ll also need to get a contact lens fitting performed by your optician. If you’ve never worn lenses before, the process can seem daunting, but it’s actually simple and painless. Here’s a hint of what you can expect:

  • An examination and measurements of your eyes. This will allow your optician, optometrist, or ophthalmologist to write you a prescription for either glasses or contact lenses
  • Be sure to tell your eye doctor whether you’ll be wearing glasses or lenses as the prescription isn’t the same for both of them.
  • A recommendation as to which contact lenses may be right for you based on your measurements, medical history, and lifestyle.
  • The optician will insert the chosen lenses into your eyes and assess the fit and your comfort level.
  • While in the optician’s office, you’ll wait for about 30 minutes to allow the lens to stabilize on your eye.
  • You can ask your eye doctor to provide you with trial lenses, giving you the chance to further test them at home.
  • Once you’ve got your updated prescription, you are free to order glasses or lenses wherever you want.

Learn more here about reading your prescription.

An optometrist performing an eye exam when starting with lenses

Glasses or lenses: lifestyle considerations

It’s important to note that your prescription for glasses is different from a contact lens prescription. Different measurements are required to ensure the proper fit of contact lenses because they sit directly on the eyeball. So, if you’re interested in switching from glasses to contacts, an eye exam or discussion with your eye doctor is a crucial first step even if you already have a glasses prescription.

Contact lenses offer many benefits for active lifestyles, and they’re now more comfortable and cost-effective than ever. People who play sports and those needing reading glasses love the freedom and flexibility that contact lenses afford. Or, perhaps you simply prefer your own appearance without bulky glasses frames. Or, maybe you want to get both a pair of glasses as well as some contacts to switch things up when circumstances call for it. Read more about the pros and cons of contact lenses here.

Remember to think of everything

During your conversation with your optician, there are a few factors to discuss. Your optician will ask about your medical history, including any medications you may be taking or any chronic health issues. You’ll also want to discuss your lifestyle as this may determine the best type of vision correction or contact lenses for you:

  • Are you an avid athlete?
  • Do you spend a lot of time outdoors?
  • Could your make-up pose a problem when dealing with contacts?
  • Will any allergies affect your lenses?
  • Do you work on a computer for many hours a day or travel frequently?
  • Are you worried about the costs?

The answers to these questions can help your optician determine the best option for you. Maybe all you need is a pair of glasses, or maybe you’re a good candidate for extended wear (overnight) lenses, daily disposables, bi-weekly lenses, or monthly contact lenses. Or you might require special toric lenses to correct astigmatism or perhaps even multifocal contact lenses. You’ll find out during this evaluation. Read more about the difference between daily or weekly or monthly lenses. Or, learn more about different lens properties and characteristics here.

Getting settled with your glasses or lenses

Getting comfortable with your new eyeglasses is pretty straightforward. Any pair of glasses made in accordance with your prescription should be properly centered during the production process. You’ll of course have to get used to wearing them for a while. In case your glasses continue to feel uncomfortable, your optician is often able to adjust them a little, by altering the shape of the temple tips, for example.

Lenses might take a bit more getting used to but the whole process should still be quite smooth nonetheless. After the initial fitting, and if you’re comfortable with the chosen lenses, your optician will evaluate the fit and perform a vision test. You’ll likely get some practice inserting and removing the lenses while under the watchful eye of your optician. Finally, your optician will explain the procedure for lens care basics, offer some tips for better lens hygiene and set a follow-up appointment to assess how you’re getting on with the chosen lenses at a later date. During the week or two before your follow-up appointment, you’ll have a chance to try out your lenses at home. If you have any trouble or questions arise, call your optician for advice. You can also consult our guide to inserting contact lenses and removing contacts.

Trial lenses

Trial contact lenses from optician

Only your optician is authorized to provide trial lenses, as proper medical care and evaluation is needed when selecting appropriate lenses. It may take a few visits and a few tries to settle on the most appropriate brand and fit for you, but once you and your optician have agreed on a certain brand and wearing schedule, you are free to order the same lenses online from retailers like Alensa, without providing a copy of your prescription. Don’t forget to visit your optician for a checkup and prescription update at least once per year!

What about coloured lenses?

If you are interested in wearing coloured contact lenses without power for cosmetic purposes (eg. Halloween), it is always advisable to first consult with your optician for a fitting and recommendation, especially if you find you have never worn lenses before, have sensitive eyes or suffer from dry eyes. A thorough eye exam is also necessary when you decide to wear coloured lenses with power for vision correction.

Basic Information for First-Timers