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Contact Lenses (cont.)

What Exams and Tests Do Health-Care Professionals Use to Diagnose Contact Lens Problems?

Diagnosis and treatment of contact lens problems entail a complete history and an eye examination.

During the history, you are asked questions about your symptoms and how long you have been bothered by these symptoms (for example, light sensitivity, redness, blurred vision). You should also be prepared to tell your eye doctor the following:

  • The type of contact lenses being worn (soft, gas permeable, or the older hard lenses)
  • What type of care regimen you use (cleaning, disinfecting, and rinsing solutions): This should include the specific name (manufacturer) of solutions.
  • The type of wear regimen used: daily disposable, weekly overnight wear, or daily wear
  • How often the lenses are replaced (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly)
  • When you last wore your lenses
  • Whether your vision is affected

The examination of the eye involves checking your vision (with your glasses because you have removed your contact lenses).

  • If your vision cannot be corrected, your eye doctor may suspect the presence of a serious problem.
  • Your eye doctor looks into your eye with various types of lights, starting with a flashlight type of instrument and followed by a slit lamp (a microscope to examine the eye with high magnification and different color lights).
  • Your eye doctor may obtain corneal topography, a noninvasive study that shows the curvature, power, and thickness of your corneas. (See figure.)
  • Your eye doctor may place a dye called fluorescein on the eye. This makes abrasions (scratches) and ulcers show up clearly.
  • Your eye doctor may use an anesthetic eyedrop to facilitate examination. Once the anesthetic wears off, the pain you had when you walked into the office will recur; that is normal. Do not use anesthetic on your own as it can worsen the damage to the cornea and interfere with healing.
  • With apparently severe infections, cultures of the eye may be taken and sent to the laboratory for evaluation. (See figure.) Bring your contact lenses and/or contact lens case because cultures of these may identify the infectious agent. Depending on the cause of the infection, specific antibiotic eyedrops may be required. Rarely, hospitalization is required.
Picture of corneal topography showing astigmatism and the curvature of the cornea.  Photo courtesy of Michelle Rhee, MD.
Picture of corneal topography showing astigmatism and the curvature of the cornea. Photo courtesy of Michelle Rhee, MD.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/1/2016
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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Contact Lenses:

Contact Lenses - Seeking Medical Care

Please describe the nature of your contact lens problem. What prompted you to seek medical care?

Contact Lenses - Side Effects

Have you had complications from wearing contact lenses? If so, what were they?


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Specialty Contact Lenses »

Soft contact lenses (CLs) were once difficult to fit for astigmatic eyes because every toric CL was unique and fit differently with every lens.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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