Updated on  February 10, 2023
8 min read

How to Get Contacts

6 sources cited
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6 Things You Need to Know Before Getting Contacts

Your eye health is a vital aspect of your overall health. It’s crucial to make an informed decision about which contacts to buy. If you’re considering getting contact lenses, there are a few things you need to know.

This guide will answer common questions and help you find comfortable, healthy, and clear vision.

*This guide is not intended to replace the advice of an eye doctor. Rely on a qualified eye care professional for personalized information and recommendations.

Where to Buy Glasses + Contacts

Best Overall: Warby Parker

Fastest Delivery: EyeBuyDirect

Also Great: Liingo

Best Place to Buy Contacts: 1800 Contacts

1. Schedule a Contact Lens Fitting

During the eye exam, an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) will check your eye's overall health. They will determine your eye prescription, test how your eyes work together, check the fluid pressure in your eyes, and check to see if you have any eye infections or conditions.

An eye exam is not enough to determine your contact lens prescription. Your eye doctor will need to perform a contact lens exam for this. They may measure: 

  • Your corneal curvature
  • Pupil or iris size
  • Tear film quality

These measurements will help your eye doctor determine whether or not you should wear contact lenses. They will also discuss your lifestyle to determine a healthy wear and replacement schedule. Many eye doctors will then give you a free trial pair of contacts to test out for a week or two.

Your eye doctor’s recommendations are the best source of information for which type and brand of contact lens or other eye wear to purchase.

2. Contact Lens Prescriptions

Contact lens and glasses prescriptions are different. Glasses rest about 12mm from your eyes, whereas contacts are placed directly on your eyes. This means the strengths of the prescription may differ.

Contact Lens Prescription

Example of a Contact Lens Prescription

glasses prescription

Example of an Eyeglasses Prescription

The two types of prescriptions contain some of the same information. Though these may refer to the same prescription elements, the numbers may differ depending on the device.

For both prescriptions, OD stands for oculus dexter, and refers to the right eye. OS stands for oculus sinister, and refers to the left eye. 

You'll also see the following prescription elements:


POWER (PWR) or SPHERE (SPH) is shown on both types of prescriptions. This is your prescription's refractive power (commonly called “strength”). (+) indicates farsightedness correction, and (-) indicates nearsightedness correction. The larger the number, the stronger the prescription. 

Cylinder (CYL) and AXIS

Cylinder (CYL) and AXIS are measurements for people with astigmatism. CYL measures the amount of astigmatism correction. AXIS measures the direction of astigmatism correction. They appear on both prescriptions but will only have a number if the person has astigmatism. 


B.C. stands for base curve and measures the curvature of the inside of a contact lens. The number is usually between 8 and 10. This should match the curvature of your eye to achieve maximum comfort and fit.


DIA represents the diameter of the lens, or width from edge to edge. This number is usually between 13 and 15 mm (smaller for rigid gas-permeable lenses). It determines where the contact sits on your eye.

You’ll receive separate prescriptions for your eyeglasses and contact lenses. Be sure to ask your eye doctor for a copy of each. Especially if you’re planning on purchasing contacts or glasses online.

3. Types of Contacts

The types of contact lenses are as follows:

Hard (Rigid Gas-Permeable, or RGP)

Rigid gas-permeable contact lenses are not as popular as soft lenses, though some people still prefer them. They are custom-shaped to the person’s eye shape, which may provide sharper vision.

They are more durable and last longer (typically 1-2 years). RGP lenses move on your eye with each blink. This allows oxygen and tears under the lens. 

Soft Contact Lenses

Soft contact lenses are much more common than RGP lenses. Most people find the silicone hydrogel material of soft lenses more comfortable.

There are a wide variety of soft lenses available. Each type will have a specific wear and replacement schedule, so you can find one that fits your needs and lifestyle. 

Toric Lenses

Toric lenses are a special type of contacts for people with astigmatism. They have a slightly different shape to take the misshapen cornea into account.

Multifocal Contact Lenses

Multifocal contact lenses are available for people with presbyopia. They can replace bifocal or multifocal eyeglasses.

4. Wear & Replacement Schedules

Soft contact lenses all come with recommended wear routines. These, combined with your eye doctor’s personalized directions, will make up your wear and replacement schedule. 

The standard types of soft lenses include:

Daily Disposable Lenses

Daily disposable lenses are worn for 1 day and then discarded. They are rising in popularity due to their convenience and safety. With dailies, you don’t need a contact case or solution. You simply throw them away at the end of the day.

Daily lenses negate the risk of build-up. They are also very popular among people with dry eyes.

Weekly/Bi-Weekly Lenses

Weekly/bi-weekly lenses get replaced every week or two, depending on your eyes. They offer a balance of convenience and comfort. The popular Acuvue Oasys lenses are an example of bi-weekly lenses.

Monthly Contact Lenses

Monthly contact lenses need to be replaced 30 days after opening. They are the most cost-effective type of soft lenses. However, they do require more cleaning and maintenance than daily disposables.

Extended Wear Contacts

Extended wear contacts are U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved for overnight wear. Most are approved for 7 days and 6 nights. While Air Optix Night & Day lenses are approved for 30 days and nights of continuous wear.

*Important Safety Information: Not all people can wear the lenses for extended wear. Approximately 80% of people can wear the contacts during the day and at night. Always follow the eye care professional’s recommended lens wear, care, and replacement schedule. Overnight wear of contact lenses has been shown to increase the risk of certain serious contact lens–related complications. 

5. Buying Contacts Online

Buying contacts online is simple, safe, and convenient (and often cheaper) as long as you’ve had a professional contact lens fitting beforehand. 

If you have never worn contacts, see an eye doctor. They will perform an eye exam and fitting, give you pointers, and help you put your contacts in for the first time.

However, once you know what brand of contacts works best for you, purchasing contacts online can be more convenient and cost-effective than visiting your eye doctor to order. Many sites allow you to buy contacts as a one-time purchase or sign up for a subscription.

Here are some of the best sites to purchase contacts online:

Best Overall: 1800 CONTACTS

1800 CONTACTS started 25 years ago, and have been pushing the vision industry in new directions ever since. They offer a huge selection of contact lenses, (probably more than your eye doctor), as well as highly rated, 24/7 customer service. 

You can buy contacts one box at a time or sign up for their convenient subscription service so new contacts show up right when you need them. 

1800Contacts Find my contacts

Find Your Contacts at 1800 CONTACTS

Best One-Stop-Shop: LensDirect

LensDirect has been a leader in vision care products for almost 30 years. They are a family-run business that constantly receives high rankings in industry reviews. They have a huge selection of contacts, eyeglasses, and sunglasses, and can ship products on the same day.

image 32

Find Your Contacts at LensDirect

Best Budget Option: AC Lens

AC Lens has also been providing services for over 25 years. They offer a large selection of contacts, eyeglasses, sunglasses, readers, and other eye care products. Their prices are consistently lower than most other online retailers.

image 8

Find Your Contacts at AC Lens

6. Contact Lens FAQs

Can I sleep in my contact lenses?

Only certain contacts are FDA -pproved for extended wear. Most extended-wear brands are only approved for 6 nights of continuous wear, while some are approved for up to 30 days/nights.

If your contacts are not approved for continuous wear, you should never sleep in them. It could seriously damage your eyes. Also, not all contact lens wearers are eligible for extended wear contacts.

Speak with your eye doctor to find out more important safety information and to see if you are eligible. 

How many hours a day can you wear contact lenses?

Most people can wear contacts comfortably for up to 14 to 16 hours per day. However, many eye care professionals recommend wearing contacts for no more than 12 hours a day. Follow any advice from your eye doctor. 

Can I swim or shower in my contact lenses?

No, the FDA states that contact lenses should never be exposed to any water. This includes tap, bottled, distilled, lake, or ocean water. Water contains countless microorganisms that can cause eye infections, irritation, and even corneal ulcers.

Who has the cheapest contact lenses online?

AC Lens and DiscountContactLenses.com have consistently lower prices while still providing good customer service.


Contact lenses are one of the most common treatments for refractive errors. There are various types of contact lenses available, and you must consider all your choices to find the best one for you. Consulting with your eye doctor is the best way to ensure the safety and efficacy of your contact lenses.

Best Places to Buy Contacts

Best Overall

1-800 Contacts is our #1 recommendation to buy contacts online.

Also Great
glasses usa logo

GlassesUSA has a huge selection of contacts, glasses, & sunglasses.

Best Places to Buy Glasses

Best Overall

Warby Parker has stylish, high-quality frames at affordable prices.

Also Great

Liingo Eyewear is another great option to buy glasses online.

Best on a Budget

EyeBuyDirect has a wide variety of budget frames starting at $6.

Updated on  February 10, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on  February 10, 2023
  1. Cent“Contact Lenses.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA.  

  2. “Types of Contact Lenses.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA.  

  3. Kim, et al. “Recent Advances in Smart Contact Lenses.” Wiley Online Library, Advanced Materials Technologies, 2019

  4. K, Jindrich. “Hydrogels: From Soft Contact Lenses and Implants to Self‐Assembled Nanomaterials.” Wiley Online Library, Journal of Polymer Science, 2009

  5. Mutlu, et al. “Recent Trends in Advanced Contact Lenses.” Wiley Online Library, Advanced Healthcare Materials, 2019

  6. “Types of Contact Lenses.” AOA.org, American Optometric Association.

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The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.
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