A Simple Solution to Help Identify Contact Lenses
BY JEFFREY A. MYERS, OD, FAAO
You know the scenario. A new patient is wearing contact lenses, but has no clue what brand of lenses they are, let alone the power or base curve. He doesn't remember his former practitionertioner's name, or you can't reach the practitioner by phone.
Or maybe the patient remembers that the lenses are "torqued." Or he thinks he is wearing Acuvue lenses made by Bausch & Lomb. Or maybe you fit the patient with toric lenses and his vision has decreased to 20/40 on the first follow-up visit, though the patient was 20/20– at dispensing might the lenses be switched? How do you know?
A Simple Suggestion
Wouldn't it be simpler in such circumstances if all contact lenses had markings that would identify the lens brand, base curve and power right on the lens? These markings would be visible at biomicroscopic examination, but invisible to the patient. The major manufacturers have put a variety of markings on their lenses for years, so we know it's possible from a technical standpoint. Most of these markings are helpful in identifying rotation, base curve or eversion. Some markings on current lenses are easily visible to patients, sometimes by design, and patients don't complain about the markings in terms of comfort or visual disturbance.
A series of markings near the edge of the contact lens, using a predetermined abbreviation for the lens brand, the last digit of the base curve (presuming most base curves begin with 8 for soft lenses and with 7 for GP lenses) followed by the power, would be a tremendous help in identifying unknown contact lenses. If the lens exists only in one base curve, the base curve digit could be removed. It seems that a marking like "AA 3 –3.75" or "O2O –2.25" would be enough to identify the lens.
For those lenses that come in more than one diameter or for GP contact lenses, the diameter could follow the power. For example, the marking "B4 45 +1.00 94" could easily identify a GP lens in Boston 4 material, 7.45mm base curve, +1.00D power and 9.4mm diameter.
Or we could use a coding system to identify virtually all contact lens brands with a unique one- to four-character alphanumeric code. Most practitioners use some sort of shorthand in their records already. These codes could become standard much like the identifying laser marks of a progressive spectacle lens. The CLMA could produce an identifying pamphlet similar to what the Optical Laboratories Association does or it could appear in the Contact Lenses & Solutions Summary or in Tyler's Quarterly.
Benefits for All
Such markings on lenses would help manufacturers retain patients who already wear their lenses, but then seek care from another practitioner who is unable to identify the lens and simply refits the patient to a competitor's lens. In such cases, the manufacturer loses a patient and the patient has to pay for a refitting to a lens that may be comparable or even inferior, simply because the examiner couldn't identify the original lens.
Today, we wouldn't dream of a frame without its identifying box measurement. We cannot imagine a PAL spectacle lens without the brand and power mark. Isn't it time that all contact lenses were identified in a way that made it easier to serve our patients in the best way possible?
I challenge contact lens manufacturers to make this a reality. Understandably, it will take time and preparation, but it can happen and it will be a great benefit to manufacturers, practitioners and patients.
Dr. Myers owns a private practice in Canal Winchester, OH, and is a clinical assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Optometry.