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Vision Prescription Portability: Health Information for Older People

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My eye doctor just told me my prescription has changed. I'd like to shop around for new glasses, but the doctor didn't give me a copy of my new prescription. What can I do?

Ask for it. Your eye care provider should always give you a copy of your prescription, even if you don’t ask for it. The same is true for contact lens prescriptions. It’s the law. The FTC enforces the contact lens and eyeglass rules, which give you the right to your prescriptions so you can buy your eyewear where you like — from an eye care provider, such as an optometrist, ophthalmologist, or dispensing optician, or from a seller, like a specialty shop, large wholesale store, or online retailer.

Expect to get your eyeglass prescription at the end of your eye exam, and your contact lens prescription after your fitting. Even if you don’t need your prescription yet, you can file it with your other medical records. If an eye care provider refuses to give you your prescription, report it to the FTC.

If you’ll be shopping for contact lenses, remember that all lenses — even cosmetic ones that change the appearance of your eye but don’t correct your vision — require a prescription. If lenses don’t fit correctly, or aren’t used and cared for properly, they can cause problems like corneal ulcers, which can lead to blindness, conjunctivitis (pink eye), or scratches and sores on your cornea. Avoid any seller who doesn’t require a prescription. For more on buying contact lenses, visit the FDA’s website. To learn more about taking care of your eyes, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeCare America website, and the website for the American Optometric Association.

If you plan to buy your eyewear from an online retailer, do your research. Order only from companies you’re familiar with, and find out what happens if there’s a problem with your order. 

Who Cares About Vision Prescription Portability?

(TTY: 1-866-653-4261)

American Academy of Ophthalmology

American Optometric Association

Contact Lenses

FDA, Center for Devices and Radiological Health