A contact lens, or simply contact, is a thin lens placed directly on the surface of the eye. Contact lenses are considered medical devices and can be worn to correct vision, or for cosmetic or therapeutic reasons. In 2004, it was estimated that 125 million people (2%) use contact lenses worldwide, including 28 to 38 million in the United States. In 2010, worldwide contact lens market was estimated at $6.1 billion, while the U.S. soft lens market is estimated at $2.1 billion. Some have estimated that the global market will reach $11.7 billion by 2015. As of 2010, the average age of contact lens wearers globally was 31 years old and two thirds of wearers were female.
People choose to wear contact lenses for many reasons. Aesthetics and cosmetics are often motivating factors for people who would like to avoid wearing glasses or would like to change the appearance of their eyes. Other people wear contacts for functional or optical reasons. When compared with spectacles, contact lenses typically provide better peripheral vision, and do not collect moisture such as rain, snow, condensation, or sweat. This makes them ideal for sports and other outdoor activities. Contact lens wearers can also wear sunglasses, goggles, or other eyewear of their choice without having to fit them with prescription lenses or worry about compatibility with glasses. Additionally, there are conditions such as keratoconus and aniseikonia that are typically corrected better by contacts than by glasses.
Contact lenses are prescribed by ophthalmologists, optometrists, or specially licensed opticians under the supervision of an eye doctor. Contact lenses can typically be ordered at the office that conducts the eye exam and contact lens fitting. The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act gives consumers the right to obtain a copy of their contact lens prescription, allowing them to fill that prescription at the business of their choice, including online discount sites.
Contact lens prescriptions expire yearly. This is to ensure that the patient's eyes are still healthy enough to support contact lens wear and that the current lenses are not causing any adverse effects. However, the policies of some vendors make it possible for expired and fraudulent prescriptions to be filled without verification by the prescribing doctor.This can be very unsafe and potentially cause permanent damage to the eye