Can You Buy Contact Lenses Without a Prescription?

Can You Buy Contact Lenses Without a Prescription?

July 12th, 2023

Contact lenses designed to correct your vision are sold by prescription only. They are medical devices that require a proper fitting by an eye doctor.

In order to obtain them, it is necessary to have a valid prescription to ensure a proper fit and guarantee their safety without causing any harm to your eyes. Keep reading to learn more about contact lenses, including why it’s important to obtain a prescription before ordering or purchasing them!

Why Do You Need a Prescription for Contact Lenses?

In the United States, the FDA oversees the safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing of contact lenses. All contact lenses are regarded as medical devices. 

That’s why a prescription is necessary to order lenses from a reputable and legal contact lens supplier. The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, oversees the sale of contact lenses. 

Contact lenses that are sold to a buyer who does not provide a contact lens prescription are illegal transactions, and the seller can be fined. 

What Are the Risks of Buying Contact Lenses Without a Prescription?

Contact lenses purchased without a prescription have the potential to do damage to your eye, either temporarily or, in some cases, permanently. They may be labeled or sold as colored contacts, costume contacts, or cosplay contacts, but all have risks.

Here are some of the risks of purchasing contact lenses without a prescription:

Incorrect Prescription

You provide a contact lens seller with your prescription because you want to ensure that the lenses you wear can correct your vision to as close to 20/20 as possible. Buying contact lenses from an illegal seller means your lenses may not correct your sight. 

Poor Fit

Not all lenses are shaped the same. Fitting your contact lenses correctly means that the shape will best serve your prescription needs.

Poor-fitting contact lenses can, in fact, hurt your eyes.


Illegal contacts aren’t held to the same standards as legally sold contact lenses. There’s no guarantee that they’re sterile or clean, and there’s the possibility that you’ll develop an infection after wearing them. 

Damage to the Eye

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, illegally-sold contact lenses can cause corneal abrasions and ulcers. Because of the paints and pigments used, some allow less oxygen through to the eye because the lenses end up thicker and less breathable. 

Treatments can include eye surgery, but they don’t always work. The AAO reports that individuals have been blinded by costume contact lenses. 

How Do You Get a Contact Lens Prescription?

A contact lens prescription can only be written by an approved prescriber. 

Ophthalmology practices that are owned and run by eye doctors, like Laser Eye Center, can prescribe contact lenses. 

Optical shops, also known as optical dispensaries, can also sell contact lenses, which typically employ optometrists and opticians. Some are well-known retail chain stores with familiar names, and some are single-store local businesses. 

If you want to purchase contact lenses, you’ll have to make an appointment for a contact lens fitting which is an eye exam for the purpose of determining your prescription and your suitability for wearing contact lenses. In the end, you will be given a contact lens prescription which you can use to purchase contact lenses. 

Are you interested in getting fitted for contact lenses? Schedule an appointment at Laser Eye Center in Huntsville, AL, today!