Federal law mandates that an eye doctor must give patients a copy of their valid eyeglass prescription. According to the Federal Trade Commission, under the Contact Lens and Eyeglass Rules, people are entitled to a copy of their eyeglasses and contact lens prescriptions immediately following their examination, whether or not the patient requests a copy. There are several important laws pertaining to purchasing and filling prescriptions for eyeglass lenses.
In 1955, the Supreme Court of the United States declared an Oklahoma law that prohibited opticians from using an old pair of prescription glasses to make a new pair of glasses unconstitutional. The rationale behind the Supreme Court's decision was that it was unfair for customers to be required to have a new examination for every repair or to obtain a replacement pair of eyeglasses. The Supreme Court ruling stated that the Oklahoma law upheld an unfair business practice for opticians, who are able to duplicate an eyeglass prescription with expertise.
An initial examination and prescription is required to order a pair of eyeglasses. After the vision exam, a person may choose to order their glasses from any optical retail establishment. Some people decide to order additional glasses for use as an spare pair, sunglasses, or reading glasses, for example. The law on glasses allows people to use their glasses prescription, whether it be from a written prescription or by using the prescription measurement from the lenses, without requiring another examination.
Opticians are able to read a prescription from an old pair of glasses by using a machine called a lensometer, which is a device used to check the prescription in optical lenses. By law, an optical retail store or office may make a new pair of glasses or lenses from a customer's old glasses. However, optical stores set their own individual guidelines and policies for making a new pair of lenses or glasses from old prescriptions.
Most eye doctors recommend a regular vision examination every year or two, depending on the age of the patient and his health. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are able to detect many diseases in the beginning stages when they are more easily treated. Eyeglass prescriptions are written on prescription pads that look similar to prescription medicine orders. The written eyeglass prescription includes the date of the exam, and some optical retail establishments will not fill a prescription if the exam took place more than two years before this date.
Eyeglass prescriptions and contact lens prescriptions are different. Contact lens prescriptions involve more detailed measurements of the eye and require several appointments to ensure the lenses fit properly. Most contact lenses are valid for only one or two years, depending on the laws of the state in which they were prescribed.
Beth Richards, a freelance writer since 2002, writes about health and draws from her 25 years as a licensed dispensing optician. She has authored several books, writes for national magazines including "Country Living" and "Organic Family" and is a health and wellness features writer for several publications. She is earning a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maryland.