Should I Buy My Glasses Online?

Consumers have many choices when it comes to purchasing eye wear.  The most notable change in recent years has been the ability to order glasses through online vendors.  Purchasing glasses online can be less expensive and more convenient than purchasing from your doctor’s office, but there are some services that simply cannot be provided over an Internet connection.

The Role of the Optician


Traditionally, patients see their eye doctor for their annual exam.  When new or replacement glasses are recommended, the patient is handed off to an optician to assist with the process of choosing glasses based on style, fit, comfort and compatibility with their prescription and vision requirements.  To an untrained eye, it may appear that eye glasses are all somewhat the same – just differing in style and prescription.  Ask anyone who has struggled with nighttime glare from oncoming traffic, headaches with computer use, or the “swimming” effect of progressive lenses, and you may start to appreciate that not all glasses are made the same.  Subtle complexities can make a significant difference in glasses you love vs. glasses you tolerate.

5 Ways an Optician Can Help You See Better

  1. Match glasses to your lifestyle.  Most of us have different visual demands.  Factors such as occupation, sports and hobbies can affect how we use our eye sight.  Do you spend long hours on a computer?  Do you fish or ski?  Do you do a lot of nighttime driving?  These are just a few examples where opticians could help match the quality of each lens to a patient’s unique needs.
  2. Verify an accurate prescription.  Typically, when glasses are ordered through your doctor’s office, an optician will check the glasses before dispensing them to you to make sure they contain the correct prescription.  Although rare, sometimes mistakes are made.  It’s important to rectify this before you start wearing the glasses.  In one study, researchers found that nearly half of prescription glasses ordered online either contained the wrong lenses or failed safety standards. (Optometry, vol. 82, iss. 9, Sept 2011).
  3. Take proper measurements.  While the average consumer may be unfamiliar with terms like pantoscopic tilt, seg height and pupillary distance, this is common lingo for an optician.  It’s important that these (and other) measurements are accurate.  It’s also important that the glasses are properly adjusted to provide optimal vision.  Inaccurate optical measurements or poorly adjusted glasses can potentially result in eyestrain, headaches and distorted vision.
  4. Recommend appropriate lens designs and treatments.  To repeat an earlier phrase: not all glasses are the same!  This is especially true of progressive lenses (often called no-line bifocals), where peripheral distortion or a “swimming” effect is common with certain types of lenses.  Other factors to consider are anti-reflective coating, scratch resistance, UV protection, tints and polarized lenses.
  5. Fashion!  Hey, its not just about vision!  Glasses are also a fashion accessory.  If you’re comfortable with choosing a stylish frame that compliments your facial features, skin tone and hair color – go for it!  If you’re like the rest of us and need a little guidance in this area, an optician can be very helpful.

When your doctor presents you with a new glasses prescription, take a minute to consider all the factors mentioned above when asking yourself the question: Should I buy my glasses online? 

About: Steve Vargo, OD, MBA is the founder of New Media OD, an online resource devoted to helping doctors strengthen their online presence.  He is also a frequent contributor to Review of Optometric Business, owner of iMobile Communications, consultant for Global EyeVentures and practicing optometrist in the Chicago area.

Posted in Internet resources, Practice management.

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