Why You Shouldn't Order Glasses Online

Author: Premier Eye Associates
In today’s world, online optical stores such as Warby Parker, Zenni, and Frames Direct are becoming increasingly popular. These stores are often appealing for their stellar prices and convenience of never needing to leave your couch to order.

We’ve conducted our own research into some popular online optical retailers to compile some helpful tips to watch out for when ordering online, in addition to some commonly asked questions about buying from your doctor vs buying online.

This article is not meant to persuade or dissuade you one way or the other, but simply to provide information to help you understand your purchase. This article by no means reflects the policies of any single retailer, but instead talks about policies as a general whole. If you have specific questions regarding the policies of any retailer—online or through a retail office—you will need to speak with that retailer specifically.


Why Should I Buy from my Optometrist?

Besides shopping local, there are several benefits to buying your glasses from your local optometrist.

For starters, the turn around time is often quicker. Doctors have written the prescription and have the frame you want to purchase in stock. Therefore, it is easy for them to send the prescription to a local lab for filling. Doctors can then monitor and take care of any subsequent issues that may arise.

Doctors can also give personalized recommendations on to which frames will look best on your face based on face shape and prescription. Eye doctors often have the largest frame variety, as they purchase frames from several different manufacturers, representing several different brands. There is no limit as to how many frames you can try on at your doctor’s office—the sky is the limit!

Many doctors will also order in frames for you try on if they do not have them in stock (for example different sizes or colors) at no cost to you. As long as the doctor’s office has a contract with the frame manufacturer, they can get you just about anything to try on.

Most doctors also offer a warranty on frames and lenses purchased through their office. If you break your frame, scratch your lenses, or your prescription changes (within a given time period) your doctor may be able to work with you to get it fixed at no or little additional cost to you.

Doctors also have an easier time working on glasses purchased through them, as they have the tools and resources to manipulate the frames. Outside frames may be more brittle or more difficult to “fix” than those they know and supply at their office. This applies to both repairs and frame adjustments.

Lastly, and most importantly, optometry offices are able to take specialized measurements to ensure your glasses are made to fit your eyes properly (see measurements toward the end of this article). Many of these measurements are custom to both the individual patient and also the frame and lenses selected. Without having someone take these measurements in person, the glasses may be made incorrectly, inducing unwanted distortions.

The greatest difference between buying from eye doctors and online is often the price. Why are glasses from the eye doctor so much more expensive than buying glasses onlineis a very valid question that can be tricky to answer.

The nice thing about purchasing glasses from your eye doctor is that the doctor is responsible for your prescription. If your glasses prescription needs to be altered in any matter, your doctor will be able to work with their lab to change the prescription without charging you, the patient, for a new set of lenses.

This includes both errors with the initial prescription (for example a calculation mishap on the doctor’s end when finding your glasses prescription in office) and input errors (ex. if someone from the doctor’s office accidently inputs a prescription as a +1.00 instead of a -1.00).

While these errors are not often made in an optometrist’s office—doctors and staff do spend all day everyday handling glasses prescriptions—they can and do occur, and typically it is easier for the doctor to fix this mistake rather than the patient or outside retailer to fix the mistake.

Anytime you take a glasses prescription from your eye doctor to an outside retailer (another office, online retailer, Walmart, Sam’s Club, etc.) you are adding an additional party to the mix, and therefore another area for mistakes to be made. Once you take the prescription outside of your doctor’s office, you are negating the ability of your doctor to be able to fix the mistake at no cost to you.


4 Reasons NOT To Buy Glasses Online

Lens Material Types

Lenses can be made from several different materials—Plastic, Polycarbonate, Trivex, and Hi-Index.

Plastic lenses are the baseline of prescription lenses and therefore are the lowest cost. This being said, plastic lenses scratch easily and are quite heavy and bulky if your prescription is moderate or high (typically higher than +/- 2.00).

Polycarbonate lenses are second tier lenses. They are significantly more scratch resistant and have a high safety profile as they are more impact resistant and “spider web” rather than chipping or shattering in the rare case they do break. Polycarbonate lenses are recommended for all children, those with only one “good” eye, or those who regularly participate is contact sports or activities.

Trivex lenses are similar to polycarbonate lenses. They have a safer impact resistance profile. Trivex lenses tend to be a little lighter in weight than polycarbonate lenses and have fewer higher order chromatic aberrations.

Hi-Index lenses are the option of choice for anyone with a high prescription (above +2.00 or -4.00). High index lenses provide a significantly thinner and lighter weight lens. Anyone who purchases hi-index lenses should highly consider adding on an anti-reflective coating to help decrease glare and haloes around lights.


Common Lens Add-Ons

Anti-reflective coatings reduce glare from lights (over head lights, headlights, computer monitors, etc.) which can help to reduce eyestrain and in some circumstances headaches. There are several tiers of anti-reflective coatings and is ultimately a personal preference.

Blue light filters are becoming increasingly popular and block blue light given off electronics. Blue light filters are somewhat controversial in today’s research as we do not yet know exactly how blue light affects the eyes (working on computers for hours every day has only been introduced in the past decade!). However, many individuals state they reduce eyestrain and headaches associated with spending extended periods of time on computers, tablets, etc.

Scratch resistant coatings can be helpful for those who may be a little rougher on their glasses. It is important to note that no lens is truly 100% scratch resistant. Scratch resistant coatings simply strengthen the lens and makes is significantly more resistant to scratches. Anyone who purchases a plastic lens should strongly consider adding on a scratch resistant coating.


Lens Styles

Single vision lenses correct one prescription. These are what are prescribed prior to reaching presbyopia—a natural aging process in which the eye can no longer accommodate to see at various distances (distance and near).

Generally speaking, there are less errors that occur when making a single vision lens as fewer measurements are involved. These lenses therefore have a higher percentage of happier customers when purchased online.

Bifocals have two prescriptions—one for distance and one for near. Bifocals have one line the demarcates the transition from distance to near prescriptions.

Trifocals have three prescriptions—one for distance, one for intermediate, and one for near. Trifocals have two lines to demarcate the start of the intermediate prescription and the start of the near prescription.

Progressive lenses (PALS) offer prescription correction that covers a range of vision, gradually altering the prescription to allow for clear vision at distance all the way to near. Progressive lenses are commonly referred to as “no line bifocals”.


Lens Measurements

Any time you take a prescription from an eye doctors office to be filled at another office you need to be aware of certain measurements—the most important being the interpupillary distance, or PD.

The PD measures the distance between your two pupils to ensure that the glasses are made so that you are looking through the optical center of the lens. This is especially important for anyone with a moderate or high prescription, or anyone who has astigmatism.

If the glasses are made so that the individual is not looking through the optical center of the lens, it can induce unwanted distortions.

If you would like to take your prescription from your doctor’s office to be filled elsewhere, be sure to ask what your PD is prior to leaving the office so you do not have to come back later in to have it measured.

If you forget this, do not worry—any eye doctor’s office with an optical center should be able to measure your PD for you. There are also several phone apps that claim to measure PD, although we do not know how accurate these apps are.

Segment height is another measurement that is especially important for those purchasing bifocals, trifocals, and progressive lenses. Unfortunately, segment height is custom to each frame, which can complicate things for those purchasing online.

Segment height is the measurement from the bottom of the lens to the bifocal/trifocal/progressive transition. For bifocals and trifocals, this is where the line is located on the lenses.

If the segment height is too high you will be forced to look through the reading prescription of the lens instead of the distance prescription. If the segment height is too low you will need to tilt your chin back to get to the reading portion of the lens. Either problem is quite frustrating.

At this time, segment height cannot be measured virtually, complicating things for online retailers. Instead, online retailers use a calculation to assume the segment height for a given lens. This may work fine for some individuals, although may not be acceptable for others.


Dr. Anthony Spina and the staff of Premier Eye Associates specialize in glasses, soft contact lenses, hard contact lenses, and medical eye exams. Call our eye doctor in Auburn, AL today at (334) 539-5391 or schedule an appointment online  if you are interested in ordering a new pair of glasses.  Our optometrist provides only the highest quality eye care services amongst eye doctors in the Auburn Alabama area.


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