new study on ordering glasses online

A study was published this past September that looked at the safety and accuracy of glasses ordered online – including children’s glasses:  “Safety and compliance of prescription spectacles ordered by the public via the Internet,” by Karl Citek, published in Optometry, vol. 82, iss. 9 , pgs 549-555, Sept. 2011   The full text of the article is available here.

The study found that nearly half of the glasses ordered were either the wrong prescription, the wrong lens style, or the lenses failed impact testing.

It’s important to note that this study looked only at online retailers where you can buy both the frames and prescription lenses online.  Cases where the frames are purchased online, but have the lenses filled by a local optical shop would not have the problems identified in this study.

Overall, the study found that nearly half of all glasses they ordered online had a problem, either with the prescription being wrong, the lens type (single vision vs bi-focal) being wrong, or with the lenses not passing impact resistance testing – and that problem existed regardless of the cost of those glasses online.  Probably the most disturbing finding of the study was that in 25% of the glasses for children, the lenses failed impact testing.  Given how active kids can be, it’s extremely important for our children’s glasses to not shatter on impact.  The study did find that all of the polycarbonate lenses that were ordered did pass the impact resistance testing.  Some of the children’s glasses also had incorrect prescriptions.

A couple of interesting pieces from that study include the fact that the rate of problems with prescription errors was similar to the error rate at traditional optical labs, it’s just that when you order glasses through a traditional optical shop, there are additional checkpoints, and nearly all the problems have been caught and correct before the glasses even make it to the shop. The article also mentioned that some of the researchers had difficulties placing the orders correctly with some of the vendors, this despite the fact that the researchers were quite knowledgeable about eyewear.  So if you’ve felt confused by some of those sites, you’re not alone.

So given this study, I would be much more hesitant to purchase glasses online for Zoe, and I would not recommend it for a primary pair glasses.  If you do order glasses online, you can – and should! – take the glasses in to your eye doctor.  He or she can verify that the prescription is correct.  In fact, you should do that with glasses that you purchase from a traditional optical shop, too.  Your eye doctor will not be able to test the impact resistance of the lenses, though (well, at least not without breaking the lenses). I would only order polycarbonate lenses online, since the material is extremely strong and is unlikely to shatter on impact.  Also, make sure that you understand the return policy for the glasses you purchase, so that if there is a problem, you know how to return the glasses.

Thanks to the EyeWorks facebook page, which is where I first heard of this study.

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8 thoughts on “new study on ordering glasses online”

  1. Hmmm. Thats good to know. I do buy our family’s “backup” pairs through Zennioptical.com . I do believe that the polycarbonate are required when purchasing children’s glasses at Zenni.

    I’m not sure how our eye dr’s could verify the Rx lenses had been made correct- unless it would be via an exam. Which wouid mean paying for the cost of the exam, right?

    My son and I just picked up or new Rx glasses and I wanted to take advantage of Zenni’s buy 2 get 1 free sale. I’ve learned to pick up my Rx from the dr. to keep at hand- AND to have the dr. measure for our PD (I forget what that stands for exactly but you need that measurement).

    Have you taken a pair of glasses not bought at your eye doctor’s to be checked? I’d like to hear how that went.

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  2. Our doctor’s office checks Zoe’s glasses as part of the exam, they don’t sell glasses at all, so her glasses are always bought elsewhere. They have a machine that they put the glasses in to that reads the prescription, so it seems like it’s possible to do it without a full eye exam, but I imagine different offices have different policies, especially if they sell glasses. I’d call and ask if they can just verify the prescription of the glasses.

    Anyone else with experiences with this?

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  3. Ann! I followed you over through a comment that you left on someone’s blog. I’m Kym (formerly Smart One Kym). I haven’t seen you in FOREVER, and I just wanted to stop in and say hi!

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  4. This information is helpful for those people who want to purchase prescription glasses online. Many facts, you have to keep in mind when you are purchasing glasses online.

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  5. I have not ordered from an online optical shop but I have had a bad experience with Wal-Mart vision center. They put the wrong lenses in my 3 year olds glasses and it was 7 months before I realized their mistake. Now I always take the glasses to the PO or another optical shop just to confirm the correct prescription. I’ve never been given a hard time about this and it makes me feel better knowing that my child can see!!

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  6. I work as an optician and I can tell you that every optometrist/ophthalmologist office I’ve worked in has a machine that can read the prescription off a pair of lenses. It does take training to use, so make sure someone experienced is checking the prescription.

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