Update 3/10/2012: Please read the post on a study looking at the safety and accuracy of glasses ordered online – many glasses ordered online were found to have errors in the lens material or lens prescription. While glasses ordered through a traditional shop have a similar rate of errors, those errors are much more likely to be caught and fixed by an optical shop. Make sure that you take any glasses (ordered online, or in a store) to have the prescription tested to be sure that it is accurate.
There are a lot of things to be said for ordering glasses for your child online: they’re generally less expensive for one, and some online retailers have a better selection of children’s frames. Many of us here (both contributors and readers) have ordered glasses online, usually starting with back-up pairs or prescription sunglasses, and some of us have also ordered our children’s primary glasses online.
There are also things to watch for and think about though, if you do decide to order online.
Make sure that the lenses you buy are polycarbonate or Trivex for your children, not plastic or glass. This is a safety issue!! You can read more about children’s lenses at A Child’s Eyes.
First and foremost, you will need to know your child’s pupilary distance (sometimes abbreviated as “PD”) before you place the order. This is the distance between your child’s pupils and is extremely important to get right. Having the wrong number can lead to eye strain, or discomfort – both of which will encourage your child to NOT wear their glasses. If your child has strabismus, it can be difficult to get the correct distance because your child’s eyes aren’t aligned – professionals cover one eye, measure the distance from nose to pupil, then repeat it for the other eye and add the measurements together – and you want to be sure the glasses are correctly sized and encouraging good alignment. Have a professional do this measurement – you can ask at your eye doctor’s, or at an optical shop – and get that measurement updated each time you order glasses, your child is growing quickly at this age and the number will change. Eye Overheard has a nice post about measuring PD, though I still recommend going to a professional for your child’s measurement.
You will also need to know some other sizes to figure out which frames will fit your child. If your child already has a pair of glasses that fit, take a look at the eyeglass numbers that are usually written on the inside of the frames, such as: 49-19-135 (or they might have small boxes between the numbers on the eyeglass frame).
- The first number in the eyeglass size is the distance across one lens of the glasses.
- The second number in the eyeglass size is the distance across the bridge on the eyeglass frame – sometimes referred to as the DBL (distance between lenses)
- The third number in the eyeglass size is the length of the temple (arm piece) from the front of the eyeglass frame to the end of the temple, which goes behind the ear.
Check out Carrots Make you Blind’s great post about frame sizes.
It is likely that your child will need to replace their glasses before they outgrow the frames. They’ll either break the frames during their day to day activities, or they’ll scratch the lenses or have a prescription change. In Zoe’s first year with glasses, she had 2 lenses replaced for scratches, and 3 different prescriptions. Her frames finally broke at the very end of that first year (after we’d already ordered new glasses). In her second year, her prescription has stabilized, and she doesn’t seem to scratch her lenses as often – probably because she has stopped throwing her glasses when angry.
While glasses ordered online may be cheaper in the beginning, if the frames aren’t covered for breakage, or if you have to order new frames any time a lens needs replacing, those savings can disappear quickly. Take a look at the warranties offered, and think about your child and how rough they may be on their glasses and how often the prescription will change. You can’t predict the future, but I would really caution against ordering primary glasses that first year while their prescription changes quite a bit. Many retailer shops offer free replacement of lenses if the prescription changes in the first couple months, and a discount for the rest of the year. Most online retailers do not offer that.
Adjustments and Repairs
If your child is in glasses, they’ll need those glasses adjusted a lot, and they’ll likely need repairs as well. You can do some of those repairs and adjustments yourself, but I know that I am uncomfortable doing much more than the most rudimentary changes. Adjusting my own glasses is one thing, but having them adjusted correctly for Zoe is vital, if they don’t fit her right, she won’t see right, and she won’t wear her glasses for that matter either.
We ordered a pair of prescription sunglasses for Zoe, and were pleased with the glasses, but they did not fit her when they arrived. Even after taking them in to an optical shop for multiple adjustments, they never quite fit well. Make sure you have somewhere you can go to get your child’s glasses adjusted or repaired whenever the need arrives. If you do go to an optical shop for adjustments and repairs, be up front and tell them that you did not purchase the glasses there. They will most likely be happy to do adjustments, but they may have a small fee, especially for repairs.
So when should you order online?
I think that ordering glasses online for your children can be great for things like back up pairs and prescription sunglasses, especially for very young children, or kids who have just been diagnosed and may have quite a few prescription changes. I am not yet comfortable with the idea of ordering Zoe’s primary glasses online – we get her glasses adjusted and repaired too often, and I really want the peace of mind that the glasses she wears daily fit her correctly and well. That said, I know that many parents have had great success ordering daily glasses online.
You may want to look at the comments from the post “ordering glasses online” for comments and experiences from other readers. Amblyopia Kids also has a good post about her experiences ordering online. Finally, the site Glassy Eyes is good place to go for general information about ordering glasses online, though they focus on adult glasses.
Online vendors who sell children’s glasses:
This is not an exhaustive list, just a list of ones that I happen to know about. Note that being listed does not imply an endorsement – feel free to leave a comment, especially if you’ve had a good experience (or bad) experience with an online vendor.
- AC Lens – Children’s glasses - they have regular glasses, prescription sports goggles, and prescription swim goggles.
- Frames Direct
- GlassesOnWeb – Miraflex glasses
- IC Frames
- Simply Eyeglasses – they have a nice advanced search option that allows you to search specifically by eye size.
- Taffy Eyewear
- Zenni Optical
I would love to hear your comments about experiences you’ve had with glasses from online retailers.