Thanks to the "world wide web," our world has expanded in ways we could have never imagined 25 years ago. With that comes the temptation to order items off the internet that we would have normally purchased from local retailers. There is already much discussion about supporting your local businesses rather than use the internet, and if you live in one of our small communities, you are very familiar with the reasons to shop locally.
However, along with the convenience of internet shopping, some people are turning the care of their eyes, their only source of vision, over to internet providers, due to cost. Let’s explore this a little more. If you are considering bypassing your local optometrist to order your next glasses from the internet, then you should consider the following:
Most of us have tried ordering clothing from the internet or from catalogs. It has been my personal experience that 95% of the time, the clothes don’t fit. The fabric and shape isn’t what I thought it would be. Not to mention that often the item looked hideous on my shape (it looked perfect on the model). After receiving the item, I’m left with four choices: (1) wear the item anyway; (2) donate it; (3) return it for exchange (starting the whole process over again); or (4) return it for your money back (if you can). Of course, the last two options include the inconvenience of repackaging the item, making a trip to the post office, and paying to send it back. In the end, it just isn’t worth it.
Now let’s look at ordering glasses online.
You see (no pun intended), what was just mentioned above are things that affect the fit of the glasses and their appearance on your face, and your glasses are what people will first notice about you. Just because you love the look of a certain frame, does not mean that the frame will look good on you. Now, let’s discuss the most important aspect of glasses: your vision.
Over 90% of the sensory information we process is taken in through our eyes. Eye care professionals, such as Dr. Atkins, desire and mandate to deliver the best possible visual performance to each and every patient that comes into our office. For instance, an improperly taken PD, and/or and lenses with the PD incorrectly located, can affect depth perception, judgment of distance and contrast sensitivity, all key factors to safe driving. I don’t know about you, but when another car is coming in my direction, I sure hope their vision is what it should be.
Apples and Oranges
Before you make a decision to order glasses online, take into consideration what goes into making the lenses and why the frames must fit. Contrary to popular belief, lenses are not just pieces of plastic that magnify things so you can see better. Glasses are what are essential for you to have the best vision you possibly can. The only way to really compare "apples to apples" is to compare identical products. Internet glasses can be made more cheaply because the order is being sent overseas and inferior products, or knock-offs of name brand products, for both lenses and frames are used.
Lenses must be made precisely to your prescription. A prescription incorrectly made can cause poor vision, poor depth perception, headaches, dizziness, and a multitude of other problems. (Sometimes it is just a new prescription that you need to adapt to, but having had your glasses made online, you will have no one to guide you through the adaptation process or properly remake the lenses into something easier to adapt to (although vision may be compromised)). A prescription has many components to it, such as sphere, cylinder and axis. Some people may need a specific lens curvature. The optical center and the distance between the pupils are critical. The type of lens is important. Certain inferior lens products can cause distortion. The list goes on and on. There is a reason why an optometrist has, in addition to their four years obtaining a bachelor degree, an additional four years of medical study of the eye, eye diseases, and vision correction. It is not a simple process to correct vision properly.
Also, there has been a lot of discussion about toys coming from China with lead paint and other harmful substances, which are illegal here because of the potential harm these illegal components may have. Glasses ordered on the internet are coming from China, without being governed or supervised by the United States to insure they are safe for use (some plastics can emit vapors). You know that products coming from China will be manufactured as cheaply as possible without any kind of safety in mind. Here in the United States, we have safeguards with our labs to make sure that the lenses that are being manufactured are made within strict parameters to make sure your vision prescription is as accurate and performs at the highest level possible.
There’s also a reason why glasses are so "expensive." Let’s take the term "expensive" to a new level. How much is it worth to you to be able to see the best that you can? How much is it worth to you that your glasses fit properly? How much is it worth to have a doctor that can help you with your new glasses? How much are you willing to pay for designer jeans that you wear for six months? How much do you pay for a carton of cigarettes? Lottery tickets? Web access for your cellular phone? You see, the term "expensive" is a relative term. That means it’s only expensive if you don’t see value in it. I place a high amount of value on my vision . . . how about you?
Sometimes we hear of someone that has ordered off the internet, or knows someone that has ordered off the internet and has had no problems . . . that is, no problems that they know of . . . yet. It can happen that you get a satisfactory pair of glasses off the internet, but it’s a huge gamble with your vision. We carry frames at various price points and will work with you to get the best value for your dollar without compromising your vision.
What about PDs?
Pupilary distance is the measurement between the pupils to assure that you are seeing through the center of the lens when the lens is manufactured. This is part of the process of frame selection, its what opticians do to make sure your lenses are manufactured correctly. When you pay for your eye examination, you may ask for your eye prescription, because you paid for it; however,the PD measurement is not part of your eye prescription. When you decide to purchase your glasses off of the internet, you are assuming the responsibilities of the optician, including taking your own measurement. To ask us to provide this measurement is to ask us to provide for free something that we include in our charge for glasses. Its not a separate fee, but it is considered in the pricing of our frames and lenses. We feel that it is extremely important that this measurement be taken correctly and manufactured correctly. If there are any problems with the lenses, then we have the control to work with the lab to correct the problem. If we provide, for free, these measurements and they are inputed incorrectly and/or manufactured incorrectly, then our name is associated with a sub-par product.
We do not support internet ordering of glasses. We have been approached by companies wanting to work with optometrists so that their patients can order their glasses online and then pick them up in our office. For anyone who has actually been to our office and had help with frame selection, they know that a lot of time and consideration goes into the fit of the frame that just cannot be achieved online. You may fall in love with a certain frame, but that frame may not love you. It may not sit on your nose in such a way to give enough room for your prescription. For progressive lenses, the frame may not have enough panascopic tilt in it, nor be able to be adjusted for progressive lenses. Factors that cannot be judged by putting a picture of glasses over a picture of yourself are the size and shape of the bridge of your nose, the placement of your ears, your cheekbones, and the list goes on and on. Even when an online company will send you the frame to try on, without understanding optics in some form, you won't have any idea if the frame is a good choice for your prescription or just looks good to you.
Internet ordering is a difficult subject and we hope that this article has given you the information you need to make an informed choice. It is possible to get glasses off of the internet if all you are concerned with is money and fashion. But how fashionable are glasses that don't fit? Its like wearing sandals that are too big; even though the sandals are pretty, an improper fit . . . just looks ugly.