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Online “Eye Exams”

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Q:  I just looked at the website of a major eyeglass retail company, and see they offer a free “eye exam” to let me buy glasses or contacts without seeing an eye doctor.  Sounds cheaper and easier...but is it as good?

A:  I am so glad you asked, as this issue is under review at the federal level, and in each state all across the country. So far, there have been several companies trying to set up “online eye exams” to make it easier for them to sell eyeglasses. On every state level, these “eye exam” advertisements have been prohibited from calling them “eye exams”, mainly because there is no eye doctor actually examining anything about the person’s eyes.  A legal, authentic eye examination requires a duly licensed Optometric Physician or an Ophthalmologist to physically see the patient.

Having said that, it is true that online technology is getting pretty good at assessing vision.  Pretty good, but not nearly as good as a good eye doctor!  Obviously, I am biased, but even in our office where we use the very latest “autorefractor” to get an objective reading of every patient’s vision correction...very seldom is the final prescription the same as the instrument gives.  In real life, I joke that I still have a job because the machines have not replaced me yet!

For most everyone, other factors are critical for prescribing your best eyewear correction:  your age, your occupation and/or vision needs, your current prescription that you are accustomed to using, and the changes you have noticed about your vision.  In real life, we factor all these, and more, into our determination of your best and most comfortable vision correction. I firmly believe that your best vision examination is still done personally by your eye doctor, not by a technician, let alone online.

Finally, and most importantly, a real eye exam is mostly about being absolutely sure that no disease is causing the vision changes.  Most people have no idea how often someone’s vision complaint is not really a “glasses issue”, but rather an eye disease concern. Vision changes are caused by many disorders like dry eye disease, diabetes, cataract development, corneal dystrophies, or one of many more eye health problems. That is our primary focus in your eye exam. Correcting your vision may be the main reason you scheduled your exam, but we must rule out countless pathologies before we can safely just change your glasses prescription. Only your “real” eye doctor can give you a “real” eye exam