Mail-order Eyeglasses

It's easy to buy things online: diapers, groceries, shoes, even medicine. But what if you need eyeglasses? You'll probably save time and maybe some money. But what about the quality, style, and fit?

How It Works

The exact way you order glasses online depends on the website you use. The basic idea is first to choose the frame and color you'd like. Then choose features, such as the type of lenses. Some lenses are extra durable, which is good for people in certain jobs or who play sports. You can also order lenses with special coatings. Some are designed to protect your eyes from the harmful rays of the sun.

The next step is to enter your prescription information -- the correction for each eye. Then, you'll enter the distance between your pupils -- the two black circles in the center of your eyes. This is to make sure the lenses are placed properly in the frame.

To make sure your glasses suit you, some companies let you upload a picture of yourself so you can see how the glasses will look on your face. Some give tips to help you choose the best frame for your needs and the shape of your face.

Reasons to Buy Glasses Online

Like any online shopping, it's convenient to order glasses using your computer or another device. But there are also other benefits:

  • It's easy to shop around on different websites before you decide which one you like best.
  • You can get lots of information without having to drive to a store or office.
  • You get a wide choice of styles, colors, and extras.
  • You can save money. Consumer Reports found that shoppers saved as much as 40% by buying glasses online.

Reasons Not to Buy Glasses Online

Here are the cons:

  • You don't get to try the glasses on or have someone help you in person.
  • It may be hard to measure your own pupil distance, which you need to order your glasses. Some experts say it's like trying to cut your own hair.
  • It may be difficult to return the glasses.
  • A large study found about half the online glasses had the wrong prescription or other problems.
  • An incorrect prescription may give you blurred vision or make your eyes feel uncomfortable.
  • Some websites may not take insurance.

Continued

Online Eyeglass Prescriptions

Whether you get glasses from a local shop or the Internet, you need a current prescription. You can get one from an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in eye and vision care) or an optometrist (a healthcare professional with a degree in optometry). Some websites even let you take an eye test and get your prescription online.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is a large organization for eye doctors. It says going online for an eye test and prescription may be OK for people 18 to 39 who don't have any signs of eye disease. But an online test can't check eye health. The AAO doesn't recommend online tests if:

  • You're under 18
  • You're 40 or older
  • You know you have eye disease or poor eyesight

Good Glasses -- Good Vision

No matter where you get them, here are some tips to help you buy quality, affordable eyeglasses:

  • You can save money by not looking for designer brands.
  • Check out large discount stores. Some have special deals on a second pair. That way, you'll have a backup.
  • Do a web search for the name of the seller. Add the word "complaint" or "review" and see what you learn.
  • Once you settle on glasses you like, search online to see if you can find the same ones at a better price.
  • Check out return policies. Some give you just 14 days to return; others give a year.
  • If you buy online, find out if shipping is included and who pays for return shipping.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Alan Kozarsky, MD on December 13, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

American Optometric Association: "A Closer Look at Ordering Eyeglasses Online."

Federal Trade Commission public documents: "Warby Parker comment on Ophthalmic Practice Rules ANPR."

Consumer Reports: "Eyeglass Store Buying Guide."

American Optometric Association: "Let the Buyer Beware: A Closer Look at Ordering Glasses Online."

News release, American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Consumer Reports: "How to get a great-looking pair of cheap glasses. Avoid overpaying by following these tips."

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