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Online eye “exams”: Beneficial or dangerous?

Online eye “exams”: Beneficial or dangerous?

by Dr. Roxanna Potter, FLT Columnist

While online shopping has become a cultural norm, I’m hoping online eye exams do not. In fact, “exam” is being used very loosely by the companies that are investing in this technology. While going online to get your glasses or contact lens prescription may seem cheaper or easier than seeing your eye doctor, the risks to your overall vision and eye health are enormous and simply not worth it. Little is more important to life than good vision — why take the risk?
Some say that eye doctors are just being greedy, forcing patients to return yearly for eye health examinations before they will give prescriptions. However, this cannot be further from the truth. We were taught to “do no harm,” just like any other doctor, and giving prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses without making sure that the eyes themselves are healthy is one of the most irresponsible and dangerous things a doctor can do. It’s similar to a family doctor giving out blood pressure medication prescriptions without checking blood pressure.

Nothing is more frustrating to a doctor than a patient refusing a recommended exam saying, “Everything is fine, I just need a refill,” when we know that many serious diseases and problems can exist without symptoms. I find vision-threatening eye disease or problems in patients who see 20/20 every day — from children to adults. This threat is exacerbated significantly when contact lenses are prescribed without proper fitting and eye health analysis; eye infections and loss of vision are far more common than you think, and contact lenses should be treated as medical devices, not commercial products.

Besides the concerns of eye health, it’s not true that the online exams are easier. They take just as much time as an appointment at a doctor’s office, if not more because there is no doctor to help you with the testing. They may be cheaper, but as is the case with many cheap products, you get what you pay for. What you save initially may cost much more to fix if problems arise, which they undoubtedly do. I can’t count how many cheap pairs of glasses I’ve had to troubleshoot, from complaints of poor vision, eye strain, incorrect prescriptions, unsafe materials/lenses, poor quality frames, etc. I’d also like to point out that profits from online companies never benefit your local community or small business owners and staff. They are often directed overseas or to large corporations/investors.

It’s time to buck up, be responsible, get your eyes checked by a licensed optometrist, and invest in some good quality eyewear. Your eyes deserve it, and your long-term eye health and vision depend on it!