The facts on buying glasses online

Photo courtesy of GQ.com

Photo courtesy of GQ.com

By now, many of you have heard that glasses can be purchased online, and at a significant discount compared to your local eye care provider. As a consumer, I would probably jump at the opportunity to save some money and try them out. However, as an optometrist who has had to “redo” glasses for these patients, I’m going to tell you to save your time and money and get them at your eye care provider.

What a shocker – of course an optometrist would urge you to purchase from the local eye care practice. But not for the obvious reason you might think. It’s for you, the patient’s own benefit. You visit your optometrist expecting an updated prescription to see your best. Your optometrist places you behind the phoropter (think Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 album cover), adjusts the instrument for measurements specific to your eyes such as vertex distance, pantoscopic tilt and pupillary distance. Then, you painstakingly choose between lens ‘1’ and ‘2’, sweating for fear of choosing incorrectly. And after many tests for binocularity, focusing skills and eye alignment, you are given a prescription that is highly specific and customized.

Once the rest of the eye health exam is completed, I will then instruct my optician to help choose the correct style of frame. A patient needing a progressive lens may need a larger frame, extending about an inch below his eyelid, for enough reading power. The patient with high amounts of astigmatism cannot be placed into a frame that wraps the face too much. A patient who is highly farsighted may not do well in a half-rim frame. A child needs an impact-resistant lens material. The specific requirements go on and on.

Many online retailers simply ask for your prescription and a measurement called pupillary distance. That is simply the distance between your pupils. But that is not the only measurement required in making a good pair of glasses. Tilt of the frame, how close the glasses sit to the eyes and optical center are equally important and contribute to clarity and comfort of vision.

After multiple visits and purchasing new glasses (in addition to the online pair that doesn’t work), many of my patients have learned to not skimp on eye wear. I do not fault those for purchasing less expensive glasses. I understand that some just can’t afford a good quality pair. Speak to your optometrist about that. We may have more affordable frames to choose from or can discuss specific items needed in your glasses.

The bottom line is that we want you to see and look your best. Understandably, that may come at a higher price, but why hold back on something that sits in the middle of your face?

~ Cindy P. Wang, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org
http://www.eyehelp.org

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Common myths about eyeglasses debunked!

Photo courtesy of Ben Andreas Harding on Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Ben Andreas Harding on Flickr.

As an optometrist, I often hear a variety of misconceptions about eyeglasses from my patients. Most concerns fall into a few broad categories with a few bizarre ones sprinkled in. I would like to take a brief moment to address some of the most common ones I hear:

  1. “Wearing glasses will make your eyes weaker.” This is probably the one myth I hear the most often and it is absolutely false. The biggest thing people forget to account for when they notice they are more reliant on their prescription glasses is that they are a bit older. As a person gets older, their ability to continue to see clearly without prescription glasses deteriorates. While this applies to everyone, it is most pronounced in my far-sighted patients in particular.
  2. “Not wearing your prescription glasses will make your eyes get worse.” This also is not true. Not wearing your glasses will not damage your eyes, but it can cause a significant amount of eyestrain. Extended viewing of computer monitors, smart phones, tablets or televisions without a proper prescription can lead to significant eyestrain and may cause you to discontinue viewing sooner than you planned.

    Photo Courtesy of TempusVolat on Flickr

    Photo Courtesy of TempusVolat on Flickr

  3. You can’t play sports with glasses on.” Not true! Glasses for sports can be made to protect your eyes and clear your vision at the same time. Protective lenses such as polycarbonate plastic can be put into sports goggles to allow a person to wear glasses when participating in sporting activities. Many patients prefer to wear contacts when they play sports, but it is a personal preference. Be sure to talk to your optometrist if you need specialty lenses for any of the activities you participate in.
  4. “Over the counter readers are just as good as prescription glasses.” This myth is not necessarily untrue. For a small group of patients, over the counter readers do work just as well as prescription reading glasses. The bad news is it’s an extremely small group of patients and those glasses work only when they are reading. Proper prescription glasses can correct each eye individually for the distance so both eyes are in focus and balanced. Once the eyes are balanced and working together, your optometrist can determine the proper power you need for your computer monitor or for reading materials. For the overwhelming majority of patients, there is a difference between the prescriptions between their eyes or some astigmatism in their correction that you cannot find in over the counter glasses.

I hope these answers help open your eyes to how prescription glasses can help you see clearly.

~Ranjeet S. Bajwa, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org

I have an astigmatism. What is that?

Courtesy of Greece Trip Admin on Flickr

Courtesy of Greece Trip Admin on Flickr

Astigmatism is a term used by optometrists to describe a prescription for one eye that needs two powers to bring it into focus. It is not a disease or something that will make you go blind, but it can make things blurry at distance and at near.
Most people are familiar with the terms “near-sighted” and “far-sighted.” In the eye care world we use the term “myopia” for near-sightedness and “hyperopia” or “hypermetropia” for far-sightedness. These terms are used to describe the power (+ or -) of the lens needed to make you see clearly.
If your prescription needs only one power to bring your eye into focus then you can think of it as being simple. So if your prescription has a number like -4.00, then you have simple myopia. Similarly, if you have a prescription of +2.25, then you have simple hyperopia.
If you have an astigmatism in your eye, then you have two powers that need to be corrected for you to see clearly. Having an astigmatism in your eye is our way of describing a compound prescription. Instead of just one simple power like we described earlier, there are two powers together. Depending on your prescription, you can have myopia with astigmatism or hyperopia with astigmatism.

Courtesy of Ciro Boro - photo on Flickr

Courtesy of Ciro Boro – photo on Flickr

A common example optometrists use to describe astigmatism to patients is the difference between a basketball and a football. A basketball is nice and round, and has only one curve for the entire ball. You can think of that curve as a lens power. A basketball is a good example of a simple prescription. A football, on the other hand, has two curves. This is like an eye that has two powers or an astigmatism.
Astigmatism is not an eye disease, but rather a term we optometrists use to describe a compound prescription in one eye. So don’t be alarmed if your optometrist tells you that you have some astigmatism in your eyes. You are not alone – I have an astigmatism in both of my eyes and I see extremely well!

~Ranjeet S. Bajwa, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org

“What if 1 and 2 look the same?!”

Courtesy of riekhavoc (caughtup?) on Flickr

Courtesy of riekhavoc (caughtup?) on Flickr

A common concern for some of my patients is if they don’t tell me the correct choice of lens, then their prescription for that year will be off and not work properly. This is not true. When an optometrist is switching between lenses (which we in “the business” call a refraction), we are fine-tuning a prescription using the patient’s input to find the lenses that are the most clear and comfortable.

Optometrists are trained to filter out incorrect answers from our patients as we double and sometimes triple check on your responses to make sure we have the right powers. Many optometrists do this by bracketing the lens choices presented to patients. Bracketing means we pick two lenses with a noticeable difference in powers and move towards the most clear of the two. By doing so, the lenses in 1 and 2 may end up being the same lens or lenses in choices 7 and 8, etc.

Additionally, when we bracket the lens choices our goal (or “end point”) is when the two choices look just about the same. So if your optometrist is checking your eyes and the two choices look about the same, tell them- that’s what we want to know.

Another thing that we as optometrists don’t want is to give you a glasses prescription that are too strong for you. That is why it is important for you to relax and try not to squint when your optometrist is checking your prescription. If you are constantly squinting when we try to refract you, then you are more likely to end up with glasses that only work well when you squint, but are too strong for you when you don’t.

Courtesy of Lyn Kelley Author on Flickr

Courtesy of Lyn Kelley Author on Flickr

Something I have found to help patients give better responses is remembering to blink often. Occasionally, a patient will get so fixated on telling me which lens looks better that they don’t blink as often as they normally would. This can cause your tear film on the surface of your eyes to start to break up and affect your ability to tell which lens looks better. Blinking often lets your eyelids put a smooth layer of tears over the front of your eyes. It is similar to polishing a lens, and a polished lens is always easier to see out of than a scratched lens.

Your optometrist can check on the health and structures of your eyes as well as check the function of your two eyes working together when you go in for your annual eye exam. The art of determining a person’s prescription is not easy, but an optometrist is trained to work with the responses of their patients. Don’t worry about getting it wrong! If you just remember some of the tips mentioned above, you can be sure your optometrist find your proper prescription.

~Ranjeet S. Bajwa OD
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org

The SCARY… and fun truth about colored contact lenses

Colored contact lenses are a popular topic this time of year as many people prepare their Halloween costumes. How fun is it to have a cool accessory like tiger eyes, cat eyes or red or white eyes to complement the most creative of costume? Colored contacts are a great fun option.  There are also many people who like to wear colored contact lenses daily to make their eyes more blue, more green, more brown or a different color all together!

Courtesy of therefromhere on Flickr

Courtesy of therefromhere on Flickr

However, most people do not realize that even contacts worn for cosmetic purposes still pose a potential health risk for the eye if not properly fitted. This is true even if there is no prescription on the lens.  Contact lenses are classified as “medical devices” with the FDA.  Regardless of a corrective prescription, contacts are plastic on the surface of the eye and need to be fit properly and be taken care of properly to lessen the chance of vision threatening infections such as corneal ulcers.

Doctors of optometry perform additional tests above and beyond the glasses and eye health examinations when fitting contacts. We evaluate the size and shape of the cornea, the health of the tear layer and the fitting relationship between the cornea (the outer surface of the eye where the lens sits) and the contacts lens to insure the safest most appropriate lens for each individual patient.  We also educate patients on the best cleaning and wearing regimen for the them.  This greatly reduces any complications associated with contact lens use.

Buying contact lenses without a doctor’s prescription is something that happens with colored contacts often.  This practice leads to rise in vision threatening conditions that could be prevented with a proper contact lens examination. So, buy a different kind Halloween contact lens for each Halloween party this season, but get a prescription first!

~Lisa Weiss, OD, MEd, FCOVDCalifornia Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org

Should I get contact lenses? Quick guide to help you decide!

Prescription contact lenses can provide the freedom and comfort to perform a number of activities that cannot be achieved in glasses.

  • The most common example is sports. For those instances where you know you will be running or jumping for extended amount of time and hopefully breaking a sweat at the same time, contact lenses are an ideal choice for vision correction. No need to worry about your frames slipping off your nose or blocking your peripheral vision. Contacts can provide you with crisp and clear vision throughout your entire visual field so you can focus on being your best.
Courtesy of nikozz on Flickr

Courtesy of nikozz on Flickr

  • Another great example is for social events or gatherings where you know there will be cameras everywhere. This can range from brides-to-be prepping for their big day to just spending a night out with friends. When you know you want to look your best in the photos commemorating important times in the lives of your family and friends, contact lenses are the best accessory you could ask for!
  • Similarly, prescription color contact lenses can give you that extra pizzazz when you want to be a little different. Whether you are just adding a little blue or green to match your outfit or a purple or gray tint to draw some extra attention to your face, prescription color contacts can be a great choice to help you stand out in a crowd.
  • I personally choose to wear my prescription contact lenses on days when it is raining or cold. That way I can avoid having rain drops on my glasses or having my lenses fog up for 30 seconds or more when I go indoors in the winter time.
Courtesy of maikel_nai on Flickr

Courtesy of maikel_nai on Flickr

  • The best thing about contact lenses is the new technology used in the current manufacturing processes of prescription contact lenses. This allows your optometrist the ability to fit nearly any prescription you can imagine in materials that are approximately 10 times better than what we used only a few years ago! Today’s prescription contact lenses are available in aspheric designs to help you see more clearly and with UV blocking filters to help protect your eyes throughout the day.

If you think contact lenses may work for you, call your optometrist today to schedule a contact lenses fitting.

~Ranjeet S. Bajwa, OD