Results Published from Collaborative Project Team Assessing Safety and Compliance of Prescriptive Eyewear Sold Online

Oct 14, 2011, 14:42 ET from American Optometric Association

ST. LOUIS, Oct. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In conjunction with the Optical Laboratories Association and The Vision Council, the American Optometric Association has published the results of a months-long study investigating the level of compliance of prescription eyewear ordered online for compliance with optical tolerance and impact resistance requirements. The study was published in the September issue of Optometry: Journal of the American Optometric Association.

While patients may believe that ordering prescription glasses online is an easy way to save money, the study discovered that about half of all glasses (44.8 percent) ordered through the Internet had incorrect prescriptions or did not meet physical parameters to provide sufficient protection to the wearer.  

Karl Citek, O.D., Ph.D., a lead study author from Pacific University College of Optometry, noted that patients who purchase eyewear without the assistance of a trained professional may not receive a product of equal performance, value or safety. "Patients do not receive the benefit of ensuring an accurate prescription and a proper fit," he wrote.

He also noted that the online dispensing process comes with significant risks for errors in the type of lenses, the optical parameters and appropriate materials. Though optometrists can assess the prescription of a pair of glasses from another seller, they would not be able to determine the impact resistance of finished lenses.

Over a two-month period in 2010, ten individuals from across the United States ordered two pairs of glasses, including pairs for both adults and children, from each of 10 of the most visited online optical vendors, for a total of 200 pairs of glasses. Frame styles were chosen from the midrange options offered by each vendor, in varying frame materials, lens styles and prescriptions.

Of those ordered, 154 pairs were received. After they were received, lens analysis included measurement of sphere power, cylinder power and axis, add power (if specified), separation of distance optical centers, and center thickness.

Several pairs were provided incorrectly such as single vision instead of bifocals, or lens treatments that were added or omitted. In 29 percent of glasses received, at least one lens was not within the parameters of the prescription. Nearly 23 percent of the lenses failed impact testing, based on center thickness and lens treatment. Of the children's glasses tested, 29 percent failed impact testing.

Sam Pierce, O.D., trustee for the American Optometric Association, said consumers should be cautious when ordering any medical devices online. "Although online retailers may effectively market cost savings associated with online purchase of eyewear, consumers should beware, as this study points out, that the lack of oversight and quality control can lead to inferior products that could be harmful," Dr. Pierce said.

"Although consumers may view eyewear as a commodity, they should be aware that a valid prescription is required to obtain eyewear. In addition, important quality checks are performed on eyewear products when dispensed by licensed professionals to assure their safety and accuracy," he explained.

While additional studies will be needed to assess the safety and standards of eyewear ordered online, Dr. Pierce adds "The AOA recommends that patients continue to consult with their eye doctor on the proper prescription and spectacle fit for their vision needs."

SOURCE American Optometric Association