One could argue that you can do pretty much anything online today, from ordering groceries, paying bills, or exploring a faraway city with Google street view. One of the services that has popped up in the past few years is online vision tests that then allow you to order prescription lenses to be delivered in the mail.
While you may be tempted to consider this a more convenient option than visiting your local optometrist, you should first be aware of the limitations and potential risks of these online vision services:
Limited Evaluation & Potential For Inaccuracies
First of all, vision tests are not the same as eye exams. A vision test involves the traditional eye chart on the wall that everyone pictures when visiting an eye doctor. Testing the smallest line of letters you can see clearly is only one, small part of an overall eye examination.
These vision tests are only designed to calculate how clearly you see, with or without lenses. However, there’s no eye care professional with you to make sure that you’re actually taking the vision test correctly, which too often results in inaccurate or misleading information.
Then, if the prescription recommendation isn’t correct, it’s likely you won’t see as clearly as you should when driving, reading, or working. This may lead to problems like headaches or eye strain with your new lenses.
Incomplete Eye Health Assessment
Vision tests may help an eye doctor determine if you need corrective lenses or not, but usually several factors are taken into account for a prescription. Plus, an online vision test doesn’t assess the health of your eyes, including common conditions like dry eye, eye allergies, or astigmatism.
The health of your eye can only be thoroughly evaluated through an in-person eye exam with an eye doctor. This level of evaluation is required to determine if you have any signs of eye diseases that might lead to vision loss, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, or retina problems.
If you rely on online vision testing without also visiting your eye doctor for an overall eye exam, you may be unknowingly delaying detection and sight-saving treatment for underlying eye problems. Many eye diseases that cause permanent vision damage, like glaucoma, show no symptoms until vision loss actually occurs. Your chances of saving your vision depend heavily on early diagnosis and treatment.
In addition, a comprehensive eye exam can also detect general health problems, like high blood pressure, risk of stroke, and diabetes, which ultimately could be life-saving.
Most online vision testing sites offer disclaimers that they don’t provide a complete assessment of your eyes’ health, but many consumers aren’t aware that any site claiming to offer anything along the lines of “eye exams” is actually illegal. In fact, in 2017 the United States Food and Drug Administration sent a warning to one of the larger online vision testing companies, Opternative, to remove all wording and indications that its vision test was an “eye examination.”
The American Optometric Association (AOA) firmly opposes online vision testing, stating that patients may think they’re getting more than a simple assessment of their vision prescription. A statement provided to Review of Ophthalmology from the AOA reads in part, “Existing vision apps promise health care, but they deliver much less than the medically recognized standard of care.”
The AOA continues, “Through an in-person, comprehensive examination, doctors of optometry assure precise and healthy vision, identify and treat diseases such as dry eye, macular degeneration, and glaucoma as well as ensure early diagnosis of immediate threats to overall health, including hypertension, stroke and diabetes, which may have no obvious signs or symptoms.”
The bottom line is that a comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor is the single most important way to accurately assess the health of your eyes and determine the correct prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses. Your vision is worth it.
Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical has provided the highest quality vision care products and trusted optometry services to our patients in Knoxville and the surrounding areas since 2009. Our eye care professionals are dedicated to providing exceptional personal service to each and every person who walks through our door. Call us at (865) 246-1500 or contact us to schedule an appointment.