Dear OD To Be,
My friend thinks he can update his prescription for his glasses/contacts by himself without consulting an optometrist (i.e. when he orders them online). He says his prescription is a -2.75 and he wants to change it to a -3.00. I think he is wrong to change his prescription without talking to an optometrist. What are your thoughts?
Trying To Be A Good Friend
You’re right! Your friend should definitely see an optometrist if he thinks his prescription has changed because the change could be caused by something other than natural aging. Updating your prescription and making sure you are seeing your best is a main part of an optometrist’s job! Depending on how strong the prescription is, the power of the contact lenses prescription might be different from the glasses prescription, due to the fact that contact lenses are on your eyes instead of in front of them – your friend’s prescription is low enough that this probably wouldn’t be a problem, but it is always a good idea to check! As well, the prescription change that your friend thinks he needs is a very small change (only one “click” on the medical device, the phoropter, that optometrists use to measure a patient’s prescription), so he would probably not notice a large improvement in his vision. If his vision has decreased enough to think he needs a change in prescription, it has probably changed by more than just 0.25 D. Any time your vision changes for any reason, including temporary changes, it is recommended to see an optometrist to make sure your eyes are still healthy.
I would also strongly recommend that your friend not order his contacts or glasses online! Did you know that almost 50% of contact lenses and glasses purchased online end up having the wrong prescription, are made with missing features that could affect your vision, or don’t pass safety standards? Dispensing eyewear is a regulated act in Canada because glasses and contact lenses are medical devices; many online glasses/contact lens retailers are not associated with a regulated eye care professional like an optometrist or optician, making them illegal operations! Eye care professionals like optometrists and opticians will check all the safety, prescription, and fit of the optical device to make sure they are exactly what was ordered and suitable for what the patient needs, whereas there is no guarantee that what you order is what you will get if you do it online. While the online products might be cheaper, faster, more convenient, etc., do you really want to risk putting something of potentially lower quality onto or near your eye?
If you think about it, contact lenses are essentially foreign bodies that you are putting into your eye, so you want to make sure that everything is fitting correctly to reduce the chances of long-term damage! Damage to the surface of your eyes from contact lenses (including damage caused by dry eyes) is actually incredibly common, and if not monitored by an OD could cause long-term reduction in vision! Keep in mind that Doctors of Optometry check that your eyes are healthy, and are also able to see some systemic conditions before symptoms manifest (i.e. diabetes, high blood pressure, MS, tumours, etc.). Aside from ensuring your eyes are healthy, ODs will help fit the contact lenses or glasses properly to your eyes and face, and make sure they are ordered in the correct power to help you see your best.
The Bottom Line – there is just no substitute for the quality and personable experience you (should) get with your optometrist regarding anything to do with your eyes!! As you can tell, online dispensing is a really hot topic in optometry right now so thanks for asking this important question! I hope your friend makes a safe decision and sees his optometrist to change his prescription and order his glasses and contacts!
OD To Be
Written by Marcia Mitschke – University of Waterloo School of Optometry. OD 2018