These days we rely more than ever on online services, and this extends to purchases of all kinds, with more options emerging all the time. Glasses are no exception to this. However, there is an issue because in order to buy prescription lenses, you obviously need a prescription. If you go into a physical store, there will be an eye doctor there who can give you a vision test. When ordering online, however, if you don’t already have a prescription from a visit to the eye doctor, most of these services offer you an online eye test. Are these online tests accurate?
The obvious question is, are these online tests any good?
The short answer is no.
In fact the leading online eye test (which has an eye doctor look at results) says in fine print at the bottom of their website “Our online eye exam is not a replacement for a comprehensive eye health examination.” So don’t take our word for it, take their own!
Online eye tests are just that, simple vision tests like you might have received in grade school. All it can do is measure your basic vision to determine nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism to determine an eyeglass prescription for you.
However, since this is a test that is essentially a self test, as opposed to one carried out by a trained professional, its basic accuracy is very questionable. What many do not realize is that when an optometrist performs an eye exam to determine your prescription, some measure of judgement on their part is required, based on factors such as your age, profession, or hobbies. These factors can lead them to recommend specific lens types better suited to your needs.
Online vision tests are incapable of this.
In fact, studies show that almost half of prescription glasses ordered online have incorrect prescriptions or fail to meet safety standards.
Because of this the American Optometry Association (AOA) has made statements condemning online eye tests.
Furthermore, proper eye exams do far more than simply testing your vision. If you only use these basic vision tests to judge your eye health, you can put your eyes, and your vision, at risk.
Perhaps the most crucial difference between an online eye exam and a comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor is all the other things an eye doctor will test for aside from your prescription. An eye exam is so much more than a vision screening, in fact the American Optometric Association says that a vision screening covers only 4% of a comprehensive eye exam.
A comprehensive eye exam looks at the entire patient, and starts with the doctor reviewing the patient history to have a more complete understanding of the risks and lifestyle of each patient. The patient history will inform the eye doctor what additional tests are needed, they may include evaluations of depth perception, binocular vision, eye focusing, eye teaming, eye tracking, color vision, eye muscle movements, peripheral or side vision, and the way your pupils respond to light. In addition an eye doctor will also have a variety of advanced imaging cameras to assess ocular health of specific parts of the eye. This screening is absolutely essential for patients with predisposition for diabetes, glaucoma, and macular degeneration among many other ocular diseases.
As we have outlined above, there are few benefits to online eye tests. However, if you suspect you need prescription eyeglasses, or a stronger prescription than you currently have, taking a quick online eye test can potentially confirm that for you. However, it is still strongly recommended that you then make an in-person appointment with an optometrist to get a more accurate test and prescription.
Ultimately, the choice is in your hands. In matters of health, the easy, convenient way is not always best.