The idea of an “online eye exam” may sound very appealing; the convenience of receiving an updated prescription for new glasses, or even contact lenses, without ever leaving your home. New online services brag that by simply logging on to your computer, answering a few questions and completing an easy online task, an accurate prescription can be in your hands, signed by a doctor, in a matter of minutes. Sound convenient? Don’t be fooled – these online eye exams are far from the perfect solution for eye care.
Comprehensive Exam or Online Screening?
Online eye exams are designed to do one thing only: determine your refractive error, or the prescription needed to best correct your vision. By requiring you to adjust your computer screen and answer a series of questions, online exams use an algorithm to determine an up-to-date prescription based on your responses. This is the only function that online eye exams are designed to do.
Contrarily, when you visit your optometrist, a comprehensive examination of visual function and ocular health is performed. The doctor performs tests to determine how well your eyes are aligned and working together, which helps reduce eye strain or discomfort through a new prescription. They also complete a thorough health evaluation of both the front and the back of the eye, assessing everything from dry eye symptoms to risks of retinal diseases. When you skip a visit to your optometrist and complete and online eye test instead, all these important aspects of ocular health and visual function are overlooked, and serious conditions could be overlooked.
How Accurate are Online Eye Exams?
Those responsible for creating online exams have recently released information claiming their prescriptions are just as accurate as traditional eye exams. However, evidence supporting this is limited, and online prescriptions certainly come with restrictions. If you find that you are unhappy with an online prescription, there’s no way to speak with a doctor to voice your concern. If you require a more specialized prescription, like glasses to relieve eyestrain from computer work, an online eye test is not able to precisely adjust prescriptions for your specific visual needs.
Not Necessarily a Bargain
One of the major appeals of online eye tests is the lower price tag. But do these tests really end up saving you money? For starters, they are not covered by vision insurance, leaving any fees associated with the exam to be directly out of pocket. This means customers are paying a higher fee, for an exam that is the fraction of the services received by an optometrist. Additionally, any inaccuracies during the prescription determination process means the exam would have to be completed again, accruing another charge.