Safety, quality of internet-purchased glasses subpar, study says

Safety, quality of internet-purchased glasses subpar, study says

Choosing convenience over quality sets consumers up for a letdown when purchasing glasses online, not only in terms of product satisfaction, but also in overall safety of such generic eyewear.

Glasses enhance the visual information sent to our brains. It makes perfect sense that these devices must be perfectly fit and properly selected.

Caveat emptor, the Latin phrase for "let the buyer beware," means the onus is on consumers to make informed decisions about their glasses. However, when online deals or vogue makers take precedence as purchasing deciders, consumers can become myopic to the real issue at hand: seeing clearly. A new study illustrates the consequences.

Released in a pre-print edition of October's Optometry and Vision Science, a University of Bradford (United Kingdom) study determined eye glasses purchased online were more likely to be deemed unsafe or unacceptable due to poor frame fit, appearance or inaccurate, one-size-fits-all measurements than glasses purchased at a brick-and-mortar eye care practice.

This is particularly important to note, as the provision of bifocals or progressive-addition lenses require careful fitting according to current standards, and inaccurate measurements could heighten accident or fall risk in elderly patients. 

The study enlisted three groups of participants—single vision, low prescription; single vision, high prescription; and presbyopes—to purchase glasses off a list of the top-10 online glasses retailers in the UK, as well as from regional eye care practices. Participants wore the glasses over a 2- to 3-day period and ranked them accordingly. Researchers found significantly more online-purchased glasses (30 percent) were determined to be unacceptable by participants than practice-purchased glasses, and 78 percent of those perceived as unsafe came from online suppliers.

Of the 308 pairs of glasses purchased overall, 58 (43 online/15 practice) were deemed unacceptable. Why were online-purchased glasses deemed unacceptable?

  • 15 were due to fit/appearance
  • 11 were due to optical centration distance outside tolerance
  • 10 were due to poor fit causing symptoms
  • 6 were due to fitting heights outside tolerance
  • 4 were due to refractive correction outside international standards
  • 2 were due to vertical prism

"Participants preferred practice spectacles, ranking them higher on average than those bought online, and 79 (percent) stated that they would purchase their next pair of spectacles from optometry/optician practices," the study notes.

Buying glasses online may be no bargain
Online glasses retailers play to consumers' sense of convenience, often likening the shopping experience to any other online retailer. Yet selecting glasses isn't the same as buying a new accessory. Eyeglasses must be custom-fit, not only to comfortably suit a patient's unique face, but also to meet his or her individual prescriptive needs.

Our eyes are a direct extension of our brains. In fact, scientists estimate 60 percent of the brain is used for visual processing. That's why it makes perfect sense that the devices used to regulate this visual information must be perfectly fit and properly selected, says Andrew Morgenstern, O.D., clinical consultant to the AOA.

"If you view glasses this way then it seems quite silly buying them online without being properly fit or selected," Dr. Morgenstern says.

"It is critically important for patients to see their doctors of optometry, have a complete and comprehensive, dilated eye examination, and be completely informed about the nuances of proper spectacle fit, measurement and materials before purchasing these devices that are responsible for the most critical information input into our brains."

Patient education is paramount, which is why the AOA continues to generate public awareness about the pitfalls of purchasing such individualized products online—and doctors can, too. AOA members can access complimentary patient education brochures online to better inform their patients and community. These "Let the Buyer Beware" brochures provide a word of warning with statistics from an AOA study that reinforces the snares of online orders.

Click here to see the AOA's public awareness campaign regarding purchasing glasses online.

September 28, 2016

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