Thinking of buying contact lenses or glasses online? Think again…


Online shopping for glasses & contact lenses: Quick, easy, safe and less expensive, right?



Online purchasing has made its way into virtually every aspect of life. In many cases, shopping on the internet is easy and convenient, and can provide a quality, reliable service. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Buying contact lenses or glasses over the internet can appear to be a faster or cheaper way than through your own eye doctor, but at what cost?

Buying contact lenses or glasses is not like shopping for books or clothes or a toaster. In Ontario, as in most of North America, only regulated, licensed Opticians, Optometrists and Ophthalmologists are legally permitted to dispense prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses to the public.

The multitude of online retailers of contact lenses and glasses that now exist, are providing a service that is in contravention to provincial laws and regulations in most provinces and states in North America.

Seriously? That's right, for any retailer to dispense contact lenses or glasses in most of North America there are laws and regulations that require face-to-face contact and provision for care by a registered licensed health care provider with the patient. Furthermore, there are often no safeguards or requirements from the internet retailers to ensure you have and can provide an actual verified copy of your prescription, which is legally required in order for them to dispense to you. 


But it all seems so much more convenient, doesn't it? Well, convenience doesn't take into account the health, safety and comfort of your eyes and vision. Here's why:

With online shopping for glasses or contact lenses:

You have no guarantee that you are dealing with a qualified licensed Optician, Optometrist or Ophthalmologist. Vision care via the internet is often provided by unlicensed individuals who are not members of one of the regulated health professions. Furthermore, it’s at “arm’s length” without recourse for problems that may arise.

You may get a counterfeit or "black market" product (a lower-quality product that is falsely labeled as being a higher-quality brand).

You may get a product that has been recalled due to safety concerns, or is a discontinued product, or has not met government or manufacturers’ standards and tolerances.

An internet retailer doesn't have the ability to recognize health issues dealing with the eyes, (some eye health problems can be “silent” without symptoms in the early stages). If there is a health problem, the online retailer can’t treat or refer you to another doctor or specialist before any serious harm can come to your eyes or your vision. Undiagnosed ocular health problems can result in vision loss or blindness.

Improperly fitted glasses and contact lenses can cause blurred or double vision, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. 

And specifically with contact lenses:

Lack of instruction on the proper and safe use and care of contact lenses, and lack of proper follow-up by a qualified health care provider on a regular basis can result in blurred vision, headaches, infection, inflammation, vision loss or blindness. Some contact related problems can be "silent" without obvious warning signs or symptoms prior to eye or vision damage.

Contact lenses are “medical devices” regulated by Health Canada. When you purchase contact lenses over the internet, you may get a product that does not meet Health Canada’s standards and tolerances for safety, effectiveness and quality. 

You may receive contact lenses that have not been stored properly. Contact lenses need to be protected from freezing and heat. When you order contacts over the internet, you do not know where or how the product has been stored or for how long.

You may receive a product that has expired or been repackaged. Contact lenses have an expiry date, after which it may not be safe to use them.

It is often no cheaper to obtain contact lenses online than it is from your doctor, especially when you consider that you don’t receive the care, follow-up and advice that your doctor provides when you obtain lenses from him or her.  

Up to 94% of prescription eyeglasses purchased over the internet had incorrect prescriptions, and/or did not meet safety or optical standards.

For prescription eyeglasses:

Two independent studies that were published in September 2011 and June 2012 found that between 44.8% and 94% of prescription eyeglasses purchased over the internet had incorrect prescriptions, and/or did not meet ISO or ANSI safety or optical standards that are required in North America.

There are many levels of quality and design for prescription eyeglass lenses, especially for higher powers and bifocal lenses. Without the advice and expertise of a licensed health care professional, you may receive lenses that are inappropriate for your prescription and eyes.

Improper selection of lens type, index, base curvatures, lens decentration, tints, coatings and lens material may cause distortions, blur, headaches, nausea, double vision and eye strain.

Frames that are too small or too large, or that don't properly fit the bridge of the nose or over the ear, or have the wrong “wrap” or pantoscopic tilt can be uncomfortable, and can affect the ability of the lens to properly correct for your vision. An inappropriate frame selection that isn’t compatible with your prescription may also result in very thick or heavy lenses that are uncomfortable, and which may cause distortion in your peripheral vision.

Internet shopping may be cheaper and easier for a lot of things, but your eyes, vision and health are PRICELESS. You are unique, and so are your eyes and vision.


Posted on June 3, 2013 and filed under Eye Info.