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“Can I get my PD?” And Other Things You Need to Know Before Ordering Glasses Online in 2019

Online shopping is hugely convenient. There is no denying that. Yesterday I realized I had less than five diapers left at 10 pm for my one year old and a full day of work the next day but, thanks to the miracle of Amazon Prime, we are locked, stocked, and ready to go! (literally and figuratively)  Because of this convenience, more and more patients are asking about buying glasses online.  Usually in the exam room, the conversation starts out with “I hate to ask this but...” so I thought this was a good time to address the elephant in the room.

1.  Can I get my PD?

 Of course you can! Your “PD” or pupillary distance measurement is the measure from the center of one pupil to the center of the other pupil...seems simple enough but no we do not routinely write this on your prescription (unless you ask). Why not? Because there is more than one PD! When we take you up to our optician, we include our recommendations for the best vision and comfort FOR YOU and YOUR visual demands.  That is to say, we do not have a script and recommend the same frame type, lens type, coatings, etc for every patient. We get an idea by discussing your needs in the exam room but our opticians take it one step further in our optical to really nail down your needs.  Once we know what demands you will have for the glasses then we have a better idea of what type of lens you require, what type of coatings will enhance your vision, and WHICH PD is the best for your demands!  Often this is as simple as a distance or near PD but we won't know until we style your perfect lens.  Why is the PD so important? We'll get to that soon.


2. Is there really a difference between online glasses and our optical?

This is not a simple answer.  Yes—there really are a lot of differences; but no—there are a lot of similarities.  My kids are super into binoculars and telescopes right now.  We must have 4 or 5 different toy varieties of each.  Do the toys work? Yeah, they sure do. Do I get a headache within two minutes of trying to look through those plastic lenses to even stare across my street to entertain the four year old? Yup!  “Budget” materials, which are often used to reduce the cost of online glasses, give you “budget” vision. Much like my son's toys, they will “work” but with the caveat that quality of vision will likely suffer.  People with very basic prescriptions may not notice a difference initially but people with higher visual demands such as computer use, the need for bifocals, or high prescriptions will lose significant quality in vision.  

Lenses, coatings, treatments, and even frames vary dramatically between retailers (online and brick-and-mortar).  We carefully vet our supplying optical labs and work with them every day so we can guarantee the quality, durability, and accuracy of every pair of lenses that are cut for our patients. We also hand select the frames available in our optical.  Most of our available lenses and frames carry replacement warranties and, if needed, we take care of all of the “work” for you for any replacement.  We stand behind our products because we want your glasses to outlast your prescription.  We don't want to SELL you glasses, we want to FIX your vision.


3.  What is a “glasses fitting” and why does it matter? I already have a prescription.

Glasses are a great fashion accessory but they're also a medical device.  Fitting glasses is both a medical expertise and an art.  There are literally hundreds of lens designs. There are multiple types of glasses materials each with their own weight, thickness, visual quality, and durability AND all of those characteristics change based on your prescription.  Throw all of that together and available options are in the thousands.  Don't get me started on adding in the options for coatings!  Online retailers give you a short description about each of these things and then you are left making the decisions yourself based on one or two sentences. Again, if you have a very small, distance or reading only prescription, and never spend any time on a digital device it may not make a lick of difference for you.  However, if you're like the vast majority of the population with visual demands beyond the basic “I need to see and I'm only kinda blurry” then choosing the wrong combination of lens type and material can lead to tired eyes, eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, and even motion sickness.  When this happens, you're back in my exam chair asking me to recheck the prescription and—spoiler alert—it hasn't changed but your glasses are hurting your eyes!  Opticians are specialists. They understand all of your options and not only can they explain them more thoroughly, they can also pair you with the optimal combination, AND know how to “tweak” the combinations to account for your individuality.  

Additionally—we're back to the PD—many online retailers don't seem to pay much attention to the very distinct and important measurements that are specific to your eyes and the frame you select.  I have heard this repeatedly but I had to check it myself so I went to the most common online glasses retailers that my patients ask about—Warby Parker and Zenni—and I ordered glasses for myself (I mean, can't really judge it until you try it, right?!).  They asked for my PD and they asked for my prescription.  That's great! Except I ordered progressives (no-line bifocals).  This means that they also need to know how far my pupil sits from the bottom of the frame in order to know where the powers need to be placed in the lenses—but they never asked!  I ordered frames I thought would look good on my face based on shape and their "virtual try-on"—but the bridge was too wide and moved the lenses out and the virtual try on couldn't map the dimensions of my face correctly so even IF the prescription is made correctly, I will not be looking through the correct powers. If I needed glasses to fix double vision, there was no way for me to put in the prism part of my prescription.  Needless to say, thankfully there is a return policy!


4. I need to save money.  Why are you more expensive?

And there it is...THE ELEPHANT! We understand.  No one wants to spend more money than they “have” to.  This includes us.  Our prices reflect our cost and it is true that there is a lot more overhead for a brick-and-mortar store than an online store front but our prices also reflect our quality, our expertise, and our personalized care.  We feel strongly that when making any purchase—glasses, a car, a computer, clothes, shoes, etc—quality should be the number 1 requirement!  Quality includes not only the material but the personalized attention and service you will receive when you purchase your glasses through our optical. Quality transfers to the best possible vision for your personalized visual needs.  

Additionally, when you spend money at our private practice in YOUR community, that money goes back into YOUR community! As a local small business, we are always reinvesting in OUR community! Whether it be through scholarships, fundraisers, donations, or community events, we take pride in being able to give back to the people and town that supports us.  Sending money to an online company puts money in THAT company's pocket but not in local schools, hospitals, charities, or other organizations that help keep our town growing and moving forward.  We love being part of this town!

We are happy to help you work within your budget without sacrificing on the number one sense you use to navigate your world, provide for your family, and enjoy life! We will always review your insurance benefits with you and submit your glasses to insurance! No insurance? Ask about our same-day-pay ("prompt pay") discount.

Our staff would be happy to sit down with you, discuss your needs, your budget, and your benefits and style you in the best pair of glasses for the best possible vision for your eyes!

-Dr. Courtney Kwan, OD

*Have a question or topic you would like us to address in a blog post? Message us on Facebook!


Want more information about online glasses ordering? Check out the links below.

Fun Fact!

  • Did you know we often post our frames online so you can “window” shop from home? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see new frames every week!

You never need an appointment to browse our optical but if you're ready for your eye exam, call us at 573-756-5665 or reach out on www.fvcmo.com!


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