Online Glasses: Easy to Order or a Headache?

Buying online glasses can be very inexpensive and convenient. But are there risks involved when purchasing your glasses online? Definitely.

Yet, there are times when you may want to purchase online, and the risks may be minimal.

Eyeglasses are classed as medical devices, and should be dispensed by a regulated professional, such as an optician. Online eyeglass sellers have somehow managed to avoid that part of the process perhaps by mailing directly to the patient.

Ordering Glasses Online

When you order online glasses, there are a number of things you need to know before you place your order.

These are:

  1. Your eyeglass prescription. We recommend that your eye examination have been done within the last two years to ensure your eyes are healthy and your prescription current.
  2. Your PD, or pupillary distance. If you live in BC, Canada, this should be on your eyeglass prescription. If it is not on your prescription, most online stores will have instructions on how to take your own PD. BUT! Please note, we highly recommend against taking your own PD. It is very easy to make a mistake, and opticians have been trained how to take the measurement properly, plus they have funky equipment to do it these days, not just a ruler. (Although even if an optician does use only a ruler, it will be much more accurate than your own measurement, simply due to experience.)
  3. If you are purchasing bifocals or progressive lenses, you will need a seg height measurement. This is a tricky measurement when you do not have the frame physically there.
  4. You will need to know which, if any, coatings you want on your lenses. (For example, scratch resistant coating, anti reflection, tint, UV protection, Transitions)

When Is It Safe To Order Your Eyeglasses Online?

There are times when online glasses can be beneficial to you. As long as your vision and eye health are not compromised, you can safely order your glasses over the internet.

  • When the glasses you are ordering are not the only ones you own; in other words, you have a backup.
  • When your prescription is not that high, say 1 diopter or less.
  • When you have multiple pairs for fashion reasons.
  • When you are an adult and have some experience with determining visually if they are done correctly.
  • When you are comfortable bringing your eyewear to an optician to confirm the glasses were made correctly.
  • When you are ordering simple reading glasses.
  • When you have seen an optometrist recently.

When should you avoid ordering eyeglasses online?


  • When they are the only glasses you own, and you depend on them.
  • If you are purchasing glasses for a child.
  • If your prescription is very high.
  • If you are purchasing progressive lenses or bifocals as your only pair.
  • If you are ordering glasses for someone who has mental disability such that they cannot indicate if something is wrong with their vision.
  • When you have special visual needs, such as prism, or needing a bicentric or slab off.
  • If you are ordering a progressive and have never worn one before.
  • If you have a difficult face to fit, for example a very large or small face, a small bridge; anyone who needs to physically try glasses on to see if they fit well.
  • When your eyeglass prescription is old and may no longer be accurate.


Precautions you should take when ordering eyeglasses online:

  • Do not take your own PD. You may have to pay for it, but get your PD professionally measured. Especially if you have a prescription higher than plus or minus 3.
  • If you are ordering bifocals or progressives, it is usually better to be too low than too high for the seg height. If your measurement is too high, you will be looking through the intermediate portion of the progressive, and with a bifocal you may see the edge of the segment. This makes walking and driving difficult.  If the measurement is too low, you may have to lift your glasses to read, but most activities will still be fine.
  • When you receive your eye wear, take it along with your prescription to a licensed professional to have everything double checked. You may have to pay a fee for this.
  • Be aware that you will most likely have to get your glasses adjusted by an optician. There may be a fee for this.
  • When you are choosing your frames, keep in mind that plastic frames cannot be adjusted on the bridge, unless they have nosepads. Plastic frames usually do not have nosepads, although some do exist. Almost all metal frames do have nosepads, and are adjustable at the bridge, but again, some exist that do not have nosepads.
  • Keep in mind that if you are choosing a large frame, the lenses will be thicker than if you choose a smaller frame.

These last precautions are things that eye care professionals have been trained to routinely be aware of when helping with frame selection. This is why you pay more when you buy from a licensed professional, than when you buy online glasses.



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