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Kiwis warned against buying specs online

VisiqueTuesday 21 February 2012, 1:58PM

Almost half the prescription glasses bought on internet unsafe

Kiwis tempted by cheap prescription glasses online are being warned almost half of such specs have been found to be unsafe or incorrect.

"Ordering prescription glasses online may seem like an easy way to save money but it can impact on your eye health," says Visique optometrist Melissa Hay. "Our advice to consumers is to be cautious when ordering any medical devices online."

In a survey conducted by the Pacific University College of Optometry in Oregon, 45% of prescription glasses ordered online failed at least one parameter of impact testing - which ensures the safety of the wearer, or optical testing - which determines if the pair is appropriate for a person's vision.

Lead author of the study, Dr Karl Citek, says those who purchase eyewear without the assistance of a trained professional may not receive a suitable product in terms of performance, safety or value. They also do not receive the benefit of ensuring an accurate prescription and a proper fit.

"Here in New Zealand, we know people have been tempted by online offers for prescription glasses but, if you truly value your eye health, you should check with an optometrist first," says Hay.

Buying online significantly increased the risk of errors in the type of lenses provided, the optical parameters and protective features.

During the Pacific University study, which was published in American journal Optometry late last year, 10 individuals ordered two pairs of glasses, including pairs for adults and children, from 10 of the most visited online optical vendors, giving a total of 200 pairs of glasses. They were ordered with varying lens and frame materials, lens styles and prescriptions.

Of those ordered, 154 pairs were received and evaluated, including measurement of sphere power, cylinder power and axis, add power (if indicated), horizontal prism imbalance, and impact testing. Several pairs were provided incorrectly, such as single vision instead of bifocals or lens treatments being added or omitted.

In 29% of glasses received, at least one lens was not within the parameters of the prescription. In 23% of glasses, at least one lens failed impact testing. Of the lenses that failed impact testing, 38% of them had an added Anti-Reflective coating. Of the children's glasses tested, 29% failed impact testing.

Overall, 44.8% of the spectacles failed at least one parameter of optical or impact testing which, according to Visique optometrist Nick Burbery, is unacceptable.

"A lack of impact resistance can lead to eye injury if people were to say... walk into a door or have an object thrown at their face," says Burbery. "Your glasses are all that stand between you and any impact, so impact resistance is crucial. Do you really want to risk your eye health on cheap glasses that could potentially permanently damage your vision?"

While buying spectacles online may seem like the cheap option, this study shows consumers need to be aware such glasses may be inferior and harmful.


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