When seven-year-old Julia was first examined by her optometrist four years ago, she was diagnosed with amblyopia in her right eye. Amblyopia is a condition that occurs when one eye is blurrier than the other, which prevents the needed stimulation in the brain to develop clear vision.  If not treated early enough in childhood, it can lead to permanently blurred vision in the affected eye, inability to see in 3D, and difficulties in school. It can also restrict career choices later in life because some occupations require good vision in both eyes to perform the job.  Some examples include: pilots, police officers, fire fighters, military officers, locomotive engineers, and surgeons.Julia’s optometrist prescribed glasses for her and instructed that she patch the better eye each day to strengthen the eye with amblyopia.   Julia followed these instructions carefully and attended many follow-up visits with her optometrist so that her progress could be monitored to ensure that improvement was being made.   Eventually, she improved from a poor 20/80 to almost 20/20 in the weaker eye.Last year, Julia’s mother brought her for an unscheduled appointment to check the accuracy of the glasses that she had just bought for Julia.  Her mother had previous taken a copy of the prescription so that she would be able to purchase glasses for Julia over the internet. 

She purchased two pairs for $50.After examining the glasses, Julia’s optometrist discovered that the glasses were improperly manufactured and advised her mother not to allow Julia to wear either pair because they were a serious threat to her vision. The glasses were so far off from the correct prescription that Julia’s amblyopia was at risk of returning in the right eye. To make matters worse, the lenses of both eyes were not positioned correctly in front of her eyes.  Julia’s optometrist re-made the glasses with the correct prescription and took accurate measurements to ensure that the lenses were properly positioned in the frame.    He then adjusted the glasses so that it fit comfortably on her face and didn’t hurt her behind the ears.  The glasses were made with polycarbonate lenses, a material that meets safety standards for breakage resistance. When glasses are purchased over the Internet, there is a significant risk that the glasses will not be accurate or made according to the specified prescription. A recent study that showed nearly half of all glasses (44.8%) ordered online either had the incorrect prescription or did not meet physical parameters to provide enough protection to the wearer.  (Click here http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/1529-1839/PIIS1529183911004064.pdf to view this study). The lenses or frames may also not be suitable for the prescription or may not meet specific visual requirements. It is easy for patients to assume that only information from a prescription is needed to purchase glasses.  However, accurate measurements must be taken and many other factors considered when glasses are dispensed.  Your optometrist has the expertise to ensure that your eyewear is properly made and correct for your specific needs.  The government of Ontario also recognizes the need to protect the vision and eye health of its citizens by regulating the dispensing of glasses to ensure that this medical device does not put people at risk of harm.