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Online Eye “Exams”

The convenience of online shopping is a big-time saver for many people this time of year. Online technology has literally changed the world and how people do business. Why not get an eye exam online? What is an online eye “exam”? Are you really obtaining an “exam” online?

A refraction determines the lens power you need to compensate for any refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism), as well as the curvature of the eye to prescribe glasses or contact lenses. Online eye tests attempt to replace one element of an eye examination, the refraction, in order to yield a prescription for glasses or contacts. It is not unlike taking a blood pressure reading at a kiosk and expecting a prescription; the reading does not provide sufficient information to determine a patient’s needed course of therapy. The refraction performed by online eye tests is only one of many tests performed during an eye examination, and taken by itself, does not provide sufficient information regarding the treatment of a patient, including the prescription of glasses or contact lenses.

Online vision tests often give inaccurate or misleading information, and can misinform consumers that can delay essential, sight-saving treatment.

Comprehensive eye exams with your Doctor of Optometry are one of the most important, preventive ways to preserve vision, and the only way to accurately assess eye health, diagnose an eye disorder or disease, and determine the need for corrective lenses.

Personalized comprehensive eye examinations by a Doctor of Optometry are an important part of general preventive health care. In addition, changes in refractive status can be an underlying symptom of a number of eye or systemic conditions. Systemic diseases can also be detected through comprehensive eye exams. In fact, 240,000 cases of diabetes were first detected by an eye doctor in 2014.

If serious conditions are left undiagnosed for long periods of time and a patient skips office visits with an eye care professional, the chance for identifying an effective treatment lessens and could lead to irreversible vision loss or worsening of a systemic disease. That is why a comprehensive adult eye and vision examination may include, but is not limited to, the following tests:

Patient and family health history, visual acuity measurement, preliminary tests, refractive status, eye health examination and dilation and additional tests as needed that may include digital retinal imaging tests, ultrasounds of the eye and automated visual field technology may also be used to detect and diagnose serious eye and health problems.

“The American Optometric Association’s (AOA) primary concern is that patient health and safety is at risk due to lack of understanding as to what services an online vision test company actually offers and can deliver to consumers,” said Steven A. Loomis, O.D., AOA past president. “When a patient comes into the office for an examination we do so much more than just update a prescription for glasses or contacts. Our tests are specialized for the needs of each individual and allow us to check the overall health of our patients. By analyzing images of the back of the eye, for example, we can see how a patient’s blood vessels are functioning which can signify serious conditions like hypertension that often go undetected. The eyes are the window to your well-being and their care cannot be left to a computer and a smart phone.”

The AOA voiced its health and safety concerns to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting legal action against an online vision test being marketed by Opternative, Inc. without the type of testing and pre-market approvals frequently required of new medical device technology. The FDA instructed the company to pull the vision test from its website. The company then changed its name to Visibly but didn’t change the test. Now the screening test has been recalled by the company and is no longer available.

Patients who’ve been harmed or received erroneous prescriptions from an online vision test are urged to file a claim/report with FDA Med Watch at

Come in and see us for a comprehensive eye exam and discuss personalized options for your eyes.

Dr. Patrick Utnehmer, Promenade Optometry & Lasik, (951) 296-2211.