Online eye tests offer something we prize in today’s busy lives: convenience. A vision test you can take from the comfort of your living room or office sounds quick and easy, especially if you get a glasses prescription out of the deal. But can an online eye test replace regular comprehensive eye exams with an eye care professional?
The short answer is, no. “I tell my patients that online eye tests may be able to measure the power of your eyeglass prescription, but they are no substitute for regular eye exams,” says Dr. Rachel Hollenbeck of Grand Rapids Ophthalmology’s Greenville office. “Many eye diseases have hidden symptoms that can only be detected through an in-person exam.”
Here’s what you should know about online eye exams.
Online eye tests operate under certain conditions
Online eye tests measure only the sharpness of your vision (visual acuity) and the degree to which you are nearsighted, farsighted, or have an astigmatism (refractive error). If you are between 18 and 39 with healthy eyes and a non-severe prescription, an online eye test may be able approximate a correct glasses prescription for you.
What online eye tests can’t do
Just keep in mind that research is mixed on whether online prescriptions are as accurate as those received in person from an eye doctor. Online eye tests are also pretty limited in the prescriptions they can supply. They can’t provide high-power or irregular glasses prescriptions, nor can they measure the curvature of the cornea, which is critical for contact lens wearers.
Eye care is about more than vision
Count on your eye doctor for regular exams and caring for the health of your eyes. During an in-person eye care exam, your eye doctor will check eye alignment, eye movement, and muscle function, in addition to examining the surface of your eyes, and your retina and optic nerve. These tests can help detect early signs of eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, or macular degeneration.
Skipping in-person exams is risky
Because online eye tests don’t screen for eye health, they have no way of diagnosing eye disease early enough to provide effective treatment. Online eye tests without regular eye examinations carry the risk of vision loss.
Cheaper isn’t always better
Online eye tests may be less expensive in the short run, but they provide only a small percentage of the services you get in a comprehensive eye exam performed by a professional. Online eye tests are not typically covered by vision insurance and although online tests may refund money if you’re not satisfied with a prescription, you cannot get refunds for glasses or contact lenses purchased with the wrong prescription. Most importantly, Michigan state law prohibits “automated eye exams,” so filling your glasses or contacts prescription after an online test could be difficult.
The bottom line:
Convenience shouldn’t come at the expense of proper eye and vision care
By itself, an online vision test is not sufficient. Regular comprehensive eye exams are indispensable when it comes to protecting your vision and eye health. Grand Rapids Ophthalmology provides the most advanced technologies available, delivered by a committed, caring and dedicated team of doctors and staff. We are here for the lifetime of you and your family’s eye care needs.