The Risks of Buying Your Glasses and Contact Lenses Online

Buying prescription eyewear is not like buying books or clothes.  In Ontario, only regulated and licensed Opticians, Optometrists and Ophthalmologists are legally permitted to dispense prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses.  These regulated and licensed practitioners are permitted to dispense eyewear via the internet only under certain limited circumstances.  There are very good and compelling reasons for these restrictions.  The risks involved in internet dispensing relate to the health of your eyes and to the effectiveness of your eyewear.


The following is a partial list of the risks and problems posed by internet dispensing:

 •  1) There is no guarantee that you are dealing with a licensed practitioner.  Other countries have different standards for the production of eyewear and poor quality lenses are inevitably the result. Lenses can be ground so thin that they would not pass Ontario’s impact resistance regulations, leading to shattered lenses which can cause serious eye injury.

 • 2)  Contact lenses are  medical devices regulated by Health Canada.  When provided without proper fitting and follow-up, eye health and vision  problems can compound.  The importance of being under the care of an eye doctor throughout the initial fitting, follow-up check-ups, to the dispensing of  contact lenses,  cannot be stressed enough.

 • 3)  Eyeglasses and contact lenses are always custom fitted  to each individual  based on very precise measurements of the eye and face.  Improperly fitted eyeglasses and contact lenses will cause headaches, dizziness and nausea, and blurry vision.

 • 4)  Prescription eyewear is not ‘one size fits all’.  Frames should fit the individual well, and eyeglass lenses must be ground to exact specifications.  When you purchase your eyewear directly from your eye care practitioner, you are paying for a variety of services- assessment of the prescription and your facial features;   eye measurements to determine the best lens type for you; assistance in the dispensary to choose a frame that suits your prescription, face and style;  ordering of the eyewear and re-checking of the eyewear on its return from the lab to ensure it has been made correctly to our exacting standards;  adjusting the eyewear to your face and instructing you in their use, as well as  managing any adaptation issues which may arise.    These are time-consuming, yet necessary steps involving technical optical expertise, which is not available when you purchase your eyeglasses online.


Eye Health 101






      Macular degeneration, also called age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD) , describes a variety of pathologic but extremely common conditions that affect the macula (a portion of the retina of the eye) and, therefore affects central vision. Central vision is what you see directly in front of you rather than what you see at the side (or periphery) of your vision. AMD is one of the most common causes of poor vision after age 60 AND accounts for 90% of new cases of legal blindness in Canada. AMD is a deterioration or breakdown of the macula, and thus affects our ability to see fine details clearly and perform activities such as reading, driving and recognizing faces. Early AMD changes can be detected at home with the use of an Amsler grid. Patients should test one eye at a time, covering the other eye and looking at the grid. If the lines of the grid appear wavy, distorted or missing, the test is abnormal and the finding should be investigated by an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist. Although the specific cause is unknown, AMD seems to be part of aging. Other risk factors include heredity, blue eyes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and smoking.



Nine out of 10 people who have AMD have atrophic or “dry” AMD, which results in thinning of the macula. Dry AMD takes many years to develop. A specific vitamin regimen based on the AREDS (Age Related Eye Disease Study) has been shown to slow progression of dry AMD.



Exudative or “wet” AMD is less common (only 1 out of 10), but is far more serious. In the “wet” form, abnormal blood vessels may grow in a layer beneath the retina, leaking fluid and blood vessels and creating distortion or a large blind spot in the centre of your vision.If the blood vessels are growing DIRECTLY under the centre of the macula, intravitreal injections with an anti-vascular endothelial growth factor agent called Lucentis (ranibizumab) has been shown to preserve vision in 95% of patients and restore or partially restore it in 40% of patients.Promising AMD research is being done on many fronts. In the meantime, high intensity reading lamps, magnifiers, and other low vision aids help people with AMD to maximize their visual abilities.







Your eye works a lot like a camera. Light rays focus through your lens onto the retina, a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. Similar to photographic film, the retina allows the image to be “seen” by the brain. Over time, the lens of our eye can become cloudy, preventing light rays from passing clearly through the lens. This in turn will obstruct vision and is thus called a cataract. Eyeglasses or contact lenses can usually correct refractive errors caused by early cataracts, but they cannot sharpen your vision if a severe cataract is present. The most common cause of cataract is aging. Other causes include trauma, medications such as steroids, systemic diseases such as diabetes, and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light. People who smoke seem to get cataracts earlier than non-smokers. Occasionally, babies are born with a congenital cataract. Cataracts typically develop slowly, causing a gradual and painless decrease in vision. Other changes you might experience other than blurry vision, include glare, particularly at night; a frequent need to change your eyeglass prescription; a decrease perception in colour intensity; a yellowing of images; and, in rare cases, double vision.


As the eye's natural lens gets harder, farsighted (presbyopoic) people, who have difficulty focusing up close, can experience improved near vision and become less dependent on reading glasses. However, nearsighted (myopic) people become more nearsighted, causing a worsening in their distance vision.

Reducing your exposure to UV light by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and proper sunglasses may reduce your risk for developing a cataract, but once one has developed, there is no cure except to have the cataract surgically removed.


Typically, the time to have cataract surgery is when the cataract is affecting your vision enough to interfere with your normal lifestyle. It is a routine, outpatient surgical procedure where the Ophthalmologist makes a small incision in the edge of the cornea at the front of the eye. A synthetic intraocular lens (IOL) is inserted at the time of cataract extraction to replace the focusing power of the natural lens. IOL's can be single vision (fixed-focus for a pre-set distance) or multifocal, which allows for focus at both distance and near. Cataract surgery is a very successful operation. One and a half million people have this procedure every year in North America, and more than 95% have a successful result.






For more than two million Canadians living with diabetes, blindness is a serious risk. And, of those, nearly 60,000 have sight impairment due to diabetic retinopathy (DR), a condition in which elevated blood sugar levels cause blood vessels to swell, leading to fluid leaking into the retina. DR is the leading cause of blindness and partial sightedness for those under age 50. Nearly everyone with type 1 diabetes and 60% of those with type 2 diabetes develop some form of DR in the first 20 years after the onset of diabetes. And, with rates of disease expected to double between 2010 and 2020, a potential crisis is at hand. Fortunately, there are plenty of reasons for hope. Increased awareness, early diagnoses, more effective treatments, and successful disease management can preserve healthy sight.


The body's vascular network functions to bring nutrients and oxygen to all the vital tissues in the body. Diabetes, being a vascular disease, causes those blood vessels to short-circuit and leak. Our eyes are especially vulnerable to damage, because they have the highest metabolic requirement of ANY tissue in the body, even more than our brain!


For diabetics, the first line of defense is proper management of blood sugar levels. Fluctuations cause damage over time to the tiny blood vessels supplying the retina. A healthy diet ( low in sugar, nutrient dense, with balanced amounts of protein and low- glycemic carbohydrate), helps stabilize sugar levels and goes a long way in preserving sight. As well, getting adequate sleep, cessation of smoking, and getting regular exercise will also help in sight preservation.


Diabetics should be aware of the early symptoms of vision problems: Dark spots, blurred vision, and large floaters (lines, dots, circles). They have a higher risk of a myriad of vision problems, from detached retinas and glaucoma, to earlier cataracts, and diabetic macular edema ( swelling in the centre part of the retina).


Any person with diabetes (types 1 or 2) or mild DR, should undergo a thorough eye examination once a year that includes a look at what's happening at the back of the eye through dilated pupils. Early detection of potential sight problems is crucial for successful treatment.





Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting the images that you see from the eye to the brain. The optic nerve is made up of many nerve fibers ( like an electric cable with its numerous wires). Glaucoma damages nerve fibers, which can cause blind spots and vision loss.


Glaucoma is related to the pressure inside the eye, known as the intraocular pressure (IOP). When the aqueous humor (a clear liquid that normally flows in and out of the eye) cannot drain properly, pressure builds up in the eye. The resulting increase in IOP can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. One of the most common and important tests for measuring IOP is tonometry. Eye Doctors use this to easily measure IOP and use it as an important gauge in the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma. Normal IOP is about 12 to 22 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury).


Many people never know they have glaucoma until they lose some of their eyesight. However, eye doctors can detect and treat glaucoma before most patients experience any symptoms. Glaucoma develops slowly over time, which is why many patients will go years before noticing any symptoms. Patients with glaucoma may experience a gradual narrowing of their peripheral vision. This loss of eyesight is also called “tunnel vision”. Unfortunately, loss of vision due to optic nerve damage cannot be reversed.

Glaucoma can strike people of every race, gender and nationality. Anyone can develop glaucoma, but some people are at greater risk, such as:

– Over the age of 40

– Family history of glaucoma

– African, Asian or Hispanic ancestry

– Diabetic

– Nearsighted

– Long-term use of steroids/cortisone

– Previous eye injury


Glaucoma affects more than 400,000 Canadians and by 2020 will affect 80 million people globally. It is one of the most common eye diseases among older people and one of the most common causes of preventable blindness in the world. The keys to managing this disease are early diagnosis, proper treatment and regular eye examinations.


If you are at risk, get regular eye check-ups. There is no cure for glaucoma, but there are several eyedrop medications that can help slow its progression, so early detection and treatment of glaucoma is extremely important.

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