Let's talk about how to shop for prescription eyeglasses online. When you first hear about it, you may frown suspiciously - is that possible? I wondered about that at first too, but decided to research it carefully.
Yes it is possible. However, there are a few steps you need to take first. Keep in mind that it only costs about 10% of the usual price to create your glasses, so online retailers can bypass many of the stages that your local shops use, and thus save you money. In fact, I discovered that internet savvy people see these lower prices and buy extra pairs of glasses as fashion accessories. (That makes someone like me, shopping for prescription eyeglasses online say, "Huh? Really?")
For economic reasons, I now envy those who buy glasses for fashion, or who have a single vision prescription. At most sites they only pay the cost of the frames. (Gasp! Just $4.99 and shipping?!) If you need bifocals or progressives you'll pay more for your prescription eyeglasses online, but not as much as at your local optical stores.
Step 1: get your prescription and measurements ready. (More in a bit on which measurements are crucial). In my area a Rx for eyeglasses is good for six months. If it is older than that, you have to have a new eye exam by an optometrist. Check to see if it is different in your area.
Step 2: read and research online on optical sites to discover your range of options and the prices. I found it helpful to read on technical forums for professional opticians too, to better understand some things. I picked up more detailed advice for ordering prescription eyeglasses online.
Step 3: make comparison notes. Use their filters to narrow down the vast selection of frames to your size and the designs you like. Most of these sites allow you to try frames on virtually, either with their models, or you can upload your own photo and superimpose the frames on your face. (More in a moment). Don't hestitate to take time to ask questions and to revisit those sites, or find still others until you are quite sure where you want to place your order.
Step 4: make your choice(s). Yes, I know! This is the hardest step for some of us.
Step 5: place your order. Fill in the blanks with the numbers on your prescription. Pay for your order, and wait for them to be delivered to you. Do this very carefully because if the glasses are not correct for you, and the error was yours at this point, then you will have to pay for the next pair when you try again. If it is their fault, they will replace your order.
If, after reading everything very carefully, and all the information pages, you still can't figure out which numbers on your prescription go in which blank just scan your prescription and email the graphic to them. Most of them are willing to receive your Rx that way. However, if you are not afraid of learning the Rx lingo below, you can understand and enter your numbers safely.
Traditionally, optometrists have, (many still do), used latin terms and their abbreviations in the prescriptions they write. OD is Latin for oculus dexter, which means your right eye.
OS is Latin for oculus sinister, which means your left eye.
OU is Latin for oculus uterque, which means both eyes.
However, some eye doctors, optometrists, and clinics are modernizing their prescription terms. They are writing;
RE for right eye, and LE for left eye.
It may be helpful to know that to keep things straight they always write the numbers for your right eye first (which is your left) because they go by what they see when they look at you. (I sincerely hope ALL the optical places that fill prescriptions for eyeglasses online or off, know that and don't get them mixed up).
Sphere (SPH) is the power of the lens in diopters (D) to correct nearsightedness or farsightedness. If that number has a minus sign (-), it means you are nearsighted. If it is a plus sign (+) you are farsighted.
Cylinder (CYL) is the lens power for astigmatism. (Hurrah for you, if you have no number there!) It has to do with the curve of the lens to undo your cross-eyedness so you can see straight ahead. If you have a CYL number, it should always include an Axis number as well. It is the lens meridian needed to correct the astigmatism, and will always be a number between 1 to 180 the way you would see on a protractor scale. If it is a hand-written prescription it must be preceded by an x.
Add is the magnification power in the lower part of bi-focal or multifocal lenses to correct your presbyopia. It will be something between -0.75 to +3.00D and is the same for both eyes. (That's our built-in reading glasses).
Prism is fairly rare, but if this shows up on your prescription it is for eye alignment problems, and it will be written in metric or in English fraction units like 0.5 or 1/2, with p.d. written in superscript (smaller and raised a bit).
Prism. This is the amount of prismatic power, measured in prism diopters ("p.d." or a superscript triangle when written freehand), prescribed to compensate for eye alignment problems. Only a small percentage of eyeglass prescriptions include prism. Four directions will indicate where it is to be positioned on the base or thickest edge. BU means base up, BD means base down, BI means base in (toward your nose), and BO means base out toward your ear.
Please note that your prescription for eyeglasses is NOT right for contact lens or visa versa. The measurements are different and the above keep in mind that the corrective lens is a number of millimeters away from your eyeball. Contacts have to go right on your eyeballs.
If you already have an old pair of glasses, you can measure them or take the measurements printed in tiny numbers on the inside arm or temple of the frame. If you have never had glasses before, you can go to a local optician and try on frames; when you find a pair that fits you comfortably, read and memorize, or write down, the numbers inside one of the temple arms. (The part that goes along side your head and over your ear).
But what do the numbers mean?
The length of the temple arm is the larger number, something between 125 and 145. It is the full length of that temple arm, including the bend, and the measurement is in millimeters (mm).
The next large number is the width of the space for one of your lens. The smallest one is the width of the bridge over your nose. All these numbers are separated by dashes or small squares. For instance, 49-17, means that in this pair the widest part of your lens area is 49 mm and the distance between lens (DBL) is 17 mm.
One important number that I do not find handily on all the websites selling prescription eyeglasses online, is the total width of the front of your frames. That is crucial for if the eyeglasses are too narrow or too wide for your face, they are going to be a bother and even a severe trial for you to wear. This number may be anything from 120 mm to 140 mm and more if you can find over-sized glasses for someone with an extra large head.
If, like me, you have to wear fairly strong prescription eyeglasses, trying on new frames without your prescription already in them is a challenge. Sometimes you can count on the sales attendant to tell you whether they look good on you, or perhaps a family member or friend, but if you're shopping alone, and you'd like to really see how a new design would look on your face without having to almost rub a mirror with your nose to get close enough to see anything - then you'll like this try on frames virtually idea on most of the sites selling glasses.
Here's how that works. You browse around looking for frames that appeal to you, and often you can click on an Enlarge link. When you see a pair you'd like to try on, you click on the link nearby that says something like, Click to try online, or Virtual try-on! (some words to that effect).
This usually opens a pop-up window where you can choose from several models with different face shapes. Choose the one most like your shape, and another click and the front of the glasses should super-impose over the model's face.
But if that still doesn't tell you how YOU would look in that frame, take a digital photo of yourself without glasses, and looking straight head, and not more than 20-24 inches away. Now put it on your computer, and resize it to the specifications on the site where you are about to upload it. Use their upload feature to put your photo there, with their models.
(If you have not logged in your photo will disappear when you shut down your computer; if you want it to stay there, you need to sign up to create a login for that site).
Now you click on your own photo in the list of models, and you can try any number of frames on your own face. Because you are looking with your current glasses on, you should be able to see clearly and objectively how you look in the new frames.
I must add a caution. I tried this myself on a number of sites with eyeglasses over several weeks, and I found that on some sites, this feature was a hassle. Sometimes it worked so slowly that I was sure it was NOT working. Some sites have poor instructions for using this feature, so I stumbled around for a lot of extra time, to figure it out. It doesn't necessarily mean that site is useless, because they may have connected to some third-party site for the software to do this virtual try-on. However, I did sometimes find myself leaving such a site in frustration and hunting for others. (I should have kept a log of where I had the worst and best experiences).
All the more reason to shop around. Perhaps that makes me look like I have trouble deciding. I assure you that in matters where I have already done thorough research I can be very swift with my decisions, but when I'm treading in new territory, I like to get thoroughly informed and educated, and then only make a decision when it is quite clear to me what I should do. Once I commit - I tell you, it's hard to move me from that decision!