Are Virtual Contact Lens Exams A Good Idea?  

We’re all spending more time at home than ever, and it’s a good idea to look for ways to make your appointments virtual whenever possible. Many contact lens shipping companies are now offering virtual contact lens exams. Like many people concerned with your eye health, you may be wondering if virtual contact lens exams are a good idea for your eyes. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of getting an online eye exam.

The Pros

  • There’s no doubt about it – getting an eye exam online is convenient, especially when it’s important to stay at home as much as possible. If you’re almost out of contacts and you can’t get an appointment to see your eye doctor, scheduling a virtual appointment is a better choice than trying to wear your contacts for longer than recommended in order to make it to an in person prescription renewal appointment.
  • You’ll be able to complete the refractive portion of an eye exam (traditionally, this is done with a letter chart in your eye doctor’s office). An online exam will be able to tell you if your prescription for nearsightedness, or farsightedness has changed.

The Cons

  • When you go through an online eye exam, you’re only able to renew an old prescription. If you haven’t seen an eye doctor in the past two years, you’ll need to make an in-office appointment.
  • Online appointments only address the level of vision correction you need – they don’t give you the face time with an optometrist necessary to fully evaluate your eye health. This means that you’re missing valuable screenings for dangerous vision conditions that could go undetected and worsen over time. The company you work with for your eye exam is required to be upfront with you about this – they need to inform you that a virtual prescription renewal appointment in no way takes the place of seeing your eye doctor for a face to face exam.
  • When you wear contacts, your eye doctor checks for signs of irritation at your appointment. Irritation can indicate that you need a different type of contact lens. During a virtual exam, there’s no way for an eye doctor to see whether your contacts are working well for your eyes.

The Bottom Line

According to the American Optometric Association, “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.” If you have no other option, a virtual exam can get you a prescription renewal in a pinch, but this shouldn’t be your go-to method of eye care.