Eye exams in the United States are a scam

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/11/29/eye-exams-in-the-united-states.html


Sadly, those vision checkers don’t measure for contact lenses, which require a completely different prescription and exam that’s not always covered by insurance. And is subject to far more heavy-handed sales tactics than eyeglasses.


My vision is something I will not mess around with, so I do pay for an opthamologist’s exam (I have presbyopia, incipient macular degeneration, astigmatism, and until 3 years ago, cataracts). But I do insist on a copy of my prescription, making sure to get the PD as well, and order my glasses online. I do not understand why they expect me to pay usually as much as $800 for glasses which cost me around $200 online.


It’s not the eye exams that are the scam, it’s the upselling of corrective eyewear that follows. Optometrists do much more than determine your prescription; they test for eye health, which is something you probably don’t want to trust to an amateur (i.e. you) unless you are a vision expert yourself.


Good luck testing for astigmatism and glaucoma at home. As well as catching anomalies in your retina.


I wonder if they check for the various and sundry flavors of astigmatism?

Also: following @nungesser those who rely on hard or rigid contact lenses also need the specific physical curvature of each eye precisely measured in order to get lense that fit properly.


Yep. I went in to get a new eyeglass prescription, ended up with a rather unexpected glaucoma diagnosis (at least a decade younger than I thought possible). Avoiding going blind is always nice.


Let’s all say it together: L U X O T T I C A
That’s why eyewear is so expensive.

Buy Zenni!
Buy Warby Parker!
Make your own! cf. https://www.instructables.com/id/Lens-Making/

Luxottica owns:

  • Alain Mikli
  • Arnette
  • Eye Safety Systems (ESS)
  • Oakley
  • Oliver Peoples
  • Persol
  • Ray-Ban
  • Sferoflex
  • Vogue Eyewear

and these retail outlets (9,000 total locations)

They license to:


It’s a conspiracy! :clown_face:

This feature is a fascinating window into a secret society known as “The Oculists” who became early optometrists. https://www.wired.com/2012/11/ff-the-manuscript/


I’ve probably posted this story before, but many years ago I was doing a temp design gig at Luxxotica HQ. We were putting together a new sunglasses catalog, and at one point they said “OK, our big focus this season will be the current trend for really big oversized frames.” Naive me asked, hey, out of curiosity, how does something like really big oversized frames become a trend? They sort of laughed and said, “We’re Luxxotica. We put out catalogs saying that the new trend is oversized sunglasses, and that becomes the trend, of course.”


I just had an eye exam last week. My eye doctor uses digital technology to take pictures of the inside of the eye, and with that they can see all sorts of details-- the curvature of the lens, the condition of the optic nerve, even the viscosity of the fluid inside the eye. (And yay, my 47-year-old eyes are showing the very beginnings of age-related decline. :cry: )

I’ve also been told that while online glasses retailers may be good for simple prescriptions, they may fail at more complex corrective lenses. As much as I want to save money, I can’t justify the risk to my eyesight to do it. (And I’ve experienced bad lenses from a chain exam/retailer. It wasn’t fun. It took three tries to get a decent pair of glasses without halos in my vision, and I never went back there.)


I had the eye exam, and I took the prescription, but they wouldn’t give me the PD (pupillary distance) because I didn’t want to buy glasses. Go ahead and try to order glasses online without that.

My current plan is to buy the cheapest sale glasses I can find, then take the info online for better pairs.
Ballsier consumers would just pretend to buy glasses until they got the number, then leave.

Also you can measure this at home, but that’s a big risk, I feel. I don’t know know how many mm I can be off target before anything I buy would be worthless.


Glad to live in a country that provides free biennial eye exams.


I mean, is it so hard to understand that they want your money?


You can measure your own pupillary distance. It’s just the distance between the center of your pupils.

The glasses I am wearing right now I measured myself and plugged into Zenni optical. They are fine.


I thought it was the distance from each pupil to the center of your nose. I’ve always seen separate left and right measurements.


If you are off target the lenses won’t sit on your face correctly. The only real thing this measurement does is make sure that the glasses ‘fit’ your face - if you are off by a mm or so it won’t really matter. If you are off by lots of mm then the glasses won’t fit.


There might be two ways of measuring the same thing? Zenni expects measurement on the order of 70mm. That is not a left/right number.


You know what’s also a scam?

EyeQue charging a subscription fee for its software-as-a-service app that’s the only way to use the hardware you buy.


When I was in high school I thought I might look good in glasses, so requested I go to an eye exam.

My parents dutifully sent me to the local optometrist, who lo and behold discovered that I needed prescription glasses for $500 (in 1986ish). My folks had extended insurance through their work* so bought the glasses and paid about half of the total. The glasses did make my vision slightly sharper in certain circumstances, but not enough to get bothered with.

Of course I lost the glasses at some point over the next few years. Many years later I thought I’d best get some more glasses and went in to get checked at another optometrist. After all the tests the doctor was very clear that I did NOT need glasses. The takeaway is that the original optometrist scammed $500 out of my parents for no reason other than profit.

  • Here in Canada we naturally have single payer health insurance (we’re not barbarians), but coverage for vision varies by province, in most cases you have to buy extra insurance for vision and dental.