SAN FRANCISCO – Sept. 22, 2015 – Following news stories on the topic, the American Academy of Ophthalmology today provided information to the public about using online vision tests for obtaining a prescription for corrective eyeglasses.
The Academy is generally supportive of the use of new technologies to improve efficiency and widen access to eye care services. These technologies can help make diagnostic tools more available in remote settings, enabling remote diagnosis and interpretation. They can also help reduce health care visits and costs. But, as with any new medical technology, online vision testing needs to be evaluated over time for safety and efficacy.
The Academy advises the public to keep in mind the following information when considering the use of online vision testing for obtaining a prescription for corrective eyeglasses:
- These services may be appropriate for people 18-39 years of age with non-severe corrective eyeglass prescriptions and no symptoms of eye disease. They may be best used as a follow-up tool to update an old glasses prescription for adults who have previously had an in-person comprehensive eye exam that confirmed they have healthy eyes.
- These tests are not recommended for people under 18 years of age, those 40 and older and anyone at any age with a severe eyeglass prescription or those with symptoms or risk factors for eye disease. People with symptoms or risk factors should see an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor who treats eye diseases and conditions. They should also have follow-up visits at the frequency their ophthalmologist recommends.
- The very best way to protect one’s vision is by having in-person comprehensive eye exams at the frequency recommended by the Academy. The Academy recommends that patients without risk factors for eye disease should have comprehensive eye exams at the following intervals:
- Under 40 Every 5 – 10 years
- 40 – 54 Every 2 – 4 years
- 55 – 64 Every 1 – 3 years
- 65 or older Every 1 – 2 years
- Providers of online vision testing services should clearly emphasize that adults 18-39 years of age still need to have comprehensive eye exams every five to 10 years even if they have no symptoms or risk factors. These exams can detect common eye diseases and conditions that have few or no symptoms and can lead to blindness if not properly treated.
- All corrective eyewear prescriptions must always be approved by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
- Patients should be aware that online vision testing services may not offer prescriptions for patients that have high-power or irregular prescriptions.
In regards to using online vision testing for obtaining a prescription for contact lenses: currently, there is insufficient data available from online providers about their fitting, prescribing and monitoring processes for contact lens prescription. The Academy looks forward to reviewing the data and providing guidance when it is made available.
“What the public needs to understand is that that these online tests can measure the power of your eyeglass prescription, but they can’t detect eye diseases that often have hidden symptoms,” said Michael X. Repka, M.D., MBA, medical director of Government Affairs for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “So, while online tests for glasses prescription may be okay for adults 18-39 years of age with healthy eyes, they are not appropriate for those with an eye condition or risk factors for eye disease – such as having diabetes or a family history of glaucoma – or for those who have not had a recent eye examination.”
The public can find more guidance on pediatric eye exams and adult eye exams on the Academy’s public information website.
The Academy recommends that ophthalmologists considering online refractions evaluate them as they would any other new diagnostic technology. It has provided ophthalmologists with a clinical statement on the topic at: https://www.aao.org/clinical-statement/innovative-technologies-in-diagnosing-eye-diseases.
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology, headquartered in San Francisco, is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons, serving more than 32,000 members worldwide. The Academy’s mission is to advance the lifelong learning and professional interests of ophthalmologists to ensure that the public can obtain the best possible eye care. For more information, visit www.aao.org.
The Academy is also a leading provider of eye care information to the public. The Academy's EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit EyeSmart or OjosSanos to learn more.