It happened again: You've misplaced your only pair of glasses. Or maybe you've run through your last box of contacts. In order to replace them, you need a new prescription, and that means, an appointment with your eye doctor.

But now, companies such as Opternative, GlassesOn, and Essilor are offering to check your vision online -- without having to step into a doctor's office.

Opternative even sends your vision test results to an ophthalmologist licensed in your state who can review the results and your prior prescription and issue a new prescription for glasses, contacts or both.

Yet, online vision tests are not meant to replace comprehensive eye health exams, and some eye care professionals question whether they are beneficial.

I took an online vision test, received results and then asked Dr. Tom Spetalnick, clinical director of Woolfson Eye Institute in Atlanta, to conduct an in-person vision test.

Vision tests, also known as refraction tests, measure a patient's prescription for eyeglasses or contacts.

Spetalnick, a member of the Georgia Optometric Association, took me through a comprehensive eye exam as if I were a candidate for Lasik eye surgery, which he specializes in. During the exam, he was unaware of my online results.

It turned out that the online vision test and the in-person exam produced the same prescription results, revealing that my prior eyeglass and contact prescriptions had not changed.

However, Spetalnick noticed that I had slight astigmatism, a common eye condition that can make vision blurry because the eye does not focus light evenly into the retina. Some patients with slight astigmatism may not notice much change in their vision.

The online test did not identify signs of astigmatism.

Dr. Steven Lee, co-founder and chief science officer of Opternative, said there are times when the company's vision test will find a small amount of astigmatism that other professionals have missed, and vice versa.

"The bottom line with subjective refraction is, it's dependent on how the patient is responding," Lee said. "I'm very confident in how our practitioners and how ophthalmologists who work with us prescribe prescriptions in the end."

As with any new medical technology, the academy noted that online vision testing needs to be evaluated over time for safety and efficacy.

Read More: Source

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