An online eye exam is an automated and interactive vision test that claims to measure mainly visual acuity. It may seem like a convenient way to evaluate your vision or get an eyeglass or contact lens prescription, as these tests can be administered using your computer, tablet, or smartphone from the comfort of your home.
But these tests — which should not be confused with telehealth visits — are performed by a computer program, not a professional eye care practitioner, and they cannot and should not replace a comprehensive, in-person eye exam.
Online eye tests, which are impersonal and superficial by nature, can cause you to miss out on some important, even life-saving, information about your eye health and vision.
What Do Online Eye Tests Evaluate?
First off, it's important to recognize that an online eye test does not evaluate the health of your eyes. It's more of a vision test than an eye test, as it’s designed as an attempt to measure your visual acuity and refractive error, and, in some cases, contrast sensitivity and color blindness. Furthermore, the accuracy of the prescriptions provided by online vision tests is questionable. Providing the correct optical prescription requires the eye doctor's direct and open communication with the patient. The right prescription needs subjective input and experienced analysis from an eye doctor — professional skills that can never be replicated accurately through an online program.
While the technology promises convenience, the American Optometric Association (AOA) advises caution, as these exams can offer misleading information and may contribute to a patient believing—incorrectly—that his or her eye health needs have been met. The online eye test measurements provide little-to-no information on the health of your eyes, and cannot determine whether you may have a sight-threatening condition such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, or other eye diseases. Nor do online exams address problems like dry eye, retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy, or functional vision problems — such as difficulty with eye teaming or convergence insufficiency.
The Importance of a Comprehensive Eye Exam
Optometrists undergo years of study and specialized training. They develop a comprehensive understanding of how to evaluate your eyes not only for sight, but for any underlying conditions. In fact, vision and health are closely linked. Comprehensive eye exams enable our doctors to detect signs of diseases that may affect your entire body, but which show early signs in your eyes.
- High cholesterol
- Sjogren's syndrome
- Neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or a brain tumor
Is a Virtual Eye Exam Cost-Saving?
Some people erroneously believe that an online eye test can save them not only time but also money, compared with a comprehensive eye exam performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. It's important to note that these virtual tests offer only a sliver of the services you'd normally receive from your eye doctor during a thorough ocular exam.
Carrying out a professional eye exam requires training, precision, and the proper equipment. Anything less can put your eyes and vision at serious risk.
Safeguard Your Eyes and Sight
A comprehensive in-person eye exam is the only way to determine whether your eyes are healthy and free from sight-threatening conditions. Early detection and treatment of these problems can potentially prevent vision loss. Eye care practitioners frequently discover an infection, chronic illness or eye disease during what patients would have expected to be a simple, routine ocular exam. These scenarios are far more common than we’d like to imagine.
To safeguard the health of your eyes and sight, have a comprehensive, in-person eye exam with Advanced Eyecare on a regular basis. Your health may depend on it.