More to Eye Examinations than Meets the Eye

About the glasses–or spectacles if you prefer–perched on my nose as I sit here typing, I have this to say. I absolutely love them. If,  in the process of aging (as I am), one is forced to wear eyeglasses every waking moment–to read–as well as to see far and near, then those glasses should be so comfortable that they subconsciously disappear and one never has to think of them at all, except to clean them once in awhile.

Mine are mounted in a green colored, very thin, titanium frame  that weighs mere ounces. They have flexible earpieces without hinges, and they stay in place on my face without leaving deep grooves on the mastoid bones behind by ears as all others did. I’ve been wearing them since early 2003, and decided quite some time ago that I never wanted to wear a different pair.

A year or so ago, I began to notice an occasional blurring of vision when looking far off–such as in movie theaters from the back row, and my eyes watered a bit at those times. Since it had been three years since my last eye exam, I thought it might be prudent to check with eye doctor. Therein lay the rub. Since we have little or no coverage for eye examinations (unless they’re due to disease), Hubby called around to find the best price for said eye examination. The highest was up to $200, depending on what had to be done, and the lowest was $82 at a local eyeglass dispensing store, you know the kind. They’re everywhere. He chose the least expensive and made an appointment for December 1.

Right up front, I told the optometrist I didn’t want new glasses, just an examination to be sure my eyes were healthy, and I mentioned the occasional problem seeing at a distance, and conceded that it might be simply because I didn’t clean them well and often enough. After the exam, the optometrist handed me a paper and told me to present it to one of the girls up front, who would help me. After I did what he stated, it looked like I was going to be forced into a new prescription without even being told that I needed them.

I told the girl up front, presumably an optician, that I wanted the new lens to be exactly like the old ones (axis rotation, curvature of the progressive bifocal, type of lens, etc.) and I wanted them mounted in my old frames. Of course that was possible! Arrangements were made, money passed hands, and two weeks later I went to the laboratory to have my new lens mounted while I waited.

As soon as I put the new ones on, I knew something was not right. The left eye felt as if it were being drawn out of my eye socket by a terribly strong eye magnet. Looking through the right eye was much like looking through a magnifying glass. In order to read, which was difficult at best, I had to keep jiggling my head slightly from side to side.

“You have to give them a chance,” the pretty young optician says. “You’re so used to your old lens, you’re going to have to wear them a few days to get used to them. You’ll have to trick your brain into accepting the information the new lens is feeding it. After a few days you should be fine.” It sounded like bunk to me, but I was raised to be an obedient girl, so even now that I fit the more definitive term of old girl, I resolved to give them a try.

That resolve lasted exactly as long as it took us to drive home. I went straight to the telephone, dialed the eyeglass lab and told them I’d be back the next morning in spite of the predicted snowstorm to have the left lens replaced as it was the one giving me the most trouble. That done, and to make a long story short, after repeated drives across town every few days to have adjustments, I was talked into trying two or three more lens remakes,  because the optical store did not give refunds, and they would remake them as many times as it took to get them right. Admirable to be sure, but I really doubted their ability and my sanity for going along with them for so long.

So I began to do some research. What I learned amazed me. First of all there’s a very high percentage of optical remakes, I wish I could remember the percentage but can’t, but simply learning this consoled me in that I know I’m not alone in the problems I’ve had. I could almost, but not quite, forget about the looks I got that suggested perhaps the problem was in my (old) head!

In some states, and Utah is one of them, opticians are not required to be licensed and may not even require special education. Some advertisements for opticians that I read stated experience preferred but will train, hence the expression in the optical business: flipping burgers on Monday, dispensing glasses by Friday. I’m not suggesting the several opticians I worked with aren’t capable of good work, but I am suggesting that they should be trained and licensed after passing certain standards in the field.

After the third pair of glasses, and an additional purchase at the same store of a NEW frame because it was thought that could be the problem, I tucked the new glasses into their case and started carrying them in my bag as a possible replacement should the old ones get broken. My mind continued to mull the problem, and a lot of sleep was lost until I finally faced the fact that they were so bad, I would never use them. I said as much to Hubby, who was sick of my complaints at that point. He remarked in his cavalier way that we could just mark the whole affair up as a $300 mistake. What cannot be cured must be endured was his take. Instead, I decided to make last-ditch effort.

I made an appointment with an opthamologist at the renowned eye center at the University and called the eyeglass store to tell them I would not be able to use the new glasses they’d sold me and the only thing I knew to do was to have an independent examination at the eye center and try to figure out what my problem was, and that I would be in touch afterwards.  To my surprise, they then offered to return all my money, even that I’d spent on the new frames I didn’t want.

The second examination at the eye center revealed that my vision–with my existing eyeglass Rx–was 20/20. There was a small change in the astigmatism but not enough to warrant new lens at this time. Without the glasses, the Rx was nearly the same as it was three years ago. The occasional blurring could be due to pollen or polution or–most likely–the dry air. They gave me a sample of eyedrops to alleviate the problem.

My research revealed that optometrists, opticians, anyone who takes part in dispensing your new glasses at many if not all of these optical businesses that proliferate cities far and wide, make varying percentages of the money you pay for glasses. Nothing wrong with that IF you really do need new lens, but it suggests that if they don’t find a reason for new glasses, they make less money. In spite of my telling the optometrist I only wanted an eye exam to see IF my eyes were healthy and IF the occasional blurring in distance might mean a change. Ethically, he should have told me that I did not need new lenses, that my old ones gave me 20/20 vision. Instead, he prescribed strong distance and closeup and changed the axis. Whether that, or wrong measurements, resulted in my fiasco, I should never have had to go through two months of self-doubt. That, as it turns out, was worst thing that happened.

I cannot tell you how good it felt to learn that my eyeglass adjustment problem was not because I was a neurotic aging old lady, but just that I simply did not need a lens adjustment, only an occasional application of eyedrop moisture, and perhaps more routine cleaning of said lens. Here’s hoping I’ll be wearing these old new glasses I’m barely aware of for a long, long time. And when I do need another eye examination, you can be sure the cost factor will NOT be the deciding criteria for who does the examination. Experience is indeed the best teacher.

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15 thoughts on “More to Eye Examinations than Meets the Eye

  1. We had this conversation years ago–never buy stuff on price alone. We also discussed that , 98 percent of the time, men will use price as the sole criterion for buying anything. Remember how we’d scour the sales racks at Gimbel’s, Kaufmann’s and Horne’s at lunch time? We wanted the good stuff cheap. If we had wanted the cheap stuff even cheaper, we would have gone to Lerner’s. Promise me that you will consult only MDs and DOs when dealing with your eyes. Oh, that MD thing extends to other body parts as well.

    • Ml! My shoppingmeister from the old days, how could I have forgotten your advice?! I will never forget those days when I sat at your knees and learned, from you and Mrs. Slippy (my Pgh foster mother), how to shop in the big city. If only my hubby had had an equally good shoppingmeister! Hear! Hear! I’ve learned and, humbled now, I bow my head.

  2. I have such bad eyes I have only used highly recommended MDs and ODs for most of my life. When I recently outgrew the glasses I found at Walgreens I was really lucky to find a good optical shop that got my progressives right on the first try.

  3. I have heard of this type of service happening before. The guy I see knows how to charge, but having said that he checks the pressure, and scans the eyes. I get to see the old and new pictures to compare. All this is done before testing for changes in distance and reading.

    Now that I have reached the golden third age the test is free but I pay for lenses and frames.

  4. Ruthe, the person at the eye center at the U told me that anybody who tells you that you have to get used to new glasses, that you have to trick the brain into accepting them, is lying. I suspected that because the ones I’m wearing were wonderful from about a minute after I put them on. I did adjust in that I could see so well after the change. My lesson learned is that I should have insisted from the beginning that I KNOW HOW MY EYES FEEL, and I would not accept that argument. I’ve had several glasses over the years that were done right on the first try, too. The problem with these was, I didn’t need them in the first place. That really freaks me out! I shudder to think of how many people are wearing glasses they don’t really need because they went to an eyeglass provider that makes more money the more glasses they sell, and they’re probably all driving!

  5. Was happy to hear the good outcome of your eye experience. You really do have to be so careful!
    My distance sight got foggy about 10 years ago, but I really didn’t realize it. Went to get my license renewed, they had me read into the sight machine and I read what I THOUGHT I was seeing and they’re SO friendly at the Registry (NOT!) the guy yelled at me, “Do you have glasses for distance?” I said, “yeah, but I seldom wear them. I don’t need them.” He sarcastically said, “PUT them on!” Which I did and he promptly stamped my license that I can’t drive without glasses. So much for that.
    And now? The ONLY time I wear those glasses are when I drive! I can see as far as I want.

  6. Nice to hear from you Grannymar. You’re lucky to have free testing there in your part of the world. Hope springs eternal for many of us Americans that when the economic crisis is settled here (not if!) Washington can turn their attention to healthcare reform, including that for eyes!

  7. Hi Terri. I know what you mean by those friendly people at the license bureaus…do they have to pass some kind of mean test to get employment in those agencies!? (Btw, I’m so looking forward to the fall issue of your new book SPINNING FORWARD. Thanks for your newsletter keeping me informed.)

  8. I never knew that an optometrist did not require a specific license/level of education. That’s shocking! You’ve done really well to hang in there and fight it out – it’s so tempting to blame yourself rather than the “professionals”!

    I have had lazic surgery and the ability to see first thing in the morning and not search for my glasses (and see while swimming, WOW) has been phenomenal. I have to admit that the added benefit of not having to argue with optometrists had not previoiusly occurred to me.

  9. Let me jump right in here, Sylvia, to set something straight. Optometrists ARE required to have special training and a license. It’s the optician in SOME states that don’t need special schooling and can be in-store trained if one with experience is not available to fill a slot. The opthamologist is of course the one who has more schooling and can prescribe lens as well as treat diseases of the eye and perform surgery. I’m not certain how many years the optometrist has to go to school, but I think as little as two. And some of them are good I’m sure. I just cannot understand why the one I went to felt the need to over prescribe me when I already had 20/20 vision with the glasses I wore into the lab. When I learned about the extra padding of the paychecks, I had to presume it meant a bigger bank account which is handy for anybody, especially in early December with Christmas expenses looming. The opticians are the people in the front of the stores sitting at the little glass desks with frame samples who put that little thing over your eyes and make and mark the measurements for the new lens (you’ve seen them put little black X’s right on the lens?) and is in charge of making the orders. If I ever went to an optical store optometrist for an eye exam again, I would inquire whether they receive additional money for any order resulting from the examination. I hope I’ve cleared this up for you.

    I’d be very tempted to have lasik surgery too, but I’m both far- and near-sighted and I’d still need glasses to read. Knowing me, I’d always have to looking for them when I need them. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. I’m leaping into this one a little late, but hurrah. Yes, cost doesn’t matter. That Ophthalmologist, the eye MD, was the correct way to go. I did the option last time as I was unhappy with the new MD, and I am miserable. Bought cheap frames, and am more miserable. Serves me right.

    I discovered all the things you did through trial and error also. So glad you got your old prescription back in your old frames. I have computer glasses like yours……no one touches them.

    Stay warm. G’s family lives your way, and I hope you all are ready for the next wave of cold coming your way.

  11. Never too late, Mage. I’m sorry that you bought cheap frames; they can make such a difference! The new frames I bought in this story were cheap–and bad–they wouldn’t stay up. It took little for them to slide down my nose, just reach out to open a door. I got up from my office chair to gather my things to leave for an appointment and right outside the door they not only fell off my face onto the carpet but the lens earpiece came loose and the lens popped out of one side. AND to make matters worse I stepped on the earpiece before I realized they’d fallen off! It was a pivotal moment. I don’t blame you for guarding those glasses you really like.

    It’s not too bad here, messy with wet snow but bout of sunshine make each day tolerable. And I’m never far out of reach of my long johns! Thanks for caring.

  12. Hey,
    so i read this and i have to add one more thing – not only DON’T SHOP ON PRICE ALONE, but ignore dad and listen to me on these ones. I’d have sent you to Moran right away b/c any place that turned down a customer for extremely expensive eye surgery because, as he told me, ‘i can’t guarantee you anything like a worthwhile result’, is a place i trust.

    i’m glad you don’t need new glasses. but when you do….trust me on that one too, okay?

  13. RYN: You are so very kind. I think my forgetting was a combination of poor planning, poor organization, and old age.

    Yes, I’ll not let anyone get their hands on my titanium computer glasses, but I can hardly wait until I can afford a pair for every day. 🙂

  14. Good information! I bought new prescription sunglasses a while back to replace some that accidentally got run over and smashed … I haven’t liked them at all. I’ll have to storm the shop and get some results!

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