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FOX 5 I-Team investigates

Can online eyeglass retailers handle tough prescriptions?

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Buying eyeglasses online can save you hundreds of dollars over buying them at a traditional storefront. The online price is right, but is the prescription correct? The I-Team tested easy-to-fill, single vision eyeglasses online with mixed results, but many people have tough prescriptions to fill. Can these online retailers handle it?

When it comes to eyeglasses, we want the prescription to be right. We also want great looking frames, a great low price and a great fit. So how did they do with the I-Team's Dana Fowle?

"With your level of astigmatism, coupled with the need for reading glasses now," Dr. Brian Kahn said the I-Team's Dana Fowle had a challenging eyeglass prescription.

Dr Kahn said Fowle had several prescriptions in one, and that is what the progressive lens provides.

When the I-Team shopped with online with FOX 5 viewer Anna Kelly the results were mixed
. A lab tested them and found the prescription was dead-on right, but the fit was wrong. The center of the left lens on all three glasses they bought was too low.  

Just like Kelly, Fowle bought trendy, low-cost eyeglasses from online retailers. Progressive lenses can get very expensive.

Fowle entered her prescription into each site. She definitely get a price break. At Zenni Optical, the eyeglasses were $42.85. Another pair, very similar to Fowle's current glasses, were $63.95 on the Eye Buy Direct site.  Finally, at Coastal.com, a big leap in price at $196. It was still hundreds less than her current pair she got from a local optometrist.

But it's not a great deal if you can't see out of them.  

Fowle asked an expert to look at them. Dr. Jamie Reid teaches at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry and says all three prescriptions passed the first test. They were accurate. But how about test two?

"Where that prescription fits on your face is very important for you to have optimal vision," said Reid.

The fit failed. Just like Kelly's glasses, they didn't sit on Fowle's face properly. It seemed she had one ear that sits higher than the other one.  And on the glasses from Coastal.com, her peripheral vision was distorted.

Reid says there's a new way of doing progressive prescriptions that doesn't distort your peripheral vision.

Coastal.com says they use up to date technology and recommended what all of the online retailers did: return them and order another pair until they get it right.   

The good news is that you can return the glasses. But if returning them over and possibly over again doesn't appeal to you, you might want to use a discounted service like this so that you can have a back-up pair of glasses, or a pair of prescription sunglasses.

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