Online Eyeglass Prescription

Optometry today is something like 95% politics. It’s trying to take over, state by state in the US, as much of ophthalmology as it can, while still trying to hang onto measurment of eyes for contact-lens and even spectacle-lens correction of ordinary spherical and cylindrical defocusing over the full distance range of normal eyesight. Contact lenses require data on the shape of the cornea and involve considerable medical concern in their use adjacent to the tissues of the eye; however, spectacle optometry and corrective prescription is just optics-lab optics, together with proper instructions to the client as to how to make the measurements himself.

If optometrists hadn’t arranged state/provincial laws against such, in order to sustain their incomes, many more versions of focus-correcting eyeglasses would be available today in drugstores and supermarkets. As it is, only a few non-astigmatism-correcting, single-vision, plus-lens glasses are grandfathered as OK to sell over the counter. Optometrists, of course, will give you all kinds of stories about how they have to fuss with you, and use all kinds of inefficient routines to get your best-vision prescription or whatever prescript he or you wants. In fact and normative law, they have no business claiming eyeglasses must be sold on prescription, because there are no safety considerations involved in choosing lens powers and other parameters of eyeglasses.

I have experienced, throughout my adult life, continual screw-ups by optometrists and ophthalmologists in getting the proper correction for my simply presbyopic and moderately astigmatic eyes. I have recently spent some time on the Usenet newsgroup tangling with optometrists and opticians over lots of the nonsense they feed the public.

Yanking these guys’ laws away from them would produce many more OTC eyeglasses variations but not the full range needed to cover all spherical and cylindrical optical correction. However, I claim that something like 90-95% of eyeglass prescriptions could be accomplished today by self-service automatic, non-contact optical instrumentation and that much superior instrumentation for this purpose would be quickly forthcoming, given a free market in this area. I have heard that some years back there were such prescriptions so determined for free, by the customer – in Kowloon, HK, for instance – only on the requirement of ordering the specs from the place having the machine. The only private report on the results such a transaction, which was heard from a customer of this storefront, was full satisfaction; and the transaction, in his case, occurred after his having gotten poor results from optometrists. So the free self-prescription in K-Marts has definitely been feasible for years, given an overhaul of state/provincial and national laws.

The next logical question is how much and what kind of optics would be needed for an optometric accessory for a home PC in order to do the same job. The price on such optical hardware, which would probably involve deformable lenses, is apt be more than most people would be willing to pay. So, the next question is:

Is it not possible to measure simple spherical and/or cylindrical defocusing of the human eye’s lens system by subjective methods alone, employing DSP software on a standard PC with no optics in front of it? Can one not, in the case of a user of a PC who suffers a range of spherical and cylindrical eye defocussing, have him run such software so as to control sophisticated dot patterns on his monitor, viewable one eye at a time; and have him manipulate these patterns by keyboard and mouse in such manner as to end up with some definitive indication on his monitor, such as a clearer pattern of dots, that would inform him that numerical readings, also displayed on the monitor, now provide him with accurate values of the toric optical parameters needed for his eyeglass prescription. If so, such software could have separate additional modes for bifocal and trifocal lenses. Other tests of light sensitivity, color sensation, convergence and field integrity, all presently feasible, could also be included, for pursuing other problems of eye health and functionality.


This idea has all the sensibility of a do-it-yourself paint mixing / shaking scheme for a K Mart paint department. The problem, Ray, is that you vastly overestimate the intelligence of the general population.

Following such instructions is beyond the average Joe. I can tell you unequivocally neither of my parents would be able to do it.

Then there’s the person who can’t read the instructions without glasses - what do they do?

You yourself said even the professionals screw up (and I can attest to that) but in your scenario, the layman is going to do a better job? I don’t think so. You might as well post a Merck Manual at the pharmacy with detailed instructions for diagnosing every illness known to man, then making all the drugs over the counter.

Optometrists have been fighting like mad to stop mail-order contact-lens service, as well. They’ve managed to lobby our province to prevent anyone from dispensing contact lenses who doesn’t have a license, so technically it’s illegal to order contacts through the mail. There was a business that set up here called ‘contacts to go’ which would take your prescription and provide contacts at a discount price, and the optometrists’ lobby managed to force them out of business.

On the other hand, if the optometrists lose their partial monopoly on eyeglass and contact lens sales, the price of the basic visit is sure to go up.

Has anyone else noticed that when you go for your check up now, he really doesn’t have to do anything…I just look into this machine, and it tells him what my prescription is…hell they could put one of those in a K-mart of something…

I haven’t lost my mind, I have a tape backup around somewhere.

dhanson said:
_____________________________________________There was a business that set up here called ‘contacts to go’ which would take your prescription and provide contacts at a discount price, and the optometrists’ lobby managed to force them out of business.

There are still a couple around or at least there was a month or so ago when I bought my last package of disposables via their web site.

I can almost never get a good eyeglass prescription. I tell them repeatedly that I’m having difficulty reading distant traffic signs, yet they insist that being able to read small letters at 15 feet is the same as being able to read large letters at 100 yards. I wish like heck someone could come up with some sort of holographic image you could focus yourself that would automatically give the correction you need.


What is being said here? I am assuming ‘sensibility’ is used here in the sense of ‘intellectual understanding’, not some emotional take. Are you saying people generally have been improperly mixing paint for centuries because they haven’t first attended the Sorbonne or something? And once they put paint-can shakers in stores that sell paint, did anyone ever try to shake you down for the shake? And if you’re talking about matching paint colors, do they do that in a sophisticated manner at K-Mart? I can be sure that, if they do, given their quality of clerks, the equipment necessary for the job must be so user-friendly that most of the public could use it. I don’t know if reasonably priced color matchers are available for sale to the public, but if there should be a big charge everywhere for mixing-to-a-match of paint, and some people do a lot of painting, I don’t see why a simple economical electro-optical device couldn’t be mass-marketed to read out the necessary proportions of different colors of given paint supplies necessary to produce a close match to a given color sample.

The problem, Nickrz, is that you vastly don’t understand that machines today can be made to allow even idiots to compose an Encyclopedia Britannica. . .IF the front panel or front end of the software is designed right. I can get really annoyed at some of the ways the front ends of software end up in a mass-marketed product, but there exist the time-constraints of competition and figuring out of how to do proper alpha and beta testing and design modification efficiently, I suppose.

You don’t know yet what they would have to “understand” to do this. I wasn’t implying you would have to hand them a selection of lenses and a book on optics. I was proceeding on the basis that they need only look at a pattern on their PC screens and, somewhat intuitively, manipulate it with keyboard keys and mouse so as to make it approach some form that can be described in everyday linguistic terms, at which point they would be able to press a key on their keyboard that would print out some numbers (which they wouldn’t have to interpret) that would provide sufficient information for an optical-lens house to supply eyeglass lenses tailored to their eye deficiencies. The use of such software on a PC would actually be less complicated and ambiguous than the archaic nonsensical instructions optometrists presently give to persons whose eyesight “they” measure.

I put a disclaimer in there of ineffectiveness for 5-10% of the public; however, there are at least six types of solutions to the problem you pose:

  1. The customer already has glasses adequate to read simple instructions.

  2. Hardcopy instructions having, or software that produces, large print allows this customer to read the instructions.

  3. A friend or relative reads the instructions to the customer.

  4. An analog audio cassette or CD or digital CD-ROM instructs the customer.

  5. Text-to-speech software reads digital, or same with a scanner scans and reads hardcopy, textual instructions to the customer.

  6. The marketability of the instrumented consumer optometrics I suggest doesn’t rest on its feasibility in the case of the customer most reduced to a vegetative state, but today such persons generally have access to electronic means of communication sufficient to accomplish the simple task of instructing the user of such optometrics.

Nickrz is implying, I guess, that he would not be uninstructable on such a task, so we could ask him to instruct his parents simply what change in pattern they should be looking for and the ways to move a mouse, say, to accomplish them.

Certainly! The customer, in using what I suggest – and what has been implemented in conventional optics and applied at the retail level apparently in such places as Hong Kong – would not get involved in the “Is this clearer than that?” nonsense with which optometrists confuse everybody (because the latter don’t know how to compare different types of distortion). What I suggest is better than their nonsense, and it avoids all the intersubjective communication between the optometrist and the test subject, which is what very often causes faulty optometric prescriptions. But, yes, it does take some of the optoms’ jobs, as presently practiced, away from them. Let them concentrate on the additional measurement necessary for contact-lens prescription and on all the things on which they want to compete with ophthalmologists.

One point I mentioned in my OP was that, while many drugs, some addictive, are dangerous for a consumer to obtain and administer to himself without prescription restrictions, optometric “prescriptions” are quite a different animal. They are a form of guild-wide collusion by optometrists to prevent OTC availability of simply a non-hazardous piece of wearing apparel. There is no safety element involved in their concept of a prescription, unless you feel that teddy bears are too hazardous to sell except on prescription.

It appears to me that Nickerz, here, represents the Luddite view that there should be nothing but archaic, or even eccentric, artisans providing all products and services to modern mankind – and that a high percentage of the public are generally incapable of common sense and should always be sheparded by those who scheme to control persistence of their God-given arts. Does he suppose we would be doing these silly dances here in cyberspace if engineers and programmers hadn’t decided the hell with those self-centered shamans, and even many of those ivy-blinded philosophers; lookie this. . .and the corporate shekel-amassers hadn’t noticed?

I do realize, though, that Nickrz has put lots of effort into that fine art and complex task of moving and removing all or parts of posts from this forum. Yes, it would take quite a smart hacker to do that – from the outside. :wink: