Why do I need a prescription for eyeglasses?

I need a new pair of glasses. The ones I currently have are perfectly fine other than having recently been scratched up a bit due to my clumsiness. I have all the data from my prescription and know the exact frame I want, so I should be able to just order it online; it is, after all, just a curved bit of plastic and a metal fitting to put it in. When trying to do so, however, I noticed that my prescription was only valid for a year and thus has expired.

So, what’s the rationale in requiring me to have a prescription? Glasses (and I’m referring to spectacles here, not contact lenses) have less potential for harm and are less invasive than any OTC drug. I’m not worried about being accosted by some groovy hippie tripping out on his eyewear, and I don’t recall any PSAs during Saturday morning cartoons about the dangers of accepting glasses from strangers. I’m also not aware of kids having all-night rave parties where they try on each other’s glasses while listening to techno music. The chance of a glasses-resistant strain of myopia developing seems remote. The best rationale I’ve seen proposed is that it’s advisable to have an eye exam every so often, but a lot of things are advisable; it’s a long way from advisable to compulsory.

Aside from continued employment for optometrists, is there any rationale for the requirement to have a prescription?

I’ve never had to enter an expiration date when ordering glasses online
There is not in preventing you from using an expired prescription.

I’m betting that the 1-year limit is just a case of CYA - as in, don’t blame us if your number changed.

Simply buy the $20 pair at the local drugstore - assuming all you need is reading glasses.

I’m guessing you entered some kind of prescription reference, rather than the actual prescription details for each eye? I have also never heard of a prescription ‘expiring’.

I was told liability by the person in my local opticians. I wanted same prescription or my lenses remounted on a frame but they wouldn’t do either for that stated reason.

From the CVS Optical FAQ

For the same reason that 10% of ethanol is blended into your gas–big business lobbying government to adopt regulations that benefit business at the expense of consumers. There may be some nominal ‘safety’ reason for why you need a prescription, but the real reason is that it boosts oligopolistic profits.

Lame! I heartily endorse this pit. Almost makes me want to vote Republican. Almost.
ETA: This is in GD?! It should be in the pit! There is no reason that I can see for forcing you to see a doctor to buy some glass if you don’t want to. Sure the prescription can change, but this does not put you in any risk. And even if it did put you at risk, so what?

How about the person you run over because you can’t see well enough to drive?

I strongly suspect that the reason they refuse to fill expired prescriptions is that, if they did so, they’d have too many people complaining, “These new glasses you made me don’t work right; I want my money back!” when in fact it was their eyes that had changed.

Because your eyesight can change. When driving, for example, it’s important to know if your previously short-sighted prescription has changed to be bifocal. Now you need glasses to see the controls on your dashboard as well as to see the signs on the road. My eyesight changed quite suddenly in the last year and I’m told that’s not uncommon for women of my age.

Also, it’s not that expensive to get an eye test; many employers pay for it and it’s generally not expensive anyway.

Anyway, if you really want to, you can just lie.

If you think that’s bad, I’ve learned that you also need a prescription for custom shoe insoles. Apparently if they’re made incorrectly they can lame you for life… or something, I really don’t get it*. A few years after getting my first one (prescribed by a podiatrist), I wanted a new one made and asked the company if I could make an appointment. They wouldn’t even set up the appointment for me until I had an rx in hand. I didn’t want to pay for another office visit with a specialist (podiatrist), so I just went to my GP for it. When I told her I needed an rx for insoles she was flabbergasted. Fortunately she just asked me what it should say and wrote that on her RX pad. :smiley:

Such a scam. I think many medical requirements are designed for the sole reason of getting you to pay for an office visit.

  • Interestingly, while insoles require an rx, built-up heels do not! One of my legs is shorter than the other by a large margin so my shoes need to be lifted to balance me out. So the item that really could cause me physical issues (misaligned legs cause spinal issues), does not require an rx, but the thing that can’t do much harm does! :smack:

The nanny state doesn’t believe you know enough about vision to detect when you need a different prescription. For some people, that makes sense. For others, including me, it’s ridiculous.

In extreme cases, letting people write their own could be dangerous. Most of the time, not so much. The law doesn’t make exceptions.

I dunno. I’d be more inclined to get on board with that argument if the requirements for legal driving were connected to my prescription. With my glasses I can see well. But my last two or three prescriptions easily pass muster with the DMV vision requirements (20/70 here in Oregon, with a 110 degree field). They aren’t perfect…but my current prescription isn’t perfect either.

Not to mention that if their vision has changed dramatically (which can happen) and they get in trouble, they’ll sue the glasses provider for giving them bad glasses.
Not to mention eye exams don’t just check vision, they check for other types of problems too. Some of which might not be obvious until it is too late.

In my experience, whenever my prescription has needed to be modified, my eyesight had always changed so gradually between check-ups that I was completely unaware that my current prescription was no longer adequate to help me see clearly. I once found out that even when wearing my glasses/contacts that had been prescribed about 18 months earlier, I would not have passed the eye test at the DMV.

Most opticians I’ve been to will not fill an eyeglass prescription over a year old.

To keep you from overdosing.

“We will verify your prescription with your doctor”

My doctor is in the Czech Republic while I get my glasses in the USA. There is no way they are going to call my doctor in Europe to check with the Czechs. :smiley: