The American Optometric Association (AOA) issued a consumer health alert to guide the public on key questions that individuals should ask when considering the use of online vision tests. The AOA warns Americans to be aware of products that give the mistaken impression that their devices can substitute for an in-person, comprehensive eye examination performed by a doctor of optometry or that they can shortcut getting a contact lens or eyeglasses prescription.
“The AOA takes seriously our role in providing accurate information regarding eye health and vision care to the American public,” says AOA President Robert C. Layman, O.D. “As new direct-to-consumer products enter the market, it’s critical for the public to be aware of the potential limitations of certain technologies. Patients should work with their doctors to make use of health technologies that enhance care, and not be misled by questionable marketing claims that undermine it.”
Doctors of optometry in communities nationwide utilize proven technology every day to deliver the highest quality care to their patients and seek out new technologies that accomplish this every day. With the proliferation of online apps, optometry and other healthcare providers have continued to raise concerns about their safety and efficacy—including disrupting the doctor-patient relationship, the potential for inaccurate prescriptions, missed diagnoses of serious and general health conditions, and the creation of a prescription with little input from an eye doctor.
The consumer health alert poses five important questions for consumers, including:
- Can you find the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval statement for the company and its test, and is the company operating within that authority?
- Do you know the doctor of optometry or ophthalmologist who is prescribing your contact lenses?
- Are you asked to sign any forms that seek to release the company from liability?
- Can you ask the doctor who is prescribing the contact lenses any questions when you are using an online vision test?
- What does a particular online vision test actually assess?
Patients need to be wary of any company that claims its device can replace the care that a doctor provides. Many eye and vision problems have no obvious signs or symptoms, so you might not know a problem exists. During an in-person, comprehensive eye exam, a doctor of optometry is able to assess the health of the eyes and eye tissue, potentially identifying more than 270 health and sight-threatening diseases, including hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and even certain forms of cancer—some of which can be cured or slowed through early diagnosis and treatment.
The AOA is a consistent advocate in ensuring patients have access to medically recognized eye health care and to protect patients from companies, platforms or services that may put their health at risk. Eyeglasses and contacts are medical devices, and patients should inform themselves and do their research before they purchase any corrective eyewear. Regardless of where a patient chooses to purchase glasses or contact lenses, they should first receive a comprehensive eye examination with a doctor of optometry to assess their eye health.
For more information on eye health and vision, or to find a local AOA doctor of optometry, visit AOA.org.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) is the leading authority on and advocate for quality eye health care, representing more than 44,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and optometric professionals. As the sole primary eye care provider in many communities across America, doctors of optometry are often a patient’s first entry point into the health care system, and have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat, and manage disorders, diseases, and injuries that affect the eye and visual system. Through a nationwide public health initiative, AOA’s Eye Deserve More campaign is fostering awareness of the importance of eye health and vision care and the overall health benefits of in-person, comprehensive eye examinations with AOA doctors of optometry for all Americans.