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This is another of the scams that they perpetrate on us. For a large number of us, our prescriptions really don't change outside of the tolerances of human error and daily differences -- "One or two? Click. Click. One or two? Click. Click. One or two? Click. Click. Click."

I know for a fact that my last two prescriptions haven't changed enough to warrant a new pair of glasses. How do I know this? My ophthalmologist told me so. Something to the effect of, "this is a very minor change, if you don't need new glasses, you certainly don't need to get new ones." I'm no doctor, but I think I understand what he's trying to relate. He's a good guy and why I keep going back every two years to get my eyes checked out. It's not for the the prescription, I can tell if I need a new one. It's for the eye-pressure tests and all of the other things they look to catch early before they become a problem.

I have a "valid" prescription. It's less than a year old. I always have a valid prescription, but if I didn't for the year and needed new glasses, the eyeglasses store at the mall would have me over a barrel on a technicality.

No longer. I didn't need to fax anyone my prescription when I ordered from Zenni and Goggles4U. I entered the numbers on a form on a web page, checked them for accuracy (about 6 times), and hit submit. My PD was easy enough to measure. Like all of this stuff, it ain't "rocket surgery".

This two-year prescription law is protectionist, it's also pretty much unenforceable. I can't imagine any "hard time" for using a three-year old prescription.

If your lenses are still working for you and they get scratched or broken and you're in "prescription limbo-land" there is no reason you shouldn't consider ordering online and taping up your glasses for the interim.

Better yet, order the $25 pair right now and don't fret.

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At November 16, 2006 at 1:51 AM Anonymous said...

Expired prescriptions? You bet. What do you do when a 10 yr old kid becomes a 15 yr old kid? His eyes and vision might, er, have changed. That's why prescriptions expire. The same applies when you are taking medications - someone oughta check with you periodically to make you are ok. Can't keep on filling the Codeine Rx, you know. There are docs who don't want to give you the prescription and that's against the law, but not necessarily wrong. But hey, consider what happens when you order something online and can't see and get in to an car accident - are you going to sue the online retailer or suffer from your own stupidity/errors in measuring your own PD? Bottom line, everyone's gotta eat, some eat better than others. BTW you know how much dentists pay for their almagams, and how much patients get charged for the almagams? But that's another blog. The online store costs so much less because they probably have illegals working for chump change or are using child labor or something. The online store could make a lot more money if they stay close to the cost of the offline stores, say, by a 10% margin or so. They'll figure it out soon enough. Bottom line, if you can get it cheap go for it - before it gets expensive.

(Did you know that Motel 6 charges LESS for a stay compared the Hilton? you get a bed, pillow and a bathroom at both places).

At November 16, 2006 at 9:32 AM Ira said...

Thanks anonymous (at least Stephanie had the testicular fortitude to add a name)!

I think if you re-read my post, you'll agree I wasn't advocating 15-year olds using 5 year old prescriptions.

You, very interestingly, compare a "refill" of eyeglasses to Codeine. Give me a break.

The bottom line is there is VERY little difference in quality between the glasses I recently broke and the new ones I've gotten -- in fact since I have a "valid" prescription they're sharper still. I don't forsee a rash of people suddenly crashing into each other because they're wearing dramatically wrong prescriptions. But I'll let time bear that one out.

PD? Give me my PD and I won't need to measure my own -- that's the criminal part (see the citation in the other post).

The real bottom line is that the gravy train is pulling into the station. It's not there yet, but I think you should be able to see it coming around the corner soon.

Nice use of deflection with the dentist commentary. Nice, but too little too late.

Sure the online places may increase prices moving forward, but the brick and mortars are going to meet them in a *MUCH* more reasonable range or they'll be gone.

Sure everyone's gotta eat. Everyone's gotta see, too. Because of the option the online stores give me, and contrary to what you'd apparently like, I get to do both, (and you can have chicken nuggets for dinner this evening).

Bon Appetit.

At November 24, 2006 at 6:51 AM JT said...

Is it against the law to attempt to obtain glasses/contact lenses without a prescription or with an expired prescription?

At December 8, 2006 at 6:01 PM sam said...

ya, but come on, the "law" is just the governments opinion. If we have different opinions, can't we all just get along? :D

At December 8, 2006 at 8:52 PM GG said...

Great blog, I found you via the Boing Boing link -- I am a huge fan of (but not for much longer, getting Lasik next month!!).

As for prescriptions, I had the same recent problem with my "expired" contacts prescription (I use daily disposables and ran out). I don't even mind paying for a new exam, but I just don't have the time to visit an optometrist right now! So I ordered from, who lets you fax in your prescription. It was very easy to just scan and Photoshop my old prescription with a new date. Just a tip, in case you ever wear contacts sometimes!

Oh and obviously, that first commenter was right -- wearing slightly off-prescription glasses is totally comparable to ingesting the wrong prescription medication. :)

At December 8, 2006 at 11:30 PM Scott said...

Your ophthalmologist should be willing to refresh your prescription gratis if you call him or her and ask. Especially if you've been a patient for years and your prescription has stayed stable. I think eyeglass sellers don't want the liability.

At December 9, 2006 at 9:08 AM Anonymous said...

...the entire government/medical cartel 'prescription' system is a racket.

...and certainly for mere eyeglasses, little real harm can be done with a 'bad' set of eyeglasses.

Consumers are smart enough to buy thousands of products -- without a government bureaucrat permission-slip.

Why not prescriptions for shoes ??
Surely, an ill-fitting pair of shoes can cause significant foot ailments & injury -- even falls with broken bones.

The government should immediately require a podiatrist-prescription for all sales of shoes!
{...what do ya think the price of shoes would be if that happened ??}

At December 12, 2006 at 10:18 AM Denni said...

Nice comparison with shoes! I was dumb enough not to wear in my hiking boots and carried the scars for months... ;)

But seriously, I still see a lot better with my old (left-over) disposable contacts--4 years out of date--than without when scuba diving and I actually thought my old prescription glasses (sadly lost) worked better than the new ones for which I ended up forking out over £ 250 before coming across this site!

I also found this link via BoingBoing and have just ordered a pair of prescription sunglasses from an online retailer for about £ 30. The frame won't fit so well (I have an oddly small face) but for sunglasses worn only on holiday, that's not a problem.

Thanks for all the good work!

At September 3, 2007 at 6:43 AM Anonymous said...

As with everything in life now, it's about lawsuits. Ira ia absolutely right, that the exam ia about the "health" of your eyes, more so than the Rx for glasses. But you must also consider that many people don't realize they need a Rx change until they get one.......

to GG, if you want to commit fraud, that is your choice, but please be at least responsible enough not to suggest it to others......

In essence, when you use a Rx to get another pair of glasses, it is a refill. Medication prescription can only be refilled for a year, without a new Script from the Dr. Why should glasses be any different...... it is a safeguard.... for you well being

At September 24, 2007 at 11:36 PM Anonymous said...

I always get a little confused when i hear this over and over - "OH my rx has not changed " - and they said i did nto have to change my glasses -

Well - if it has not changed - WHY did the doctor CHANGE THE NUMBERS IN THE RX ??

I know - to cover his ASS - since the old rx - did nto correct you to 20-20 - they changed it - to get you to see the best you can -

I just feel - if the rx - did not change - then fine IT DID NOT CHANGE - but lets be honest here -
Don't say one thing - and write an rx for another -
I have seen many times - people say this - and when they get there new rx - they LOVE it - and comment on it over and over - CHANGES IN X USUALLY TAKE A PERIOD OF TIME TO HAPPEN - so what you see over and over is

the md says "oh it did not change - ( but change it on the rx ) _ and the next year - the rx even changed more then the last - so the md gives you the updated - rx - AND GUESS WHAT _+ YOU HAVE ISSUES MAKING THAT BIG OF A JUMP IN RX _ AND THEY MUST BACK YOU OFF - to get used to it - and GUESS WHAT - YOU WHERE NOT GETTING THE SAME VA as before

At November 1, 2007 at 5:01 PM Anonymous said...

I just ran into this feeding frenzy by the vision industry. My former contacts supplier used to automatically send me more contacts every year on one prescription for three years. I always managed, all by my little self, to visit the optometrist when I felt I needed help with my vision.

I've been wearing contacts since I was 12 years old. Every time I visit an optometrist, they tell me my eyes look GREAT, very healthy. It's amazing I'm still alive after all this time without forcibly having an optometrist hold my hand (and give him cold hard cash to boot.)

I was just turned down by the contacts supplier because my optometrist said my 1 year prescription had expired. There's evidently been laws and regulations added so that suppliers can't sell them and optometrists can rake in more dough.

I have no health insurance and I am trying to start a home business. I bookmarked enough money to buy the contacts. Now I have to shell out more for the visit.

I don't think it's that Americans want to embrace socialized medicine. I think we're just reeling in the pocket book from the greed of these people who took the Hippocratic Oath.

When I last had health insurance is when I visited this optometrist. I was on a strict budget then and the whole thing, including glasses, was supposed to cost $30 because I had paid for vision insurance.

The nurse suggested this, and that, and this. I used to trust doctor's offices to give me what I really needed for my health. I now have a pair of supersonic, x-ray vision, fire-proof spectacles that would last through an atomic bomb. My bill, a surprise to me, ended up costing $177.

Two visits ago to a dentist's office, at least five employees in the office touting a 'special' gum toothpaste. They kept pushing it over and over. I did get an x-ray done between the Soupy Sales job and I definitely had to pay for that x-ray. But they missed the cavity that prompted my visit in the first place and reassured me there was nothing wrong.

After 6 months of more aggravation from this tooth, I went to another dentist and, tada, the cavity was obvious to him.

I haven't been to doctor's appointment lately where it didn't feel like I was actually at a used car lot.

We need something done with our health industry because frankly I don't think there are a lot of Americans that trust them anymore, or the pharmaceutical industry. I'm not concerned about 'being behind Europe.' I'm concerned about the shysters we have pretending to be doctors.

At February 11, 2008 at 6:35 PM Mary said...

To the first person who commented:

Your eyes usually stop changing at 18 or 19..That's what the doctor told me when I was considering getting lasik eye surgery.

At September 5, 2008 at 7:44 AM Larry Who? said...

Anybody who thinks they can Photoshop a prescription and paste new issue and expiration dates and fax it to 1800Contacts is an idiot. No dispenser will accept a prescription without the doctor's name, address and phone number. Why? Because they call to confirm the validity of the prescription before filling it. Can't believe someone would be stupid enough to say they pulled this off.

Secondly, prescriptions expire for a good reason, especially in the case of contacts. Contact lenses all cause progressive damage to the cornea, like it or not. Thank your lucky stars that your contact prescription expires, thus forcing you to see the doctor so he can stop your cornea from turning into a raisin by saying "you are no longer compatible with contacts".

Lastly, for you uneducated people who think the slightest wrong value in your sphere, cylinder or axis can't cause permanent damage to your eyes. I say, live it up with your sweat-shop specs that any moron can buy off the web. The day that you have to go apply for social security disability benefits because the induced prism in poorly made lenses made you go cross-eyed...Think back to this thread and remember what an educated optical worker wrote here.

Live it up now, because when you only make $600 or less per month from social security disability for the blind, you're gonna wish you lived it up before you destroyed your eyes.

At September 5, 2008 at 10:48 AM W said...

I'm fascinated by Larry who?'s claim that an incorrectly filled perscription will cause PERMANENT blindness. That seems like an incredibly bold claim that I would love to see a citation for.

At September 17, 2008 at 7:00 PM Anonymous said...

Help - I belive the federal law is clear that a prescrition must be handed over so that a consumer can go to any seller of his choice to obtain an eye glass. My optician gave me a prescrption but it does not contain the PD- Pupillary distance and refuses to give it. What is the recourse ?

WOuld appreciate your help

At September 18, 2008 at 12:11 AM Ira said...


First, find a new optometrist and tell your friends. This guy is obviously not interested in your vision. He'll argue that the PD is not truly part of the prescription, but he has it and is simply holding it hostage because he's an a-hole.

Second, read this post. You can get the PD yourself.

At December 2, 2008 at 4:03 PM Anonymous said...

So I lost a contact today at school. I'm almost blind as a bat without some sort of device (i.e. contacts glasses) I went to wal-mart to see if I could get a trial for my left eye so I could drive home. She checked my prescription and apparently it had expired.
So. She says "you'll need an exam."
I was like "FOR ONE CONTACT?"
"I can't give you a contact without an exam" she says
I was like you're bloody kidding me. I have a test to take at school and I CAN'T SEE! I wanted to pay for a trial.She said no. She made me schedule an appointment and would not give me a left contact lense without me scheduling an appointment. Now I have to rework a schedule so I can get new lenses. Absolute bloody NONSENSE!

At November 2, 2009 at 10:33 AM Sonja said...

Obviously none of the individuals discussing this matter are even considering the issue with diseases that can be discovered during a proper eye examination and reversed or slowed down in progression if caught in time. This is why the regulation states a 2 year exam in the state of NH. If you don't give a darn about your health then fine, you don't need to be seen every 2 years; however, I know many patients who were perfectly happy when our optometrists were able to identify issues an the front side and prevent vision loss and more serious issues such as stroke/heart attack from early diagnosis.

At April 21, 2010 at 12:51 PM Susan said...

Your optician and optometrist aren't refusing to fill you expired prescriptions because they are money-grubbing meanies. They are refusing to fill it because their licenses to practice their professions hinge on their following the rules limiting the professions. And - there REALLY are people who check this out. I know people who have lost their professional licenses over this issue - two people, in fact.

At August 17, 2010 at 9:54 AM RedStickHam said...

When I had my eyes examined last year ago, my prescription had changed slightly and I was still seeing fine out of my glasses, but my left contact was getting blurry. That sort of thing has happened to me before so what I have done is just get new contacts but kept the glasses of the old prescription through more than one eye exam. I have a relatively weak correction(-2.00/-3.50 -0.75/-0.25 astigmatism at my last exam) so I can probably get away with that more than some people can.

The one thing that shocked my wife about online glasses was so far, I've ordered and received glasses from 2 different vendors( and and neither of them have asked me for a copy of my prescription or even my doctor's contact information. I also just ordered from and they haven't asked me for it either. In fact, I could probably put any numbers in and get a pair of glasses and if the numbers aren't too outrageous, nobody would say anything. I think that is something of a valid concern.

In response to Sonja, "proper eye examination" is the key phrase here. I've lived in multiple cities in my lifetime, and have had trouble finding good optometrists in all of them. I've been to one who took less than 10 minutes to examine me and of course gave me an inaccurate prescription. Finding a good one is hard these days.

At October 1, 2010 at 12:13 PM HMK said...

I'm 36. My prescription hasn't changed in 20 years.
I require single visions glasses, I don't have diabetes or any health problems.
In Canada, the law requires me to go back to an optician/opthamologist to get my eyes checked every two years before I can fill a presciption at a dispensing optician.

The last time I had an eye exam, the doctor added something to it that ended up distoring my vision when I had the prescitpion filled.
So I had to make another trip back to get him to change to back to the WAY IT WAS on my last prescription.

Here in Winnipeg, the average cost of an eye exam is $65 - 80.
Glasses, off the shelf, for single vision, no coatings, thick plastic lenses, start at above $200. One of the last full pair of prescirption glasses I purchased cost me over $400 - and that's without transitions, progressives, etc.

I just got a quote for $155+ taxes to simply replace the lenses in an old pair of glasses.
My presciption is 3 years old - BUT IT HASN'T CHANGED.
So now I'm going to get dinged for both an exam AND overpriced lenses just to replace the lenses in a pair of glasses - which is more than I paid for these glasses originally.
I might as well just throw them in the garbage.

I want to buy glasses online, because I really can't afford to go hungry because of the cost of eyeglass examinations and dispensing in this city/province/country.
The doctor who does eye exams doesn't measure pupilary distance, and/or doesn't write it on the prescirption.
The dispensary won't measure it unless I pay them about as much as a full eye exam.
And even if they had to take the 5 minutes to measure my PD during a lense replacement, they would CHARGE me for the pleasure of having me sign a release form to obtain that information.

I presonally know people who have purchased eyeglasses online.
They have had ZERO issues with vision or quality of their lenses.

The current laws, rules and practices aren't about "patient safety"; they were influenced heavily by powerful optometrist/optician organizational lobbies and designed to guarantee income for the local doctors and dispensaries, and protect their business.

At October 25, 2010 at 1:57 PM Mrs. T said...

You can measure your own PD you know. I did mine and my husband's. The glasses we ordered online were perfect.

Today I ordered contacts with an expired prescription...let's see if the order goes through.

At October 25, 2010 at 1:59 PM Mrs. T said...

You can measure your own PD distance. I did for myself and my husband and the glasses were perfect.

At January 12, 2011 at 1:03 PM Andrew said...

Just like any other thing that expires in the medical field, there are two sides to the coin. On one side it really is business driven, on the other side, there are liability factors to take into account when considering filling expired Rx's. As an optician, I can tell you, YES, there are damages that can be done to the eye from wearing incorrectly fitted or prescribed glasses and more seriously, contacts. These affects are not nearly as noticeable to the wearer as say, taking too many ibuprofen. Most people on here probably do not follow the exact dosage recommendations for over the counter medications, but the companies producing this medication are still required by law (and for the health of the consumer) to label said maximum dosage. Just because you don't necessarily "feel" something detrimental happening to you system, does not mean that it is not happening. And yes, not every error in Rx or fitting is going to result in "blindness" (as I read earlier), but that's why you come to us, because we know which tolerances are acceptable and are able to address any concerns that may arise. This an unfortunate time for both medical professionals and their patients because of the readily available information on the internet. All of a sudden, everyone is an expert in everything (and no faith is giving to those charged with giving care) without realizing that if they are not properly trained, they can run the risk of causing permanent damage. Yes, in many cases, using a 3 or 4 year old prescription is not going to do much damage, but there are some cases where it does just that.

At February 17, 2011 at 2:52 PM GMerriment said...

When I joined the army, they gave me an eye exam to find my prescription. They have a device that you look into and everything's all blurry and then CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK and there's a picture and it's all sharp and clear and then they print out your prescription. No questions, no hour-long back-and-forth while you try to convince yourself that both lenses are not EXACTLY THE SAME even though they CLEARLY ARE. Honestly I don't know why optometrists don't have this device. It's not like they don't make enough money.

At February 17, 2011 at 2:54 PM GMerriment said...

When I joined the army, they gave me an eye exam to find my prescription. They have a device that you look into and everything's all blurry and then CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK and there's a picture and it's all sharp and clear and then they print out your prescription. No questions, no hour-long back-and-forth while you try to convince yourself that both lenses are not EXACTLY THE SAME even though they CLEARLY ARE. Honestly I don't know why optometrists don't have this device. It's not like they don't make enough money.

At October 31, 2012 at 9:02 PM dzinto said...

@Andrew: the liability comes into picture if you as optician make a mistake. If I order X and you fill X, it's my responsibility and my reasons, not yours, why I ordered X rather than Y. If after that I have the nerve to go out and sue you, and yes, there's 1/1,000 chance that by some incredible "luck" the stupid jury awards me the verdict, like in few famous cases a-la McDonalds' coffee, still this statistical aberration shouldn't be enough to force the whole society into nanny state.

With enough desire, anybody can do enough harm to themselves with a toothpick. Does it create liability for the convenience store?

At January 5, 2015 at 5:44 PM Chefjames60 said...

That's EXACTLY the point! That there is a LAW which FORCES me, a free, individual, American citizen to pay exhorbitant fees for an exam I don't need. Gee. Wonder whT lobbyists were involved in this absurd legislation that completely infringes upon my personal liberties? Naw. It was probably the good politicians of my state concerned with my welfare. Bah!

At January 5, 2015 at 5:47 PM Chefjames60 said...

"I" am responsible for my "well being", thank you very much. It's people like you, statist, collectivists, that have contributed more to the loss of our personal liberties than any politician. I suggest you read some Aynn Rand. You might learn a thing or to about the dangers of the propaganda spewing forth from your uninformed pie hole.

At January 5, 2015 at 5:59 PM Chefjames60 said...

Great post!!


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