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Much has been said about the pupillary distance when ordering glasses online and the difficulty in obtaining it. It's a very important measurement and contrary to what the opticians will tell you, it's very easy to get -- in the comfort of your own home even!

A few of the sites have methods requiring you to have a friend hold a ruler up at the bridge of your nose or something akin to that. That's a pain and not very precise.

I've got a better way.

Here are the required tools:
1) a pair of your existing eyeglasses (doesn't matter too much on the prescription -- just so you can see through them)
2) a non-permanent marker
3) a ruler (with millimeters preferably*)

How to do it:
1) Stand in front of a mirror (3 to 4 feet back)
2) Close Obscure your left eye with a card or thick paper
3) Mark the center of the right pupil with on the eyeglass lens with the marker.
4) Repeat with other eye
5) Measure the distance between the two dots
6) You're done

You can have a friend do this for you also, but I had better results doing it myself. It works. I had my "professionally measured" PD from the last time I was mugged at Len Crafters, and it was identical to my latest measurement. Didn't surprise me at all as this was precisely the method they used to measure it.

Anyway, if the optometrist is giving you hell about getting the PD, tell 'em to stuff it and do it yourself. I think you'll be happy with the result.

* NOTE: If you don't have a metric ruler (and if you're a child of the seventies like me, you'll never be without one), just pop your standard measurement as such into the google and you'll get the number you need. Ex. "2 9/16 inches to mm" returns "(2 9/16) inches = 65.0875 millimeters".

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At September 3, 2007 at 6:22 PM Christy said...

Thanks for the tip! That's the only thing I couldn't figure out how to get. :-)

Just as an FYI, you want to use elusive, not illusive.

At September 3, 2007 at 6:33 PM Ira said...

Ugh. My English degree just spun upside-down on the wall behind me. I'm usually quite adept at the English language.


At September 3, 2007 at 7:51 PM Anonymous said...

Remember, if by some chance you use permanent, clean off with acetone, unless you have polycarbonate lenses, in which case use rubbing alcohol.

At September 4, 2007 at 9:36 AM Unknown said...

When I need my PD measured, I just run into the local Walmart or Costco eye center. They've never balked at my request to measure my PD.

At September 4, 2007 at 10:06 AM Anonymous said...

I am having trouble getting into their website - any insite into that? It worked last night...maybe you created too much traffic for them? :)

At September 4, 2007 at 10:12 AM Ira said...


To which site are you referring? This post doesn't mention any site (except Google -- which I'm certain isn't down).


At September 4, 2007 at 10:49 AM Anonymous said...

Sorry - the 39dollars site.

At September 4, 2007 at 3:50 PM Anonymous said...

Same as Dane... Got my PD at Costco. They had it on file, but the guy still took the time to mesure me just in case it changed...

At September 5, 2007 at 9:23 AM itscometothis said...

I went the costco route too. FWIW, costco is great for getting lenses put in frames that you might've got a t a second-hand shop or on ebay. I got an approx -1.50 prescription w/ anti-glare filled for about $79.50 (I didn't spring for the lighter lenses). They *do* charge you $15 for using your 'own' frames, but I'm sure that's equivalent to the time/expense it would be to ship your glasses somewhere. Their price is also $20 under the independent optometry store i had my last pair of frames lensed at.

At September 6, 2007 at 12:49 PM Anonymous said...

Hey, unrelated to PD. I tried to order online and my numbers were WAY outside most of the choices available. I didn't think I was that blind as I can see enough detail so as to not be blind when I'm not wearing glasses. Is it possible to have prescriptions too weird so as to not be able to be made by the online people? My worst vision is in the astigmatism but I'm also nearsighted.
I tried to ask one of the sites you list but I never got a reply (might have been Zenni, which I've read some complaints about.) Did my eye doctor leave out a decimal point? for example my sphere for R eye is -50 and L-100, and -200 for both. For example on Goggles4u, they only go to -20, and -8 for cylinder. Am I SOL for cheap online orders?

BAH! anyway, I don't have blogger so if anyone knows please email me at cpetrice @

At September 6, 2007 at 1:15 PM Ira said...


Yes, they often leave out the decimal.

You're likely -0.50 and -1.00 and -2.00.

At September 7, 2007 at 12:57 AM Anonymous said...

That is incredibly helpful - I will use the glasses that I had to have emergency lenses put into when my only pair broke ($150-ish for LENSES ONLY at Crens Lafters - I hate them). And now I will never be without a backup to my backup (or three or seven). Great site.

At September 7, 2007 at 8:35 PM exuberance said...

I prefer to hold an index card up against my existing glasses and tick of a small mark on the edge of the card. I can then do this until I get the tick marks lined up nicely.

Now my mystery is what's up with the 2nd pd used occasionally with bifocals?

At September 10, 2007 at 8:38 AM Anonymous said...

I went out an bought a compass for about 79 cents. The points on the compass can be held quite close to the pupil - so it seems pretty accurate.

At September 12, 2007 at 8:15 PM Unknown said...

I used your method to take several measurements, and came in with one at 64mm and two at 65mm. Since you can't really average those for an order (they only accept 0.5mm increments), I would have measured 65mm. Just got the number back from my optometrist, and they got 31.5/32, for a total of 63.5mm. So I was close, I guess I wonder how far the value can be off before it begins to affect the optics.

At September 18, 2007 at 11:19 PM Anonymous said...

you'll want to occlude (cover with a spare magazine or piece of paper) your eye while marking your specs not close it. When your eye is closed your other eye will find its own center and hence not give an accurate measurement.

Also make sure you are a sufficient distance from the mirror (40 inches or so should do it) as this will also give you a more accurate measurement. Any closer and you could cause your eyes to measure closer than they need to be.

These tips are important because a variance of more than 3mm in your PD measurement can cause eye strain and/or discomfort.

At September 21, 2007 at 4:23 PM Jennah Watters said...

I want to do this on my own, but I think my dark brown eyes are giving me trouble. When I'm far enough away from the mirror, I just can't tell where my pupil is well enough. Gr! Looks like I'll see if WalMart will do it for me.

In my many tries to get it right, I have found that white out (I am using a white out pen, but a bottle would prob be easier) works well for marking the point. You can easily scrape it off if you screw up.

At September 26, 2007 at 8:36 PM Anonymous said...

this was a huge help - I'm about to get a 2nd pair online and wanted to double check my PD.

I didn't risk using a pen though -- I used a makeup pencil (fine point, white, don't even know why I have it, actually) so I wouldn't have to worry about grabbing the wrong pen -- a fine point grease pencil or china marker would work too if there's no make-up user in the house.

Also, Chris' comments added exactly what I wanted to know (that 3mm +/- is the zone you need to be in); I found I was only 1mm off in our original rough measurement. But now it's exact. thanks!

At September 29, 2007 at 10:25 PM Kate said...

bhyde - the 2nd PD distance I imagine would be to account for the fact that your pupils are closer together when looking at something close up (like how you can make your eyes "cross" by looking at your fingertip and bringing it closer to your nose).

For example, my first PD when measuring with a ruler and the mirror was about 61. Just now, I backed up about 3-5 feet, used a pen and drew (on my glasses) across the center of what I could see from each eye, and got about 63.5.

jennah- not sure if the above will help you in figuring out your own PD.

At October 3, 2007 at 1:48 AM Anonymous said...

As some of you have noted the distance that you stand in front of the mirror is paramount. When you are looking at a distance object your pupils are farther apart than when you are looking at a near object. So how do you measure each? The difference can be as much as 4 mm. and this IS (as some of the comments mentioned) a cause of discomfort.

But more important has anyone (including you Mr. glassy eyes blogger, Ira) bothered to take PARALLAX into consideration. Do you even know what that means? And what about VERTEX DISTANCE, how can you safely tell people that these two terms don’t matter. Ask your Eye doctor in a prescription that is over a -5.00 does the prescription change based on the “Vertex Distance” YOU BET IT DOES. On prescriptions over -5.00 I see the frame on the person and measure vertex distance and then adjust the prescription. So for Example someone who is -6.00 at a vertex distance of 10mm will be change to -6.25 at 12mm. Thus my prescriptions over -5.00 include a vertex distance that the Optician must check before making a pair of glasses. Here is an excellent article to read. . I won’t even touch PRISM that is a whole course in and of itself.

Why don't you look these terms up on Google or Wikipedia?

Lastly Mr. Ira, How come you have not commented on “IDOC” comment? Maybe because you realize the investment that people put into their services. I see you have an internet presence in the form of Web and internet services at I did not see you ADVERTISING your prices, probably because your fees are based on the time it takes you to develop a “solution”. Do you have any $39 specials!! I’m sure you are including the costs of the rent you pay or do you work out of your garage and still charge your exorbitant fees. I could go on and on

At October 9, 2007 at 12:04 AM Anonymous said...

Hi Ira,

Just wondering why you are taking a general "pot-shot" at optometrists when you say, "if the optometrist is giving you hell about getting the PD, tell them to stuff it and do it yourself."

I really don't see the point to you saying that. Once again, saying things you are clueless about to stir up people's imaginations that their optometrist is out to get them and take their money, rather than the truth, which is that optometrists are generally people who want to help their patients and meet their visual needs and help them to maintain healthy eyes and good vision for a lifetime, even if it does mean taht the patient will end up buying their glasses at some place other than theirs.

It would be nice if for once you also started a blog about what the difference is between the large super optical places you always mention (LensCrafters, Pearl, etc.), and private optometrists who own their own practices who also practice medical eye care and are not "money grubbing optometrists" who over charge their patients for their glasses.

In regards to your comment here, it is almost laughable. Most PRIVATE optometrists (emphasis on private - non-chain eye doctors who practice on their own) don't do the PD measurement anyway. It is their employed opticians who are trained on the proper way of doing this.

As an optometrist, I would safely venture to say that most of my fellow private practice optometrists would agree with you about the large super optical stores, that they truly are in it mostly for taking people's money and nothing else. But it would be nice for you to acknowledge (if you would be willing to see it for yourself by visiting a private doctor of optometry office) that the image you are portraying of optical superstores is not synomynous with the professional experience and service you would get if you visited a successful private practice. Private practice doctors are truly doing what they do because they love their job, and they take very seriously their role as your eye doctor and meeting both your visual needs and eye health needs as they are held to the same medical legal standard as medical doctors, ophthalmologists, etc., since they also prescribe medications to treat eye conditions.

In most private practices, while selling eyeglasses and contact lenses is a part of their income, the glasses and contact lenses become secondary to their primary role as your eye doctor and determining your eyes health and visual status.

I also really don't think you understand that most people don't even know the difference between O.D.'s (optometrists - Optometric Doctorate degree) and L.D.O.'s (Licensed Dispensing Optician's), and therefore, your sometimes rambling disgruntled comments about "telling your optometrist to go to hell" is doing a great diservice to our profession in general, and basically is simply not fair.

We, for one, always give patients their eye glass prescription at the end of the exam since if it is determined during the exam, there is actually a federal law, known as the Stark law, that mandates we must give all patients their prescription when we are done with the exam. And I would never tell my opticians that they are not supposed to give out a patient's pupillary distance. That would be poor patient service and immature.

So, Ira, why don't you start being a bit more fair with your comments and do a little more research about the professions and the differences between the three O's (opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists) before you make any more general comments on eye care providers and do a better job of educating the people reading this blog who to really watch out for, rather than just painting us all with your broad strokes of unfair comments about our trade.

I sure hope you don't experience in your profession what we as optometrists are experiencing through your efforts and others like you through your website, which is to feel as though you have to defend your profession that you love because someone is out their on the web trying to tarnish your profession when they really don't know anything about it at all, other than they think glasses are expensive!!

So clueless you are. Try going through 4 years of undergraduate, 4 years graduate, another year of residency, and then getting out of school with anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 or more of debt, excited to start your career of treating people's medical eye condtions and also selling your products and services, and then going to your website to read, "tell your optometrist to go to hell and then go home and get your PD yourself." What immaturity! To think any professional of such caliber would not give you a PD anyway and to make such a big deal of this!

Hopefully no one, for your sake, will start offering your services of consulting and web designing, or whatever you do, at rock bottom prices and help to slowly deteriorate your ability to make a living and provide for your family. If you are an honest, hard working professional providing your services at reasonable fees that you must charge in order to survive, pay your employees, pay your bills and still have some left over to take home (and also still pay taxes!), no one should have to put up with comments like yours and feel like they have to defend their profession and their skills. Come to think of it, I DO hope you experience these same feelings some day. And maybe then you will finally realize the disservice you are doing by making these comments and affecting impressionable minds of those reading your blog about optometrists.

At October 24, 2007 at 4:28 PM Ira said...

Jennah suggests running down to Walmart to get your PD. I don't normally endorse anything Walmart-related, but if they'll do it for you, let 'em.

At December 3, 2007 at 5:06 PM Anonymous said...

I don't wear glasses but will be doing so soon. How do I get my PD myself?

At December 15, 2007 at 9:23 PM Ira said...

Ken sent me his method -- and I really like it...


I tried the mirror technique and I tried having my spouse measure the
pupil distance and neither gave me confidence in the results. Here's
the technique I used and I trust it.

Take two small post-its and use the tip of a large size paper clip to
punch a tiny hole through both of them at the same time. Put one post-
it so that the hole is at the 10 mm mark on a ruler. Put the other
post-it at someplace else, like 75 mm (difference 65 mm). Look
through the 10 mm hole with one eye and stare at an object far away.
Look through and move the second post-it until you can see through
both post-its at the same time. To narrow in on the exact distance,
rock the ruler up and down so that one hole is stationary and the
second hole moves up and down (while you stare at an object far
away). The two holes are going to visually intersect as the ruler is
rocked up and down. Because the two holes were punched at the same
time, you'll know you have them at your pupil distance when the hole
shapes match up.

I measured my pupil distance in the mirror as 63 and my wife gave me
a measurement of 60 and then 63. Using this technique my pupil
distance is 62 and it is completely repeatable.

Read the 43folders post about your site and figured that this might
be of use to you and your readers.

- Ken

At February 15, 2008 at 2:55 PM Anonymous said...


This sounds like an awesome technique, but... HUH? Could you possibly video this onto U-tube and post us the link to it??

I need a visual!

At February 17, 2008 at 10:18 PM Anonymous said...

At a recent visit to my local glasses guy, I got 2 different PDs: one for near and one for distance. He said it's typically a 3-5mm difference, distance being larger. The device he uses measures both. It's also not unusual for one eye to be further from the center of your face than the other.

Mail order chinese places are not going to take these things into account. Then again, neither is LensCrafters.

At March 11, 2008 at 4:40 AM Anonymous said...

An update on Iras post from Ken:

Stick the two postit notes on a vernier guage with the holes at the tips of the calipers.

Ensure each hole lines up with the centre of the hole exactly in line with the inside edge of the calliper.

Then you can slide the guage smoothly into the correct position.

For near sight PD this method doesn't work very reliably due to focusing issues, from what I found by trying it.

Best is to get the measurement done professionally for all distances you need specs for!


At March 16, 2008 at 12:02 PM missie said...

get real! you are giving people info that is very misleading. the pd is a very important part of the manufacturing of CORRECT eyewear. as another person commented, you are not taking into account the vertex distance (look it up) and also if the person wears multifocal lenses, how do you propose they get their near pd? it is not accurate to take the total distance and divide by 2, we are not symetrical and the optical center of your script is the most important part when marking and edging lenses. again, the vertex distance (i hope you have looked up this term now) plays a huge role in the correct power of the eyewear. if a person has ANY amount astigmatism correction (look that up also) the pd becomes even more important. i could go on and on but am a little frustrated about the misinformation you are spouting. for any who think that i am just spouting more misinformation, please note that i have been in optics for 16 yrs, i am a state licensed optician and have worked in all areas of the field, from opthamology to retail eyewear sale and manufacture.
also to the person that responded that if you use permanent marker, acetone is correct if not poly, but denatured alcohol should be used on poly, not rubbing alcohol. you & the other annoymous blogger who brought up vertex distance were more accurate than any of the others giving advice/techniques that are just false and will cost people more in the long run, including blurry vision! please research this and talk to your eyecare provider before ordering on line with your own measurements.

At March 16, 2008 at 12:09 PM missie said...

had to add more!
the anonymous blogger who brought up vertex distance is right on. an easy way for people to view this for themselves is to take your current glasses and put them in the normal wearing position. now move them slowly away from your eyes. your vision will change, more so if you have a stronger script. this is the result of changing the vertex distance, it actually changes the power of the lenses. if you have a high plus script, the image you see as you move the glasses away from your eyes will eventually flip upside down. optics is a very interesting subject and i love it. again, please research this and talk to your eyecare provider before making any decisions about on line purchases.

At July 14, 2008 at 9:35 PM Anonymous said...

I had a complete eye exam 8 months ago and now I need glasses for a new frame.

How do I know if my local glasses guy does all what is required? Are there any specific questions/check points I can ask?

At July 24, 2008 at 8:59 AM David Carruthers said...

To missie:

This comment annoys me slightly, you along with many opticians will rant about how important the PD is, and you'll get blurry vision without it etc, and yet the reason people are having to measure their own PDs is because opticians are refusing to give them out!

see this post for more details on opticians discussing how to obscure the information for their clients.

So it's all well and good saying PDs are important, if you actually give out the PD with the prescription. If the industry seems intent on keeping this information, then people have to find other ways of finding this information.

There seems little point in "researching this and talk to your eyecare provider" as you recommend if at the end of the discussion the optician won't tell you the information anyway!

Vari/multifocal lenses are a different case and raise different issues.

At October 24, 2008 at 12:18 AM Anonymous said...

To David C.

Why would an optician want to provide a service to you if you are niether paying, or buying glasses from them? The measurements provided are done as a service to you when purchasing a pair of glasses. The reason the online companies can provide the glasses so cheap is they are not having to provide you the service needed to get your glasses made correctly by properly trained people. It seems you are one of those people who would sue the first person who didn't provide you with the service or product you feel you "deserve". So who you gonna sue if you buy them online?


At December 6, 2008 at 8:54 AM Anonymous said...

Why would an optician want to provide a service to you if you are niether paying, or buying glasses from them?
Because they get paid for the exam? I suppose places that offer a free exam with an eyewear purchase don't, but isn't the catch that you have to buy glasses from them? Otherwise, don't they get billed for the exam?

At December 8, 2008 at 4:44 AM David Carruthers said...

to JC

I'm not one of those people who will sue anyone! I'm not sure what this has to do with suing anybody.

An opticians may not wish to provide a service they're not being paid for, but this is not the consumer's fault. The optical industry have created this business model, and not kept up pressure on the government to give appropriate fees for a sight test.

Instead they bump up the price of glasses & lenses unfairly.

However, my original point was regarding PDs.

Opticians will say it's reckless to estimate or measure it yourself on one hand, and then refuse to give it out on the other hand - forcing people to measure it themseles!

You either care about someone's eye care - which is often the claim, or you care more about a fear of losing business to online companies - which is often the truth.

At December 14, 2008 at 1:18 PM missie said...

AMEN!!!TO JC! you use your brain which is more than i can say for many on the blog. thank you! THE PD IS NOT PART OF THE SCRIPT THAT YOU PAY FOR WHEN YOU GET AN EXAM. THAT MEASUREMENT (ALONG WITH MANY OTHERS)ARE FOR THE OPTICIAN TO TAKE. I worked very hard to learn how to take various measurements accurately and i get paid very well to do so. it is one of MANY profesional services i provide & the higher the script, the more important the accuracy of the pd. it is amazing to me that people will try to skip a very important step to save a few bucks & then not be able to see as well as should. you can create so much unwanted prism with incorrect pds that the glasses are useless. also to BHYDE, the 2nd pd used in bifocals is just one of many pds used because your eyes DO NOT look through the same part of the lens for different focal points. look it up, it's called conversion. also, DANE, costco and walmart are getting smarter, especially in licensed states, & will not be giving out the ELUSIVE pd as easily very soon. it is part of the process they use to make you correct glasses & is OWNED by their company not you. it is not part of your medical record, it is a measurement they pay someone very much to take & is their property to make your eyewear. get a life & just spend the few extra bucks to get your glasses made correctly. also, it's denatured alcohol, not rubbing alcohol. if use rubbing on poly that is drill mount, in semi-rimless or has scratch through the scrathch coating you will end up with cracked lenses. i am not a lenscrafters fan either, but ALL optical labs have to take into account the variance in pds, they do not just "split it evenly". it is taken monocular. TO DAVID CARRUTHERS: IS YOUR VISION IMPORTANT TO YOU? DO YOU WANT TO SEE AS WELL AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN? MOST PEOPLE WOULD ANSWER YES TO THESE QUETIONS. I WILL CONTINUE "TO RANT" & TO REFUSE TO GIVE OUT MEASUREMENTS THAT I TAKE DURING THE PROCESS OF MAKING YOUR EYEWEAR. THEY ARE MY MEASUREMENTS, IF IT WAS SO EASY YOU WOULD NOT NEED ME TO DO IT FOR YOU. I LOVE OPTICS & THERE IS SO MUCH INVOVED IN IT THAT PEOPLE DONT UNDERSTAND. I GET PAID WELL TO TAKE THESE MEASUREMENTS TO MAKE YOUR GLASSES BY THE COMPANIES I WORK FOR. IT IS MY LICENSE ON THE LINE IF THE ONLINE SERVICE MAKES THEM INCORRECTLY & TO BE BLUNT, IT IS NOT WORTH IT! AGAIN, I AM PROVIDING A PROFESSIONAL SERVICE AND JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER, THERE IS A CHARGE! I AM LOBBYING TO MAKE IT ILLEGAL TO GIVE THIS INFO OUT AS IT IS THE PROPERTY OF THE COMPANY MAKING YOUR EYEWEAR. ALSO FYI, I WILL SOON BE AN OPTOMETRIST & HAVE NO INTENTION OF GIVING OUT THE MEASUREMENTS THERE EITHER. THE COMPANY MAKING YOUR EYEWEAR WILL TAKE THESE MEASUREMENTS AND USE THEM TO PROVIDE YOU A PROFESSIONAL SERVICE. AND YES, I DO NOT WRITE THE PD WHERE THE PT CAN SEE DUE TO HIGH RATE OF SUING IN THIS COUNTRY. AS STATED ABOVE, IT COMES BACK ON PERSON TAKING MEASUREMENT, NOT THE LAB MAKING THEM. I HAVE SEEN IT MANY TIMES BEFORE & WILL NEVER RISK MY LIVELYHOOD TO SAVE YOU A FEW BUCKS. IT IS JUST GOING TO GET HARDER & HARDER TO GET THESE #S & THERE IS NO CORRECT & SIMPLE STEP AROUND IT. IF YOU DONT WANT TO TAKE THE TIME TO LOOK UP TERMS OR TALK TO YOUR EYECARE PROFESSIONAL ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF CORRECT MEASUREMENTS(WHICH DOESNT SURPRISE ME!)IN ORDER TO EDUCATE YOURSELF, THAT IS YOUR CHOICE. BUT DONT COMPLAIN WHEN I TRY TO GIVE PEOPLE A WAY TO EDUCATE THEMSELVES & MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS. THIS INDUSTRY IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME & I WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT & YES "RANT" ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF USING PROFESSIONALS.

At December 14, 2008 at 1:46 PM missie said...

can't believe the things people will sacrifice to save few bucks! it is your vision, in my opinion, your most important sense. use some common sense please like JC and have it done correctly!

At December 29, 2008 at 11:51 PM Anonymous said...

I measure my pupil distance by setting my digital camera (with timer) about arm's length from my head, taking a picture of myself holding a metric ruler across the front of my glasses, and using image-editing software to read the measurement. It seems important to have the front of the camera and your face in parallel planes and the ruler perpendicular to that plane (but I have no reference for these guidelines -- just intuition).

btw, according to "A Hand Book of the Refraction of the Eye: Its Anomalies and Their Correction" By Charles D'Abbs Wright (1896) it would seem that one ought to err too wide when measuring PD for nearsightedness and too narrow for farsightedness. Get the measurement as exact as you can, obviously, but keep this in mind if forced to round or estimate.,M1

At January 18, 2009 at 6:52 PM Arka said...

I inadvertently got my PD by requesting a copy of my lab order to file with my insurance and an extra for my records. The lab order includes not only the corrections but also the near and far pupil distances for each eye (as well as some other good stuff that I've yet to find a use for but is interesting to look at).

So if you're fearful of mismeasuring and don't want to deal with the potential confrontation of asking for your PD so you can buy online, just ask for a copy of the lab order "for insurance." I happen to have vision insurance, but they didn't check... :-)

At January 18, 2009 at 11:12 PM Arka said...

I should add to my previous comment that it's only useful to those who aren't going "cold turkey" on B&M shop glasses - I assumed that most people would be like me, trying online glasses ordering after purchasing an "in-person" pair in case the online experiment went bad, but in retrospect I realize that's not necessarily so...

At February 22, 2009 at 4:07 AM Tennessee Zombie Queen said...

My optometrist's receptionist called the law on me claiming I was disruptive, when I questioned why Dr. H walked away from me after I asked for my PD. When the cops came and questioned us both, the optometrist told them that the PD varied according to which frames a patient chose and how thick the lenses were, and that that's why he was refusing to give it to me. I told the cops the PD was the distance between your pupils and they told me Dr. H was a doctor and that I wasn't, and that I didn't know what I was talking about. My mother, another patient of Dr. H, was in the office with me when this occurred! I hadn't been to the eye doctor in five years because I couldn't afford it. If I weren't legally blind with uncorrected vision, I'd give up on them completely after this fiasco. I still need progressive lenses and I still don't know my PD...and I'm out $74.00.

At March 2, 2009 at 11:33 PM Anonymous said...

They're my eyes.

Shouldn't that mean that every measurement of them belongs to me?

At March 9, 2009 at 8:53 AM Anonymous said...

To get my P.D. sans hassel I called the opticians office where I had purchased 3 pairs of glasses already and said I was getting a pair of perscription lab goggles free through my work but I had to have my complete perscription to do so. They were happy to give me my "pupil distance" (I tried to sound like I didn't quite know what I was doing) so I could get those nice, free goggle from work. I think if you can give them a legit reason like that and act kind of nieve and appeal to their sympathetic side (assuming the person you talk to has one) you are more likely to get the number. You could even go into the optometrist for your exam with that "lab goggles" story and try to get sympathy from his/her optician. They are sneaky buggers and we need to be sneeker.

One question, does p.d. change over time? Once I have had mine measured professionally for distance glasses can I continue to use that for ever?

Your sight is great and has helped my family so much. Thank you and keep spreading your message.

At April 18, 2009 at 4:42 PM Anonymous said...

There is a really easy way to get your PD.

After the clinician finishes with your exam, look at the phoropter. I believe the PD is on the upper left (from the doctors viewpoint or over your right eye.

Google "eye exam phoropter" and look at some high res images. Familiarize yourself with the machine, its pretty straight forward. Then you can look over at it after the examination. If your stuck, just say something like "wow that thing looks complicated...what does this thing mean???" and point at what you think the PD is and the doctor will probably tell you.


At May 6, 2009 at 4:34 PM Madturtle said...

This ruler was designed specifically to measure Pupillary Distance. Also good info on measuring for multifocal lenses.

At May 10, 2009 at 1:14 PM Anonymous said...

A note on my experience with PD. My last overpriced eyeglass vendor did not provide the PD. But, I recently ordered refill contacts from Sam's Club and asked the technician if he would measure my PD. Without hesitation, he pulled out the PD machine, carefully measured and wrote it down for no charge or sales pitch. Hail Walmart/Sam's Club.

At May 11, 2009 at 2:11 PM Steve Clark said...

Thanks for such an informative site. I have yet another story about the PD run around.

I was shopping at the mall with my wife and knew I needed an eye Exam. So I stopped into Lenscrafters and got my $95.00 contact Lens exam done while she shopped. Of course they refused to give me my PD even though I paid for an exam.

So I went to my local Sam's club and asked for my PD since some had shown success with them. The Optictrican there told me he couldn't give it to me because it is an exact measurement that is directly connected to the frames I would choose and if my vision were hurt by an incorrect measurement then he would be help liable?

I then told him, I thought PD was just a measurement between my two pupils? On average it is between 62 and 65mm and don't you just measure it by placing that little box on the bridge of my nose and look through it while I stare at a dot? How then is it "directly connected to the frames I choose?" Also don't you give the PD to the lens shop before the lens are even cut so once again how does frame size matter? Won't my PD be the same no matter what frame I choose, especiallly since you can take that measurement before I even pick out frames?

At this point he just started mumbling and told me that he couldn't because he would be help liable? I said Ok I understand this is your job and you have been trained for it. I therefore am willing to pay for the service, is there a service fee I could pay for your time to take a proper measurement? He said No. I told him that if he didn't do it I would just go home and do it with a mm ruler in my mirror and if he were truly concerned for my safety wouldn't he be better off to give me a "professional" measurement than to allow me to leave and do it myself? He still just muttered his mantra about liability. I then asked but if I agree to purchase a $100 pair of glasses from you you will gladly provide this measurement for free? He said nothing. Then he did say that he knew of a place where I could go and pay $25 and they would give me the PD. I said Great where is that? To which he replied he didn't have any more of the cards and he forgot the shops name!?!?!

I am now wondering what the return policy is on glasses. I am thinking of going in and wasting his time and the stores money and ordering a set just to get my PD and then return the glasses.

The biggest thing I don't understand is, if this is about money then come up with an additional charge for provided the service of taking a measurement? Also you could have the person sign some sort of release from Liability waiver?

I guess I will next try another Sam's club and then start hitting my local Wal-marts until I find one that will do it.

At May 12, 2009 at 1:01 PM oscarlawson said...

I shared the same problem but I insisted that my Doctor take and provide my PD readings and he did along with my prescription. The world has changed but many are not prepared to adjust. When you can get $400-$500 prescription eyeglasses for $95 and the only thing standing between you and the eyeglasses is a PD reading, the brick and mortar groups need to adjust their business model. Give up the PD reading, receive the goodwill that flows from that gesture and start developing upsell items and services to replace that revenue. It is inevitable that the discount eyeglass stores selling full blown bi-focal with transition lenses for $95 is going to capture market share. Adjusting to the global market is a requisite for growth. Ignoring it is a recipe for disaster.

At June 3, 2009 at 6:59 AM Copyleft said...

"The measurements are the optician's property?"

Try again. You sound like a doctor refusing to let patients look at their own medical records!

How would you like it if your next checkup involved a blood-pressure check, but the doctor refused to tell you the numbers unless you promised to use their in-house pharmacy?

Medical records containing information about ME are subject to MY review on demand, period. Optometrists who try to withold that information are running a scam, pure and simple.

At June 9, 2009 at 12:38 AM ronwil said...

I have a distant pd (67) and a near pd (64) from my exam. What would I use to order my new bifocals?

At June 9, 2009 at 9:45 AM Ira said...


You'll need both of them. There will be a place to enter both values for a bi-focal order.

At June 12, 2009 at 5:55 PM Anonymous said...

I was giving this some thought, and wouldn't the positioning of the glasses on your face change where the center of the lens should be? I mention this because I have VERY deep-set eyes and just based on some simply trig it seems PD would also need to have some other component to measure Eye Depth. Then again, you can probably come very close with some simply assumptions. Just curious what people thought about this.

At June 22, 2009 at 10:55 PM Anonymous said...



There, now. Doesn't seem to have as much weight, does it?

Regarding a fear of lawsuits, this is absurd; all you would need to do is prove the lenses weren't made to spec. Anyone suing you over incorrectly made lenses that you didn't provide would be thrown out of court immediately, and you know it; and I doubt you could give even one published example otherwise. Newspapers, court records, whatever; pix or it didn't happen.

The crux of the issue is this:
Not any more you won't, sweetie. And that's why you've come here to rant against the educated consumer.
The fact of the matter is, it takes less than two minutes to get a reading from a PD device. It is no more complicated than using a Morton device to measure a foot, and it doesn't require much more training.

It isn't so simple to put together a pair of glasses; but then, that's what's happening across the manufacturing world. It's a rough New Economy.

At September 14, 2009 at 1:34 AM Phillip Dampier said...

I was fascinated by all of the Anonymous "experts" and "professionals" who curiously used the same turns of phrase and writing styles (indicating we're likely dealing with one, perhaps two people here trying to play more) to create confusion and doubt over the P.D. question.

What we've got here, friends, is a coordinated campaign by the eyewear industry to engage in a counteroffensive against the overseas retailers. It's designed to protect their business models, not your eyesite.

The -only- reason the P.D. has become increasingly elusive to obtain is because those in the industry know the only reason consumers ask for it is because they intend to order eyewear through an online retailer or through a third party (employer, etc.)

This is not about fear of lawsuits/liability, an overt concern for the consumers' well being, or some other altruistic reason. This is about money.

When you visit a retailer or warehouse club that has an eyewear department, in virtually every case those retailers contract with a third party company for order fulfillment. Some of these companies are frankly comparable to any offshore manufacturer, and some have gotten less than stellar reputations for quality control and training to the point where some insurance companies with eyewear benefits will -not- authorize the benefit allowance when using some of these fulfillment companies.

Make no mistake. If you are walking into a major national retailer or warehouse club, the front line employee you are dealing with has received only basic training in most cases, and relies on measuring devices and tools they have received cursory training to use.

If you have a particularly difficult prescription, or are absolutely horrified with the prospect of being even one millimeter off, follow the advice of an earlier poster, get your first prescription glasses filled at a local retailer, on the condition they supply you with the lab paperwork (for insurance purposes, FSA, etc.) with all pieces of information complete, and then order subsequent or backup pairs online with your newly obtained measurements.

The hassle people are experiencing in obtaining the P.D. comes as a result of internal memos distributed by the providers to their employees telling them not to give out the information because it will result in lost sales. The talking points will surely cover the "we're concerned for you" rhetoric, but not too concerned, because such measurements were freely written down or provided to consumers before the advent of Internet eyewear ordering.

Keep in mind as well that being a bit off is probably not going to bother you. If the P.D. was as urgent as some anonymous posters would have you believe, those taking it would be licensed by the state or require mandatory, medically-recognized training to take such vital measurements. That isn't happening.

My own personal experience with astigmatism and a somewhat difficult prescription meant a typical mall outlet would charge me around $500-600 for a single pair of glasses. At Optical4Less, a comparable pair cost me $78. I verified the online pair against the older pair it replaced and the prescription was spot on, and the P.D. taken myself and verified multiple times was absolutely fine.

At September 14, 2009 at 1:35 AM Phillip Dampier said...

In fact, had it taken me three tries to get the P.D. correct, throwing the first two online pairs in the trash, it would have STILL been cheaper than ordering one pair from a mall store, where the early-20s employee wore a white coat, and almost certainly made fewer pairs of glasses than one of the online providers.

If unsure, start with the dirt cheapest pair on offer online, give them a shot, and if they work for you, try something a bit higher end from them.

I'm on my third pair from Optical4Less, using Titanium frames and 1.67 lenses to avoid coke bottle thickness. My current frame is four years old and has never needed adjustment and the lenses are only mildly scratched after all this time. No headaches, no vision problems, no comas, no nightmares... no fear.

So don't be afraid of the anonymous propaganda from the folks that are mostly afraid of losing business. That's their real concern, not your eyes.

At September 15, 2009 at 10:07 PM linda sj. said...

Phillip Dampier, I am *so* glad you posted that. Thank you.

At October 28, 2009 at 9:02 AM Anonymous said...

Re: PD measurements.

How would you know if you got it wrong? Would the person get headaches from the glasses or just not see as clearly? Can you tell if you need to go up or down in measurements?

At November 17, 2009 at 1:29 PM Anonymous said...

What some of you aren't understanding is that the PD, while very important, is only one of the necessary measurements. The OC, or optical center, needs to be taken with your frame of choice sitting on your face. If you're ordering any kind of a multifocal lens, then a seg height needs to be taken, again, while wearing the frame. This is impossible when you're buying a pair of glasses sight unseen. Online companies claim to have these formulas to determine OC and seg height mathematically, but it's a crapshoot because fit is unique to each individual. Botching those measurements gives you a pair of glasses that aren't worth wearing, and in some cases, a pair that can actually do harm.

Thee is so much more to a pair of glasses than whether the RX is technically within spec. Check out some of the online study guides for the American Board of Opticianry exam - your head will be spinning before you've finished reading the first page of questions. Real opticians make sure that you are getting the best possible performance from your glasses, and that you're getting what your doctor prescribed. Scamming and lying to take advantage of someone's hard earned professional knowledge so you can save a buck by getting substandard glasses made online is unethical. Would you expect your friend the mechanic to diagnose your car's problem at no charge, then take it to Car X to get repaired for less than he'd charge, and then take it back to your friend to be inspected and verified for free? If you would, then you probably have no friends! Choose a real professional and get the job done right, or man up and accept the consequences of choosing value over quality. Buying online gets you quality similar to that of over the counter magnifying glasses from the dollar store. If you're fine with that, then go for it. Most people value their vision and comfort more than that, and will continue to shop at real dispensaries .

At November 23, 2009 at 4:55 PM bullet875 said...

You can purchase a pupilometer on ebay for under $100 and they are the same ones that are used in local optical establishments.

At December 1, 2009 at 11:48 PM Anonymous said...

You'll spend $100 on a pupilometer, but you won't spend more than $7 on your actual glasses?

At December 2, 2009 at 6:55 AM Ira said...


I have to admit, I wish I'd said that when I read that.

At December 2, 2009 at 7:17 AM David Carruthers said...

"Scamming and lying to take advantage of someone's hard earned professional knowledge so you can save a buck"
Coming in and paying for an eye test and expecting all pertinent measurements to be supplied at the end is *not* scamming or lying.

Similarly, if you offer an eyetest for free to entice people into your shop, but they don't then buy, that isn't scamming or lying either.

"Buying online gets you quality similar to that of over the counter magnifying glasses from the dollar store."
Total. Utter. Complete. Nonsense.

Please provide one single piece of evidence to back up that childish claim.

At January 5, 2010 at 10:20 PM Brick-n-Mortar Traitor said...

For PD measurements, I would recommend a purpose made PD ruler. I found a very nice one here: At $2.99 each plus $5.50 shipping and handling, it's a steal. Not quite as inexpensive as a non-permanent marker, but in my personal experience it's both very accurate and very easy to use. (Please note that I am in no way affiliated with the website above--I just like their product.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a board certified optician currently working in an entirely different field and I think this site rocks!

At January 6, 2010 at 9:50 AM Ira said...

@Brick-n-Mortar Traitor,

I think you'll be interested in the upcoming marketing materials for the site.

At April 21, 2010 at 11:09 AM Elizabeth Galewski said...

You can also check to see if your local community college has an Optical Tech program. If they do, it may be possible for you, as a member of the general public, to get your PD measured as well as advice on the kinds of frames that would suit your face. Madison Area Technical College did this for me. I blogged about it here:

At May 4, 2010 at 6:46 PM Anonymous said...

Fellow citizens:

I'm an optometrist. I have a problem with unregulated medical care. You may not; you may find the cost savings worth the risk. That's your own judgement call.

Please, do not ask me or my office to participate in your attempts to bypass the educated, regulated, licensed, board-certified, malpractice-insured, standard-of-care medical system. I will not participate.

The truth is in the middle, oftentimes; overregulation is bad, underregulation is bad. We are at a time where internet glasses, medicine, ANYTHING, is available, and that is indeed a new economy.

If you wish to not support the current medical system, that is now your option.

But realize it's MY option to not participate in unregulated medical care.

At May 13, 2010 at 6:09 PM Anonymous said...

To the last anonymous, I, the "real" anonymous, say:

If the eyeglass industry hadn't gotten greedy, trying to create a market where they wax consumers on frames alone, this site wouldn't be so popular. Any medical field is trying to get paid twice, by insurance companies and the patients themselves, because the need for medical services guarantees customers with no choices. This is America, right? It's all about competition.

Well then, compete.

At August 16, 2010 at 1:01 PM Anonymous said...

There is currently a group in the UK trying to get the law changed to require PD be given with a prescription. We need to do the same thing here in the U.S.

Check them out.

At July 18, 2011 at 3:58 AM glennglass03 said...

The PD is a manufacturing measurement. It has noting to do with the prescription. Whom ever is doing the manufacturing is the one that needs to make the measurement. Plane and simple. Over 50 years of optical experience that I have will tell you that I have made many of my own mistakes in making PD measurements and I hate to say the $$ costs I have encored in remakes attributed to making those mistakes. These on line labs will not help you when they send you the wrong script, the wrong lens material and I have personally looked at the quality of the prescriptions coming out of these labs and let me tell you they are horrible. One patient not only has his PD wrong that he took himself but his prescription was made backwards and he was having a terrible time driving but did not realize the problem, he just thought it was his new prescription that he had to adjust to. He rear ended another car and injured 2 children, one very severely with a severed spinal injury, sitting in the back seat of the car, they are now holding him responsible to the tune of thousands of dollars. He tried to bring in the on line company that made them wrong but was told since he ordered himself, he was the responsible party. He may even be spending time in jail all for the want of saving a dime or 2.

At November 21, 2011 at 4:04 AM cadinalrg666 said...

The nonsense over this PD matter shows that most people will only ofer their opinion based on what they think is good for their own personal situatin, right? Is not the objective view one that realises that the object of an eye exam is to provide as much information as possible to enable the patient to obtain in whatever way they see fit a pair of eye glasses that suit their purpose? As a PD is necessary to obtain eye glasses it sould be obvious to any objective observer that it is in fact an intregal part of the eye prescription otherwise one would have only a pair of monocular lenses and no way to hold them in front of one's eyes in a usable way, right. Think fora minute or two about it.wupbum

At December 26, 2011 at 8:02 PM Brent Norris said...

You may know PD but you can't see the forest for the trees. Have you ever thought that we're here because we need to see at any price?

At January 8, 2012 at 9:04 AM Mr. Ed said...

Please, would an optician or other professional help me? This is driving me crazy! I am the type of person who obsesses at times over exams and such. Recently I purchased multi-focal lenses. The measurements were taken through the pupil-measuring device. I was told to look at the small blue or green ball, whiel the optician did adjustments. Now, I'm thnking -- do you I look into the CENTER of the ball, or sort of stare at the whole thing. I'm upgrading to a better (digital) lense, and asked to take the pupil measurement again. I found myself having a tough time staying 100% focused on the blue ball -- I shifted a bit when I saw the examiner's eye appear just above the dot (maybe for a second). The reading was different by 1mm! I freaked (sorry, a bit neurotic here). We did it again and now the reading was .5 mm different! Should I worry? Is this normal for taking a series of readings? The professional said eben if it was 1.5mm it would not be a she right? SHould I worry? Get a new pair of glasses? Help and thanks!

At January 19, 2012 at 10:53 AM NC said...

Based on someone's comment to use Yellow postit notes, I have an idea. First measure the distance between the pupils approximately using a ruler. Say you got 65mm. Now take 10 postit notes and punch two tiny holes in them from 60mm to 70mm on each note. Look at a distant object through each note for Nearsightedness (Myopia), and a closer object for reading glasses. For some tests, you will see 2 circles far apart "O O", on some the circles will be closer (like binoculars) "OO", for some they will overlap, and on only one the circles will overlap each other perfectly "O". I believe that is the one you want.

Though my friend argues that we should select the one that looks like binoculars, circles touching one other like "OO". Will appreciate if any of you who have taken your PD from a doctor, perform this test, and share your experience.

At July 11, 2012 at 12:32 AM Harold Bien said...

As a physician, I just have to comment on all the fuss over obtaining PD's. To the poster who spoke of having a friend diagnose a problem and then having the car fixed elsewhere and then returning to the friend - this is exactly what can happen in the medical field. It is not at all uncommon for us to diagnose a disease and have the patient get a "2nd opinion" and even get treated elsewhere. Frequently, they will return to us after treatment for continued follow-up. I see nothing wrong with this model - we are paid for the initial exam/diagnosis, and subsequent follow-ups. The treatment is a separate matter. What the optometrists fail to see is that they can separate their services into diagnosis/treatment paradigm. I think many people would pay a reasonable fee for a good eye exam and a prescription for the corrective lenses/frames/etc. What's wrong then with going to another vendor to actually produce the glasses? Why is the industry so married with the idea that the one who measures/diagnoses must also be the one to treat/manufacture? As an example, I would not doubt in the near future there will be stores with an optometrist who will provide quality eye exams and then you can sit down on a computer kiosk and order your glasses online (similar to the Dell kiosks you find in malls selling computers).

Going back to the medical profession, the treatment is often where you derive the greatest profit. However, if you are not driven by greed, it's easy to see that performing quality exams with good advice can get you loyal customers (no different than our practice) who return for routine check-ups. While the profit margin is less, the steady stream should at least provide a reasonable stable revenue source.

At July 24, 2012 at 5:28 PM Unknown said...

Today I had my eyes examined and received my prescription. I asked for my PD and the doctor said to get it from the woman doing the glasses. I asked her for my PD and she told me she could not give it to me unless I was purchasing glasses. I wanted to put new lenses in my current frames so I told her that is what I wanted to do. I then asked for my PD and she told me no, I could not have it, she was not going to compromise her license by giving it to me. It could only go into the computer. But I'm purchasing glasses I told her, she still said no. I left with no new glasses. They are my eyes, I don't understand the issue.

At September 8, 2012 at 7:08 PM Unknown said...

Oh puh-lease with your "regulated medical care" speech. get over yourself. people still have to come to you or others like you for their exam, and they pay for it. all people are asking for is an option for low price frames. by not giving ppl their pd, you and others like you are trying to keep out competition, keep a monopoly. if someone pays for an exam and wants to go elsewhere for their actual glasses, get over it.

At October 21, 2012 at 8:30 AM Unknown said...

When I had my last eye exam, the glasses fitter lady used the glasses/card/marker method to get my PD. I ordered my regular glasses there, and also walked out with the prescription. PD didn't get written down on the prescription.

I later ordered a pair of sunglasses online. I'm fortunate enough to have some resources including a digital camera with a radio remote and a tripod. I just took a picture of myself holding a metric ruler from across the room with the camera, then printed it as large as I could. On the print, I could measure the ruler and measure the center-center distance between my pupils, and PD just became a simple algebra problem. My sunglasses worked out great! I think I was more accurate than the measurement I paid for.

At March 4, 2014 at 8:57 PM Unknown said...

So let's say you get your pd and send it to an online company. who by the way is also a FOR PROFIT company. You put it is wrong, and they send you . Who will be responsible when you get them and can't see well or at all? Yep your right YOU are. But I bet you blame the doctor, or the "glasses lady". By theway they are called opticians who know what they are doing. Your Pd measuring program is great for single vision what about progressive or bi-focals? What about the fact that frames are. different and the pd height changes. Maybe read some on how to be an optician before you judge the.people who take tour vision seriously..even more serious than you do.

At March 5, 2014 at 11:28 AM Ira said...

I love it when I get a comment on a six year old post. It's even better when it's almost completely jibberish.

At September 6, 2015 at 8:03 PM Unknown said...

All self PD taking is a joke. In order to be accurate for either distance or for near vision, your eyes must be oriented to a focus on a point that is comensurate with distance or near vision. It is impossible to simultaneously do that AND read a mm ruler to get the measurement you need. Soon as you look at the ruler, you've "changed" the PD. So it doesn't matter if Zenni is selling you digital hi index lenses for $25, you'll still end up with optically incorrect lenses. The internet is full of wonderful tools. This is not one of them.

At January 4, 2016 at 7:32 PM suz said...

So with this logic would a doctor not be required to give you your weight and blood pressure because he hired a trained nurse and had to purchase special equipment. I feel that I just spent almost $500 for an eye exam and glasses. If I ask for my measurements then the Dr. Should give them to me!!! Maybe I want to purchase a second cheaper pair online.

At May 17, 2017 at 2:17 PM Paul J said...

Amen, unknown. And who is to say that my online glasses are not made by "professionals"? The difference, BTW is $7-$35 (I won't spend more) vs $75-400+. Especially with a low-correction prescription, I'll take my chances!!


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