Ultimate Guide to Ordering Glasses Online

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Have you noticed the growing number of online retailers that offer glasses these days? At the end of the day, most of them offer you the same exact thing, a way to save money on prescription glasses compared to your traditional local retailers. But ordering prescription glasses online can be scary and confusing with every website being set up a little different and all offer similar but different frames, add-ons, and upgrades. So I wanted to set up the ultimate guide on how to order prescription glasses online and set you up with everything you need to know before ordering.

How to order prescription glasses online

Before you are able to order prescription glasses online you will need to get a hold of something that you aren’t able to do online, get your prescription. If you have already visited your eye doctor ready and have a prescription then great!, get a copy of that prescription from your doctor if you don’t already have a copy of it.

If you haven’t gotten an eye exam recently, then you should schedule an appointment with your eye care practitioner to get an updated prescription. Keep in mind that whenever you go to get an eye exam, your eye care practitioner not only checks your eyes for your prescription, but they also check your eye’s overall health.

There are even some serious health concerns that could be detected with your routine comprehensive eye exam including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease and more.

How to read your glasses prescription

After you have your exam done, your doctor will provide you with a copy of your prescription and now you are one step closer to ordering prescription glasses online. Keep in mind that occasionally some eye doctors may try to not provide you with a copy of your prescription because they want you to buy your glasses there, but you can kindly remind them that it is required by law that they provide you a copy.

With your prescription now in hand, you may be wondering what all those numbers on your prescription mean. Having a basic understanding of your prescription will help you make better decisions on what you should get when it comes to lens material and any add-ons. Here is what it all means:

  • OD, OS, and OU – The first thing you should look for on your prescription is the abbreviations OD and OS. Most prescriptions will have these abbreviations which stand for oculus dextrus, which is latin for right eye, and oculus sinister, which is latin for left eye. Occasionally you will find a prescription where you will see the abbreviation OU, which stands for oculus unitas, latin for both eyes.
  • SPHERE – The first column to the right of the abbreviations is your sphere. This number is the amount of power you need in your lenses to correct your vision and is measured in diopters. If you are nearsighted and have trouble seeing far, your prescription will start with a minus sign (-). If you are farsighted and have more trouble seeing things that are close to you, your prescription will start with a plus sign (+). The further away from zero your prescription is, the stronger the correction needed in order for you to see clearly.
  • CYLINDER & AXIS – In the next two columns on a prescription you will find cylinder and axis which is the power and lens direction needed to correct your astigmatism. Not everyone will have numbers in these two columns, as not everyone as astigmatism which is when your cornea has an irregular shape. Astigmatism causes the eye to not be able to focus light correctly onto the retina, causing blurry and stretched vision at any distance.
  • ADD – After the cylinder and axis if you need one there will be an add power. This power is the amount of magnifying power that is needed to help your eyes focus when looking at near objects. This is generally used to correct presbyopia, which causes you to have trouble focusing on near objects as you age. Generally, you will not have an add power on your prescription until you are near or over 40 years old. The add power will always be a plus power (+).
  • PRISM – At times there will be a prism value on your prescription. Generally, you would only have a value under prism if you have problems such as double vision. Whenever this happens you see two separate images of the same object. The prismatic powers help with eye alignment problems and help you see a single image instead of two.

example of what would be on your prescription

Other information that should be on your prescription

Aside from your prescription, there is some information that you should see on your prescription to make it a valid prescription:

  • Your name
  • Date of the exam
  • Date your prescription expires
  • Name, Address, phone number, and fax number of your eye doctor
  • Doctor’s signature and license number

Occasionally you might find your pupillary distance listed on your prescription as well, but that isn’t always the case.

Frames for prescription glasses

After you have your prescription all taken care of, the next thing you will have to decide is what kind of frame you are going to get. This is where it could get hard, there are a ton of different frame styles in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and color. But before you pick a frame you should understand how the sizing for glasses frames work and which one would fit you.

Glasses frame sizing

When purchasing glasses online, finding glasses that are the correct size to fit can fit quite confusing. But it really doesn’t have to be confusing. For glasses, you will always find the sizing in the following format: 55-18-145 and generally you will find these measurements on one of the temple arms of the glasses.

The first number, represented by the 55 indicates how wide each of the lenses is in millimeters. The second number, represented by the 18 indicates how wide the bridge is between the two lenses. Lastly, the third number, indicated by the 145 indicates how long the temple arms are.

If you already wear glasses and find that your glasses already fit well you should grab the measurements from your current glasses so you have an idea of what size you should be looking for. If you have never worn glasses, I recommend you go to a local optical retailer and try on some frames to see what sizes fit you best before placing an online order.

Picking your frame type

Once you have your frame size narrowed down you will then have to decide what type of frame you are going to go with. For the most part, you would be able to pick any frame that suits your personality and style, but some frame types do have prescription limits. Let’s go over the different types.

  • Plastic – The most common type of eyeglass frame that you will find will be plastic frames. The most common type of plastic frames will be frames that are made out of cellulose acetate Also known as zylonite, cellulose acetate is a very versatile material and is easy to adjust, and comes in many different color and designs. Other materials you might find plastic frames in are nylon, cellulose proprionate, kevlar, and optyl.Metal eyeglass frame
  • Full-Rim Metal – The next most common type of eyeglass frame would be metal frames. There are plenty of metal types that are used for frames including monel, stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, flexon, cobalt, nickel, and more. Not all metals are created equal, some metals such as titanium are more durable, meanwhile frames with nickel could give you an allergic reaction.
  • Semi-Rimless – This type of frame will be either metal or plastic and will only have a frame for the upper half of the frames and the lenses are held on by a string similar to fishing line. Semi-rimless frames generally are less bold and blend in better with your facial features.
  • Rimless – These frames are exactly what the name suggests, they are frames with lenses in which have no frame or rim around it. Rimless frames generally blend in really well and are extremely lightweight. There generally are some prescription limitations for rimless frames so if you have a really strong prescription you may not be able to get rimless frames.
  • Mixed Material – Mixed material frames are frames that are a combination of different materials such as plastic and a metal. These frames may have plastic on the top and a metal frame on the bottom or they may be plastic on the front and have metal temple arms.
  • Wood Frames – Wood frames have gained quite a bit of popularity over the years and they are quite unique since you will never have two wood frames that are exactly alike.

Prescription eyeglass lenses

After you are settled on what kind of frames to pick, you will then have to decide on the lens type that you are going to go with. The lens type that you are going to be able to pick from will depend on what you need for the vision correction that has been provided to you on your prescription.

Prescription lens types

Depending on what is written on your prescription, there are different types of lenses that you are able to get for your glasses. Keep in mind that not every retailer will offer every type of prescription lens and you might have to search around at different retailers if you want certain specialty lenses. Here are the different types you can get.

  • Single Vision – This is the most common lens type and is a lens that has one range of vision correction throughout the entire lens. Depending on the type of vision correction you need, single vision lenses can be made for distance, computer or reading ranges.
  • FT28 Standard Bifocal – This is a standard bifocal lens in which you have distance vision on the top and a visible area that is flat and 28mm wide in which you would have your reading power. On standard bifocal lenses, the reading area is visible on your lens and can be seen by anyone that is looking at your glasses.
  • FT35 Standard Bifocal – This standard bifocal has all the same features as the FT28 standard bifocal but instead of having a reading area that is 28mm wide, it has a 35mm wide bifocal area giving you a larger area for your reading power.
  • Executive Bifocal – This type of bifocal is less common, but some retailers still offer this type of bifocal. For executive bifocals, the reading area on the bottom goes all the way across the lens from one side to another. The line is still visible on executive bifocals.
  • Round Bifocal – This type of bifocal is even rarer, but some people prefer this type of bifocal over the standard flat-top bifocal. Instead of having a flat top like the standard bifocals, these bifocals are round. You can find round bifocals in which the reading area is visible and occasionally some retailers offer round bifocals that are blended and you can’t see the line.
  • FT28 Standard Trifocal – Unlike bifocal lenses that only have two ranges of power, trifocal lenses offer you three ranges of power including distance, intermediate and reading. The main difference between a standard bifocal and trifocal is the intermediate-range in which you could use to see things that are at the range of your computer screen or an arm’s length away. Just like the FT28 bifocal, this FT28 trifocal has a flat top and is 28mm wide.
  • FT35 Standard Trifocal – Just like the FT28 standard trifocal, this lens gives you three different ranges, but instead of being 28mm wide, this trifocal has intermediate and reading areas that are 35mm wide.
  • Progressive Bifocal – This type of lens provides you with the same ranges as a trifocal lens with distance, intermediate, and reading but instead of having visible lines, progressive lenses are blended and have the appearance of a single vision lens. Progressive lenses generally have your distance power at the top and gradually blend down to your reading power.
  • Continuum Progressive – For those of you who spend most of their time sitting in front of a computer screen, you could benefit from using a continuum lens as opposed to using a standard progressive lens. Continuum progressive lenses provide you with the reading power at the top and blend down to your reading compared to the distance at the top in a standard progressive.

Eyeglass Lens Materials

After figuring out which lens type you are going to go with, your next decision will be on what type of lens material you are going to put into your eyeglasses. Depending on your prescription, frame choice, and budget certain lens materials may be more suitable. Here are the most common types of lens materials you will encounter.

  • Glass – Glass lenses have been around forever and to this day still provide you by far the best optical quality out of any lens material. Glass lenses are also very durable and is very resistant to scratches. The problem with glass lenses is the lack of impact-resistant properties. Glass lenses can shatter relatively easy if you drop them, and can be pretty heavy, especially if you have a stronger prescription.
  • CR39 – CR39 plastic lenses were created as an alternative to the heavy and thick glass lenses. CR39 has optical qualities that are nearly as good as glass lenses but is a more impact-resistant material and only about half as heavy as glass lenses. The major problem with CR39 lenses is the fact that it is relatively easy to scratch them if you are not careful with your glasses. Any frames that require you to drill holes into the lenses to mount the lenses or frames that are semi-rimless are generally not recommended to be used with CR39 lenses as it tends to crack in those types of frames.
  • Polycarbonate – Polycarbonate lenses are generally thinner, and lighter than standard CR39 plastic lenses and are much more impact-resistant compared to CR-39 and glass lenses. This type of lens is ideal whenever your prescription is stronger and you want a lens that is thinner and lighter. This type of lens is the best choice for kids who are normally active and adults who live active lifestyles. Some states have laws that require you to put individuals who work in active jobs such as police officers or firefighters to be fitted with polycarbonate lenses due to the dangerous nature of their work.
  • Aspheric Polycarbonate – Aspheric polycarbonate lenses have many of the same features as standard polycarbonate lenses but provide you with crisper and sharper vision. This type of polycarbonate lens is also slightly thinner and lighter lens.
  • Trivex – Just like polycarbonate lenses, Trivex lenses provides you with a thinner and lighter lens and much more impact resistant when compared to standard plastic or glass lenses. Trivex lenses are made very similar to standard plastic lenses but provide you with a lens that is much safer but at the same time provides you with a lens with better optical qualities compared to polycarbonate.
  • High Index – High index lenses can bend light more efficiently and therefore need less lens material to correct your prescription. This means your lenses will be thinner and lighter than any other lens material that you would pick. If you have a strong prescription, high-index lenses are ideal to help you reduce the thickness and weight of the lenses.

Prescription Lens Add-ons

After you settle on what lens material you are going to go with, there are a number of different add-ons that you can add to help improve eyewear. Some online retailers have lenses that include some of these add-ons, but not everyone is that generous. Some retailers charge for every additional add-on, other retailers have some of the add-ons already included in their lens packages. Here are the most common add-ons you can get with your prescription glasses.

  • UV Coating – Depending on what lens material you get, you may have to add a UV protection coating. UV has been linked to eye issues such as cataracts, and macular degeneration so it definitely is a must-have coating. Certain lens materials such as polycarbonate automatically have UV protection and would not need to be added.
  • Anti-Reflective Coating – Whenever light hits your glasses, some of the light gets lost when the light is reflected off of your lenses. An anti-reflective coating helps more light get transmitted through the lens and onto your eyes, providing you with sharper vision. Glare can be more problematic if you have astigmatism, which could cause halos around lights especially at night time. Certain materials such as high-index lenses reflect more light and an anti-reflective coating is definitely recommended.
  • Blue Light Filtering – Blue light filtering lenses have gained popularity over the years as a way to help you reduce eyestrain that you would get from looking at a digital screen which emits blue light. You can also reduce the amount of blue light you are exposed to from the sun which is the largest producer of blue light.
  • Photochromic Lenses – Commonly known as Transitions lenses, these glasses are sensitive to UV rays and darken when exposed to them. Photochromic lenses help with the intensity of the sunlight when you are outdoors, providing you with a more comfortable viewing experience. Keep in mind that photochromic lenses generally do not darken while you are driving a car due to the UV protection that is provided in the windshields and windows of all modern cars.

Prescription Sunglasses

If you are someone that spends a considerable amount of time outdoors or driving you may want to consider getting a pair of prescription sunglasses. There are plenty of sun-related health problems that could be prevented by wearing high-quality sunglasses to protect you from the sun’s damaging UV rays. Here are your options if you want prescription sunglasses.

  • Tinted Non-polarized Lenses – These lenses are dark lenses that give you 100% protection from UVA as well as UVB and generally could be customized for how dark you want your sunglasses to be and is available in a wide range of colors.
  • Polarized Lenses – Polarized lenses give you the same protection from UVA and UVB as the tinted lenses but with polarization, these lenses also give you protection from the harsh glare from the sun that could be reflecting off of flat surfaces such as the ground, snow, sand, water, or even the hood of your car.

How to Measure Your Pupillary Distance (PD)

One measurement you will need when you are placing your eyeglasses order online is your pupillary distance or also known as the PD measurement. This measurement is the distance between your eyes from the center of one pupil to another. This measurement will generally come in two forms, one that measures each eye separately (monocular) or both eyes together (binocular).

Some eye doctors will provide you with this measurement on your prescription, but this isn’t always the case therefore it would be good to understand how to measure your pupillary distance. Take a look at the video below by EyeBuyDirect on how to measure your PD. You can use any ruler that measures in millimeters to measure your PD.

Final Thoughts

With all that information you should have all you need to be able to place an order for your eyeglasses online. Even if you decide to go to a local retailer you now know about all the different options that are available and you could have your optician explain more in detail about the lenses or coatings that you were interested in.

If you have any additional questions feel free to drop a comment below or use the contact form to send me an email. As always thank you all for stopping by Eye Health HQ. If you enjoyed my article follow Eye Health HQ on our social media channels for the latest updates.

4 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to Ordering Glasses Online”

  1. Wow! Thank you very much for writing this valuable information. Through this article, I have come to realize that different types of lenses and lens materials have different functions and can read prescription glasses. So the next time I make glasses, I can understand what the doctor wrote (suddenly feels like a doctor, lol).

    2 years ago, I used glasses with OD – 2.5 and OS – 3.0. But now I switch to using contact lenses because I feel the glasses are very disturbing activities. But, just a year of use, my eyes changed to OD -3.0 and OS-3.5. How did it happen? Does the use of contact lenses make eyes more easily damaged?

    • Hey Kylie, Depending on how old you are, your eyes will change naturally whether you are wearing contacts or glasses. Most people’s prescriptions stable around when they are about 25 years old, but that isn’t always the case and your eyes could still change.

  2. Thank you, Huy, for this information. This is indeed the ultimate guide. Since I wear glasses, I think that differences in lens material is crucial, when you consider the weight and thickness. I can remember in grade school, because my prescription was so strong, that I had very thick and heavy lenses. 



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