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Online prescription glasses not always right fit

Glasses can have different base curves

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Deep discount prescription eyewear is making a splash on the internet with prices far below the $100 to $400 prices charged by independent and big box eyewear stores.

Recent estimates predict e-commerce will help the global eyewear industry pass the $95 billion mark by 2015.

The do-it-yourself websites like Zeni.com and EyebuyDirect.com allow you to fill in your prescription and upload your picture to a virtual program to try on dozens of styles at prices starting at $6.95 a pair.

But the glasses you get from the labs (usually from China) aren't always right.

Online eyewear problems

An investigation by Local 6 found that while the prescriptions are accurate, the base curve (the curvature of the lens) did not always match left lens to right lens or company to company.

Two prescription glasses ordered from EyeBuyDirect.com matched the prescription, but the left and right lenses had completely different base curves.

Zenni.com made the same mistake with a prescription for progressive glasses. In fact, the entire prescription was found to be wrong. Zenni.com has already promised to replace them.

Terri Munroe, a veteran optician with Card's Opticians in Winter Park, inspected all five eye glasses ordered by Local 6.

Munroe said that the base curve imbalance on the left and right lens will create discomfort and eye strain because one lens is flatter than the other.

Munroe, a third-generation optician, said there is a certain risk to ordering glasses without a custom fit.

Customer reviews

Still, Local 6 viewer Cassandra Gardner said she loves her glasses and the price.

She paid $6.95 a pair ($11.90 with shipping) from Zenni.com and EyeBuyDirect.com. Both prescriptions were correct.

But the glasses ordered from EyeBuyDirect.com had different base curves on the left and right lens.

"There is a difference between the two glasses," she said. "These (EyeBuyDirect.com glasses) are not as sharp, but I would still wear them."

I ordered a pair of reading glasses at $6.95 plus shipping ($11.90 total cost) from Zenni.com. They looked good and were comfortable to wear.

But after about 10 minutes, I noticed my eyes felt strained and I had a headache.

My doctor told me my old glasses were at a 6 mm curve. The Zenni.com glasses were at a 4 mm curve.

Doctors can check patients' glasses for prescription accuracy and the base curve of the lenses.

Customer service at Zenni.com said the standard base curve used by the lab for my prescription is a 4 mm curve. A curve of 6 mm is not available.

In an email to my office, the company wrote: "We have checked with our lab and found that the base curve can be affected by the refraction and the prescription."

Overall, the glasses look good and are functional but the base curve options are usually limited.

Still, experts agree you should have the glasses checked by an optometrist or optician before wearing them full time.

If you have bought prescription glasses online, tell us what you think about them in the comments.