If you are not blessed with 20/20 vision, then you most likely have endured the eye-glass exam quiz, “Which is better, 1 or 2?” You have probably also been subjected to those awful posters of magnified eyeballs in all their veiny glory when your eye doctor tries to explain common eye diseases. And lastly, you never forget painfully squinting through dark sunglasses after having your pupils dilated for an exam.
The dreaded eye exam experience can give the dentist chair a run for its money, but new technology is changing that. LensCrafters recently introduced AccuExam, a state of the art digital eye exam that often eliminates the need for dilation and the “Which is better...” test.
I recently had the chance to try out the new exam technology and got a great pair of glasses, but not until after a fiasco that convinced me that LensCrafters will be my one and only stop for my next pair.
Having recently snapped my favorite pair of glasses in half, I needed to purchase a new pair, and the selection of frames at Costco where I got the original frames was dismal, so I went to a boutique and picked out a lovely frame with the whopping price-tag of $550. Even after applying my insurance, the final cost of the complete eye glasses was over $1,000. Unfortunately, the old adage, “You get what you pay for,” was not my experience.
After four go-backs to try to get the prescription right, still my vision was blurry at the computer or reading.
Granted, my prescription is tricky. If it were not for the latest HD quality thin lenses I would be wearing the proverbial Coke bottles. And it rings true, that you wake up the day you turn 42 and cannot see close up; but I refuse to wear readers, and so I require a blended bifocal, or graduated glasses, where the line is invisible. To add another degree of challenge, I have astigmatism.
The stylish little shop with the high-priced frames promised their technology was state of the art, but after the fifth fail I took my bad eye sight over to LensCrafters for a look.
Rocco the technician at LensCrafters took his time with me to run through a series of pre-exam tests including some of the standard charts of letters and screeners for color-blindness, and then there were a few I had never seen in my 20-plus years of eye exams, such as ones to measure the shape of the eye and an Optomat automatic lens meter that gives a 200 degree view of the inside of the eye without the need for dilation. Lastly, I braced for the puff-in-the-eye glaucoma test. All of it was painless.
The idea of the pre-exam makes sense: a technician runs through these time-consuming data collecting components of the exam and then hands off the results to the doctor so he or she can spend more quality time with the patient. When my optometrist, Dr. Meredith Barber, was ready to see me, she already had a picture of my eye health as a baseline for her exam.
For children, these passive pre-exam measurements are ideal, since they have less patience than adults to sit for a long exam, and many of the tests eliminate or lessen the need for subjective feedback from children, who are not the most reliable when it comes to the, “Which is better, 1 or 2” quiz.”
The pre-exam meant less time sitting behind the old-tech clunky machine with the lenses, a phoropter, where the doctor fine tunes the prescription. The doctor then showed me the images of my eye and explained how my astigmatism was affecting my sight. She also showed me images that illustrated how I see uncorrected and then with glasses. For children, this is a very useful tool in explaining to parents how their children are seeing. In the end, I had my prescription and a full view of my eye health in about 30 minutes.
Finally, it came to choosing the frames. I admit that I did not think of LensCrafters as fashion headquarters when it came to frames, which is why I first went to the pricey boutique, but I was amazed at the walls of high-style designer frames including brands like Burberry, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Bvlgari.
Plenty of associates were on hand to help me find suitable frames and give me honest feedback. They even used an iPad to take four photos of me wearing different frames so I could compare side-to-side. They then put the image of me wearing my chosen pair, a two-tone turquoise and black Tiffany model, on a computer screen to precisely measure the center and take other measurements to make sure the lenses would be made to suit the frames. This was a vast improvement from the snooty boutique where the sales person used a black Sharpie to mark the approximate center based on his visual assessment. No wonder I had to go back five times!
Overall the experience was outstanding. Even though my special-order glasses were supposed to take three weeks to make, I got a call in less than a week saying they were ready.
My seven-year-old son also got an exam, and happily his eye health is excellent, except for dry eyes from the sun and surf, remedied with some drops. This was a relief, as I learned that 80 percent of children’s learning is through their sight, and 25 percent of school-age children may have vision problems that can affect learning, according to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.
For mom and son, seeing is believing. I got a beautiful pair of Tiffany frames, made right the first time -- and garnering the first compliments I have gotten on my glasses in years, and I have peace of mind that my son is seeing all he should see, just in time for the start of school. So on his first report card, hopefully we will see lots of “A’s.”