How Much Is Your Vision Worth?

You Just Might Be Asking the Wrong Question About Your Eyes

The high cost of health care is a common topic these days.  But what about the higher cost of not caring for yourself?

What Should You Really Ask?

Years ago I bought a motorcycle on a whim.  Another doctor at LaFollette Eye Clinic rode one, and I thought it might be fun to have one myself.

But I did not ride on a whim.  As soon as I got it, I enrolled in a motorcycle training academy.  I wanted to learn the rules of the road and more importantly, how to ride safely.

During a classroom session, the instructor reviewed different types of helmets.  After discussing the pros and cons of each type, he finished the lesson.  He never mentioned how much any of them cost.  After class, a man wanted to know how much he should spend on a helmet.

Immediately, the instructor asked, “How much is your head worth?”

A Different Approach

The instructor had a good point.  The man asked the wrong question.  He wasn’t concerned with what the helmet did (protect his head from injury) as much as wondered how much it would cost.

Now, I can be frugal.  I don’t like to spend unnecessarily.  But I’m rarely in search of the cheapest option.  What I prefer is value.  There’s a difference.

Cheap = I spend as little as possible.

Value = I get the best for the most reasonable cost.

Many people make the same mistake as my classmate when they ask about the cost of eye care and eyewear.  Instead of considering what eye care actually is (and what their eyes do for them), they seek cheaper options.

And yes, cheaper options exist.  Free eye exams, free glasses, cheap products and services have flooded the market.  Now ask yourself: Is this really what you want for life’s most precious sense?

Check out the following examples where cheap actually meant worthless:

  • Roofing: I knew a man who bought the cheapest of everything.  When he needed a new roof, he only considered price when he decided who would get the job.  You can guess what happened next: the roofer didn’t install flashing, and his new roof leaked terribly.  It caused thousands of dollars of damage to the interior of his home.
  • Accessories: Rather than save up for a luxury handbag she wanted, a friend decided to buy a knockoff.  She found a man willing to sell her a fake bag for a cheap price, but when she took her money out, he grabbed it and ran.
  • Air travel: Some airlines charge lower fares yet still provide value.  Others, not so much.  Once, I decided to fly a bargain airline that promised lower fares.  They delivered, but only on the fare.  Additional “service fees” quickly added up.  And, I had the worst flying experience of my life.
  • Eyewear: I know a lady who hates her eyewear.  This is something she wears on her face every day!  I noticed she had chosen a basic frame and lens set.  But when I suggested she buy a new (and better) pair, she refused on the grounds that her vision plan wouldn’t pay for it.  See this post to find out what happened next.

I understand the need to save on costs.  But I also know the pitfalls of choosing low cost over value.  So the next time you wonder about the cost of eye care and glasses, ask instead: How much are your eyes worth?

If you’re living the visual lifestyle, you already know: bargain basement prices are great if you’re buying a pair of pants.  But not so much if you’re talking about clear vision and healthy eyes for a lifetime.

Question: When did you choose cheap and regret it?  Please tell me about it in the comments below.


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They're Opening Real Stores at Record Pace

Glasses websites often suggest buying your eyewear online is the way to go.  But many of these same companies are opening physical store locations so people can shop in person.  What’s going on here?

Starting From Scratch

I have a friend who is a housing contractor.  Yesterday he told me he bought a house and tore it down, only to begin building a new one.


He said he’s rather start from the beginning than fix someone else’s mistakes.  If the walls aren’t square or the drywall is incorrect, it might cost him more to renovate.

To be fair, a house can settle over time.  But as often as not, it’s just poor craftsmanship.

How About Your Eyes?

The same can be true for eyewear.  It’s often difficult to fix problems caused by online glasses without starting over with a completely new pair.

That’s one reason why several online glasses retailers are adding physical locations where people can walk in and buy glasses.  Warby Parker Co-CEO Neil Blumenthal sums it up this way: “I don’t think retail is dead.”

What an understatement!  And while online companies would like you to think their physical locations are just their way of bringing you more of their online goodness, what’s being left unsaid?  There are other reasons online companies want physical stores, and they’d rather keep those a secret.  Because of course, they also sell glasses online.

Here are 4 reasons online retailers are really adding physical locations:

  • Fit.  Lets’ face it.  Online shopping isn’t known for precision, especially when it’s something you wear.  It’s common for people to order several outfits or pairs of shoes, only to keep one (if they keep any at all) and send the rest back.  And how many of those “keepers” quickly lose their appeal?  In a physical store, you can trust an eye care professional to get the fit right.
  • Finish.  A digital photo isn’t going to tell you anything about texture, flex, or feel.  It doesn’t matter how sophisticated the software, it won’t replace holding nice glasses in your hands or feeling them on your face.  Is that beautiful tortoise frame matte or glossy?  Is that sleek metal heavy or light?  And more importantly, which one will work better with your particular prescription?  These are questions a good optician can answer for you in person.
  • Style.  Have you ever bought a piece of art or decor that looked great by itself but just didn’t work in your home?  Chances are high this will happen with eyewear.  Even if it fits you, that gorgeous frame in the photo still has a high probability of not looking right.  Eyewear is meant to frame the face.  Which is wonderful if it emphasizes your positive features.  Not so much if it brings attention to ones you’d rather minimize.  A professional can help you find the best styles for your taste, your fashion sense, and even your face shape and features.
  • Vision.  Many patient surveys verify what your eye doctor already suspects: the most important part of eye care is clear vision.  And if vision is most important, then you need to be more concerned about the lenses than the frame.  There are dozens of companies that make lenses, and hundreds of lens brands you can choose.  And, some are much clearer than others.  Good ones offer clear, comfortable vision, and others are unwearable.  When you order glasses online, your lens choice is limited (if you get to choose at all).  On the other hand, ordering glasses from an experienced professional is the best way to know which lenses will give you the clearest most comfortable vision.

These are just a few reasons I’m not a fan of online glasses.  But then, if you’re living the visual lifestyle, you probably already knew that, didn’t you?

Question: Have you ever ordered something online that just didn’t live up to the hype?  Please tell me about it in the comments below.


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5 Misleading Reasons Your Eyes Are Irritated

Don't Let These Conditions Fool You

My last few posts have been about dry eyes.  But what if your “dry eyes” aren’t dry at all?  Many other eye conditions can irritate your eyes.

Seasonal allergies can cause your eyes to feel dry

When Self-Medicating Is a Bad Idea

Last week I saw a patient who has glaucoma.  He hasn’t had an eye exam in several years.  He stopped using his glaucoma drops when his prescription ran out, and began using over-the-counter dry eye drops instead.

Of course, they weren’t helping.  His glaucoma was uncontrolled, and had caused nerve damage in both eyes.

Dry Eye Drops Aren’t Always the Best Choice

This is an extreme example, but it shows just how confusing the world of eye drops can be.  Often, when people choose the wrong drops it’s more of an inconvenience than a threat to their vision.

Still, if you’re going to buy and use eye drops, don’t you want to use the right drops for the right eye condition?

There are several other conditions and eye diseases that can cause your eyes to feel dry.  Don’t let them fool you.  Here are some major ones:

  • Allergy eyes.  This is commonly confused with dry eyes.  Worse, many people have both conditions.  Artificial tears might actually help, since they wash allergens from the eyes.  But a medicated eye drop may work better.  Some people find success with traditional allergy medications, prescription medications, and even allergy shots.
  • Medications.  Medicines that dry out the eyes include antidepressants, antihistamines, and decongestants.  Some blood pressure medicines and hormone replacement therapies do too.  There are many others, which is why it’s important to make sure you bring a list of all your medicines every time you see your eye doctor.
  • Body conditions.  Medical conditions that can cause dry eyes include thyroid diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, and diabetes.  Your eye doctor can manage the eye problems as your family doctor or specialist manages the disease.
  • Eye diseases.  Many eye conditions can fool you into thinking you have dry eyes.  Scratches and scrapes, foreign material in the eyes, chemical reactions, infections, and even genetic conditions can all feel like dry eyes.  Some patients try to treat themselves for dry eyes, not knowing they have a serious eye condition.  This only delays proper medical treatment, and in some cases threatens vision.
  • Eyelid diseases.  Sometimes the problem isn’t the eyes at all.  There are a lot of eyelid conditions that cause discomfort:
    • Blepharitis – various forms of mattering or clogging of the tear glands
    • Meibomianitis – inflammation of the eyelid tear glands
    • Rosacea – a skin disorder that affects the eyelids

There are so many causes for uncomfortable eyes.  You can get relief for dry eyes (see this post and this post for more information).  And, the list above is just a start to help you understand other reasons your eyes may be irritated.

Just remember you need a complete eye exam with an eye doctor you trust.  He or she will explain your eye conditions and the best ways to treat them.  And while there are some effective home remedies for your eyes, don’t jeopardize your vision for the sake of convenience.

If you’re living the visual lifestyle and hope for a lifetime of clear, comfortable vision, you’ll schedule that eye exam today.

Question: Have you ever self-diagnosed but made a mistake?  What happened?  Please tell me about it in the comments below.


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