4 Dirty Little Secrets Online Retailers Don’t Want You to Know

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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What to Do When Tear Drops Just Aren't Working

There are hundreds of over-the-counter eye drops.  Most people choose the wrong ones, and even the right drops don’t work forever.  So what’s next?

It’s Raining Eye Drops

I often ask patients how often they use eye drops.  Their answers range from “once or twice a month” to “a few times a day.”

last week I asked a patient and her answer shocked me: “Every two hours.”

We talked about how frustrating and inconvenient this must be, and discussed advanced treatments that might help her.

By the time she left we had a good plan to treat her dry eyes without so many eye drops.

Advanced Help Is On the Way

Treating dry dyes can be a challenge.  Some over-the-counter products work well, but many don’t.  To add to the confusion, many patients try several drops before seeing their eye doctor, but aren’t always willing to talk about it.

If you’ve tried treating your own eyes without success, you need a complete eye exam with an eye doctor you trust.  Here are some treatments and techniques he or she may prescribe:

  • Steroid eye drops.  These anti-inflammatory eye drops can be used to heal eyes that are dry and inflamed.  Extreme dryness, swelling, redness, pain, and discomfort can all be resolved with proper use of steroid drops.  There are several types, and all require a prescription.
  • Tear replacement drops.  Medications that help the eyes produce more tears include Restasis and the newer Xiidra.  They work well for some patients, but others have trouble using them.  They take longer to work, so several months of treatment are needed for the best effect.
  • Tear drain plugs.  Also known as punctal plugs, these small devices work just like plugging the drain in a sink.  We have two tear drain pores for each eye, and plugging one of them keeps more tears on the eye.  This can be helpful for people who can’t use eye drops or don’t like them.  The can make eye drops more effective, keeping the medication on the eye instead of allowing it to drain into the sinuses.
  • Tear drain cautery.  This is a permanent surgical closure of the tear drain.  This procedure is reserved for severe cases, although it works well.
  • Lacrisert.  This eye lubricant comes in the form of a tiny pellet.  Place it inside the lower eyelid, and it slowly dissolves throughout the day.  While the concept is a good one, I found my patients with severe dry eyes disliked the feeling of a foreign object in their eyes each morning.
  • Gland expression.  Dry eyes can be a result of poor oil gland secretions.  Your eye doctor might manually apply pressure to the oil glands in your eyelids, or use a system called LipiFlow by TearScience.  This is a device that attaches to the eye for several minutes, massaging and stimulating the tear glands.  Either way, significant pressure is needed to express eyelid oil glands, and some patients find the procedure uncomfortable.  Fortunately, results can last for months.

If you suffer from dry eyes, remember there are many more options than the eye drops you can buy at your grocery store.  Schedule a complete eye exam with an eye doctor you trust to find out more.

You might even discover your dry eyes aren’t dry at all.  There are many other reasons our eyes get uncomfortable, and I’ll review those in my next post.

Question: How many times have you tried over-the-counter artificial tears or other eye drops?  Did any of them work?  Please let me know in the comments below.


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