My eyes surely do deceive me...
August 18, 2011 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Can wearing glasses with the wrong prescription for an extended period of time affect the accuracy of a new eye exam?

Approximately two years ago I received an eye exam from an eye doctor in whom I didn't have much confidence (speaking from hindsight). I received my glasses after that exam and they felt wrong. I knew there was an adjustment period for a new prescription, so I gave it several days. They still felt wrong. I wear glasses pretty much 24/7, btw.

I returned to the establishment and the same doctor (the only doctor there) checked my eyes again. They sent out for new lenses (I don't know how different the precription was from the first). When the lenses arrived, they installed them in my frames and they still felt really wrong. I was so confused and frustrated and angry at this point. I didn't want to go back. I should have gone to a different eye doctor and pressed for another exam. Unfortunately, I didn't.

I eventually got used to the glasses. They didn't cause me headaches (but I'm not headache prone). I didn't notice eye strain. But, as I now know, eye strain is really hard to notice when you get used to it on a daily basis. Eyes are so clever and tricky and are amazingly adaptive.

Cut to two years later. I went to a new eye doctor (this is a couple of weeks ago). The prescription I have been wearing, surprise!, is totally wrong. So wrong that he was amazed. So wrong that I have wondered if the old eye place inadvertently switched the right and left lenses when they installed them into my frames. After all, I held the frames while they sent in for the lenses. Now, this is pure conjecture on my part, of course, as I really have no idea what the hell went so wrong. But I respect this current doctor's opnion much more than I did the last. Various people I know referred me to him.

So, from this new exam I have a new (supposedly correct) prescription. I picked out new frames and now am waiting for the glasses to come in.

But part of me can't help but worry. Could the accuracy of my eye exam have been affected by wearing this wrong prescription for so long, including the entire morning before the exam? If my eyes were so adaptive to this very wrong prescription, how am I going to know if the new prescription is correct? He did warn me that there will be an adjustment period for this correct prescription, and I know this. But how will I know that I'm not simply adjusting to (another) wrong prescription? Does any of this make sense? I'm so worried that my eyes are tricking me, the doctor, everyone! Should I be concerned? I am farsighted, if it makes any difference, and I don't know the difference in powers between my last and new prescription. Would having this information help me? Thanks for any and all advice/help.
posted by Falwless to Health & Fitness (2 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have always been lucky to have eyesight that ranges from excellent to pretty darn OK. I got regular eye exams growing up and everything was always perfect. But after a few months of college (where there were stretches where I was reading probably 12 hours a day) I started having problems. I went to an ophthalmologist to get things checked and boom: I needed glasses. Not a very strong prescription (I was a little farsighted in one eye and a little nearsighted in the other), but one that really helped my reading and cut down on the eyestrain.

I wore the glasses every time I read for the next couple years, getting regular exams all the while. And then one day, I didn't need the glasses anymore. I got an eye exam and my vision was perfect again. (I know!) My ophthalmologist said that my (only slightly sub-par) vision had corrected itself because I was so diligent in wearing the glasses. (Now, I am not an eye doctor and no one in my family wears glasses, so I really don't have the experience to know whether that is a Thing That Happens. But I trust my ophthalmologist, he's a friend of the family, and I really, really doubt that he was putting me on.)

Anyway, that is all to say that yes, I suppose it's possible that wearing the wrong prescription for an extended period of time affected the "accuracy" of your eye exam, in the sense that wearing the wrong prescription may have pushed your vision even further away from normal. Do I think that wearing the wrong prescription caused you to preform, in the short term, on the eye exam in a way that did not accurately reflect the current state of your vision? No.

If I were you, I would be really diligent in getting regular eye exams and getting your prescription changed when necessary. Maybe go in for another exam in 6 months instead of waiting a full year, just to check up on things. As long as you're keeping tabs on any changes you may experience, I wouldn't worry about it too much. Good luck!
posted by phunniemee at 10:11 AM on August 18, 2011

IANAO but I had the EXACT same experience as you (but with contacts).

I had no complaints with my prescription but had relocated and needed a new optometrist. My prescription had not changed in ten years until I went to the new optometrist. The lenses he ordered for me where significantly weaker in both eyes and the number measuring my astigmatism was too. I went back for two more exams until I got so frustrated I just settled for the too weak prescription.

A year later, I went to another optometrist, told him the story of the optometrist from hell and he assured me he would fit me with the right prescription. I was pretty confident that the previous optometrist was so wrong that when this new optometrist fitted me with a lens, even though it wasn't the prescription I'd had for 10 years, it was slightly better. Still a little weak but better. I went back once to be reexamined and then figured that the problem must be mine.

After whining for a month, I took my boss's recommendation that I see her opthamologist. I didn't tell the opthamologist about my previous experience but, after examining me with my ill-fitted lenses, she asked me how long it had been since I'd had my eyes examined because the lenses were too weak. An hour later, I had in a set of sample contacts that were, surprise surprise, the exact same prescription I'd had since I started wearing contacts at age 18. And they fit perfectly.

All that to say, I don't know what the problem was but don't settle. It's expensive and unnecessary. All you have to do is call VSP or whatever health insurance you have and tell them that you were not happy with your exam and that you'd like to see a new doctor. This worked for me anyway.
posted by omarlittle at 10:12 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

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