Consumers Guide to Buying Prescription Lenses 2020


Shopping is easy in most cases, regardless of if it’s online or in a brick-and-mortar store. However, when it comes to shopping prescription lens, you might not find it that easy.

Prescription lenses are needed by three in four people. Shockingly, 75% of the population require or use a prescription lens for some vision correction. It inevitably means there are several others just like you, looking to shop the best prescription lens. To ensure this is always a smooth process and you can avoid mistakes, we’ve put together this ultimate consumer guide.

Before You Shop

Unlike when you’re buying clothing or groceries, prescription lenses shopping takes some essential pre-planning.

Know Your Options

Knowledge is power, they say, and it has always proven true. Don’t shop blindly without prior information or a good idea of what your options are. Before you place any orders or browse any sites to shop, take the time to learn about what’s on the market. Learn and understand terms like lens coating, types of lens, types of frames, and the measurements involved, and so on. With basic knowledge, you can make more informed decisions.

Talk to your doctor

There will be no prescription lens if your doctor hasn’t examined your eyes. After the examination, your optometrist will give you a copy of your prescription regardless of whether you ask for it. Ask your doctor about the lens that is best for you or any considerations you should have in mind when purchasing. It is relevant because your vision correction needs might not work out well with the wrong type of glasses. For instance, a rimless or semi-rimless frame may contradict a prescription requiring thick prescription lenses.

Aside from frame and lens consideration, you should also discuss possible add-ons like transitional lenses, anti-reflective lenses, and more.

A prescription from a doctor is valid for two years if you are an adult and one year younger. It’s important not to shop for prescription lenses with an outdated prescription. Get a new one through a recent appointment first.

To buy your prescription lenses, you will also need to measure pupillary distance. The pupillary distance (PD) is the distance between your pupils measured in millimeters. The vendor you shop with will require it to prepare your prescription glasses properly. Ask your doctor to help with this for a professional measurement.

Here are some terms you can find on your prescription that often come up when shopping the lenses;

  • OS – Oculus Sinister – This refers to your left eye
  • OD – Oculus Dexter – This refers to your right eye
  • Axis – Axis is the positioning of the cylindrical power on your lenses. It mostly comes up for astigmatism.
  • SPH – Sphere – This describes the amount of lens power. It is prescribed for farsightedness (+) and shortsightedness (-)
  • CYL – Cylinder – This describes the amount of lens power for astigmatism
  • ADD – ADD for bifocals is the magnifying power applied to the bottom part of multifocal lenses for correcting presbyopia.

When You Shop

With other preparations out of the way, you can move on to shop your prescription lens. There’s no shortage of vendors for prescription lenses, and that can present another challenge. How do you know the right one for you?

Consider Convenience

Convenience is a significant factor when buying anything at all. From being able to see a wide range of options to have the flexibility to choose and be confident you’ve selected your favorite item that is also suitable.

For shopping prescription lens, you get to choose between a walk-in store and an online store. Where you live may determine what the walk-in stores have to offer while an online store gives a much wider range of choices. Also, with buying online, the price may vary from site to site. 

Aside from your preferences, the satisfaction rate is the same at an average for both online retailers and walk-in stores.


Buying a prescription lens online is generally cheaper than paying out of pocket in a walk-in store. The difference can span over hundreds of dollars. At the same time, prices vary across various online stores. It’s possible to shop around, but it’s important not to let price alone be your deciding factor when shopping online. Other factors such as quality and those listed below should be thought of too.

Consider One-stop Shop

Some consumers may opt to shop for prescription lenses at one store and frame at another. The aim is probably to beat down costs. However, shopping in a one-stop-shop can prove more beneficial than you think.

Check the Retailers Reputation and Insurance

After deciding on the store to shop with, make the extra effort to check their reputation. Check for reviews, complaints, stable online presence, and more. Confirming the reputation lets you rest easy, knowing that the retailer will deliver as promised. Go further to see the information on shipping or delivery if shopping with an online retailer. See the refund and return policy or system set up to attend to your needs if you have any problems or want to change.

Insurance is also vital to look at. Find out if the retailer will accept your plan and what you can do if they don’t.

Fulfill Your Part of the Deal

You are the consumer, but you have your part to play when it comes to shopping. When filling your prescription details, do so carefully and double-check to avoid any errors. Some retailers may request a photo of the prescription instead of preventing errors.

Some Lens Choices

Single Vision Lenses

These are known as the most basic of lenses and likely the most affordable. Single vision lenses are designed to correct one field of vision. They are mostly prescribed for shortsightedness or long-sightedness.

Transition Lenses

They are more of a lens coating choice. Transition or photochromic lens turns dark when these come in contact with UV light. They are convenient and affordable in the long run as they take away the need for sunglasses when outdoors. They add style to your prescription lens.

Bifocal Lenses

Bifocals are lenses with two powers. They belong to a group of lenses described as multifocal because, in one lens, you have sections for near and far correction. They are versatile.

Progressive Lenses

These lenses perform the same function as bifocals and trifocals, but in a different way. They were designed to overcome the setback of bifocals and trifocals, which was the dividing lines that often inconvenienced wearers. Progressives give you smooth near, intermediate, and distance correction but with a smaller field of vision than bifocals and trifocals.

High-index Lenses

High-index lenses are suitable for a strong prescription and are thinner and lighter than CR-39 or polycarbonate lenses.

Polycarbonate Lenses

Polycarbonate lenses are plastic, durable, lighter, thinner, and impact-resistant plastic lenses. They have built-in UV protection and are good if you are often in situations that can easily damage your glasses.

Shop another Pair

If you are getting both prescription lenses and frames in one shop and get a good deal for the price, consider buying an extra pair. It comes in handy for saving you cost or stress in the long-run.

When you’ve Received Your Purchase

Check for suitability

When you receive your prescription lenses, you must first verify that they suit your prescription and are comfortable with them. You can get back to your doctor with the lenses to be sure all is in order. It is best done sooner than later.

If your frames purchased elsewhere need adjustment or need professional help to fit the prescription lens in the frames, walk-in retailers can help. Since you purchased the frames and lenses elsewhere, you may pay a fee for the service.

Why Buy Prescription Lens From RX-Able?

  • We stock a wide variety of prescription lenses from diversity in lens material to size, type, color, and brand.
  • Rx-able is a reputable retailer of quality lenses.
  • All lenses are processed in an Essilor lab.
  • We make new lenses in 1-2 days and deliver replacement lenses in your frame within a week.
  • We give free shipping both ways for your convenience, and we accept vision insurance.

Browse our site to learn about more options or live chat with a licensed optician for assistance.


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