How do you find a good optician?

We'll tell you what's important – from the first eye examination all the way through lens fitting

Cutting-edge equipment, excellent qualifications, one-on-one consultation and a bit of fashion sense – there are different ways to identify a good optician. BETTER VISION explains: What sets a good optician apart from the rest – from the eye test all the way to the fitting? How can you find an optician near you? How does a vision test work? How do you achieve the best possible results?

What sets a good optician apart?

There are a lot of opticians, but not all of them have the same quality standards, same philosophy or same areas of specialisation. Their know-how, equipment and the quality of the consultation can vary enormously. At the same time, selecting a new pair of glasses and deciding to go to a particular optician is always a very personal choice – much like selecting a doctor. Thus your optician should be not only an expert in their field, but also friendly. We have compiled the most important points that will help you identify a good optician.

Checking things out by phone

As soon as you've found an optician that you think will be friendly – such as on the internet or by using our search function – we recommend that you first check things out by phone. By talking to your potential optician, you'll know immediately if the "chemistry" is right, and if they take the time to answer your questions. Don't rush, and show-off what you know. Ask what systems they use to analyse a patient's eyes and fit the frames, such as for refraction or spectacle lens centration. Compared to more traditional methods, innovative systems enable a significantly more precise visual analysis and fit to the wearer's eyes. If you feel the optician hasn't provided satisfactory answers to your questions, then don't schedule an appointment. Keep looking until you find an optician who takes the time to answer all your questions.

The first impression counts

As soon as you arrive, have a look around at the shop. Do you like it? Is the location comfortable, clean and free of clutter? Is it a place where you wouldn't mind spending an hour or two?

What matters most? – Time

The most important part of buying a new pair of glasses is finding an optician who has plenty of time for you and provides a detailed consultation. Each eye is one-of-a-kind, and a high-quality pair of glasses is as unique as a fingerprint. There are many different factors that influence how well you actually see with your new glasses, making it even more important to have a comprehensive consultation and question-and-answer session with your optician. It takes time to find the best lens for you – and your optician should be ready to take the time. If your optician seems stressed and impatient, if they only use professional jargon that you don't understand or that they don't explain, then you'd be better off ending the consultation and going somewhere else.

1. Your case history (creation of your personal vision profile)

Your case history (creation of your personal vision profile)

The consultation should start with a detailed case history. A good optician will want to know things like: Where will you wear your new glasses? Are you looking for an everyday pair of glasses or do you want glasses for work, driving or a special visual aid? Describe where you'll be wearing your glasses in detail. Do you have any eye diseases? And if you already own a pair of glasses: What do you like about your old glasses? What don't you like?

Don't forget: if you have the feeling that your optician is in a rush, then you've come to the wrong place. A comprehensive case history can easily take a quarter of an hour.

2. Eye measurement

Eye measurement

Once they've taken your case history, the optician begins with the objective measurement of your eyes to determine your prescription. A good optician works using cutting-edge measuring instruments like the i.Profiler®plus from ZEISS. Here you look into the machine and just have to concentrate on a point within an image. It's quite easy, and in next to no time a profile of your eyes is created that resembles a 3D fingerprint. This way every tiny optical detail of your eyes can be identified, including anomalies, oddities, surface properties and how well you can see at night. These are important factors that play a key role in the selection of your future spectacle lenses.

Subjektive Refraction

Even though the i.Profiler captures every detail of your eyes, an additional analysis is necessary to determine your visual acuity: subjective refraction. This term refers to the "traditional" eye measurement performed by your optician. Lenses with different prescriptions are placed in a pair of frames, and then a test is performed to check how well you see with them. You're familiar with this step if you've ever owned a pair of glasses. The optician asks questions like: "Which is clearer: the left lens or the right?" – And this continues until you are sure that you've achieved the best result. Alternatively, there is also the "phoropter". This resembles an enormous pair of glasses with interchangeable lenses featuring different prescriptions that the optician can places in front of your face. Your optician presses a button to change the lenses instead of placing these in the trial frames manually.

Keep in mind: if you aren't sure which lens is better or if you still don't have sharp, clear vision, then be honest! Tell your optician. Don't be afraid that this step might take too long. Just remember: every eye is unique, which means things can go quite quickly for one person, while someone else might need a bit more time. A good optician won't rush you, because it's their job to find the right pair of lenses with precision and care that will help you enjoy outstanding vision.

3. Frame and lens selection

Frame and lens selection

Then comes the part everyone looks forward to the most. A pair of glasses is also ultimately also a fashion statement, and given the vast variety of sizes and colours to choose from, making a decision is often difficult. A good optician not only knows which pair of frames optimally complements your facial features and your lenses and can help you narrow down the possible selections. They will also show you which pair of frames is best-suited to your vision needs. Because what most people unfortunately don't realise is that not every pair of frames is suitable for every lens. Thus the optician should provide you with plenty of information about different lens solutions, coatings and tints. A good optician also offers good, high-quality lenses. After all, they are the most important part of a pair of glasses. Depending on your particular vision needs and how you'll be using your glasses, your optician will suggest suitable options, inform you about their benefits and details and check to ensure you'll enjoy optimum vision together with your favourite frames. Sometimes an inexpensive lens is perfectly suitable, such as for a pair of reading glasses. A good optician stands apart from the rest by explaining every step of the process so that you understand their suggestion. If this isn't the case, don't hesitate and ask questions. It does not reflect well on an optician's professionalism if they don't discuss your choice of frames or sell you lenses without explaining how they are best-suited for you.  

4. Fitting your glasses

Fitting your glasses

The final step before making your purchase is to have the selected frames fitted to your face. The fitting is extremely important because no two faces are alike: everyone's nose, eyes and ears are in a different spot, and each pair of eyes has its own pupillary distance (PD). Even the visual point, i.e. the spot where you look through the lens, varies from one person to the next. All these parameters must be measured, because this is the only way for the spectacle lens manufacturer to produce a pair of perfectly individualised lenses, thereby guaranteeing you optimum vision.

Warranty and service

Warranty and service

Ask about warranties and how long they last (such as: "Can I bring my glasses back to have them repaired?"), and when placing your order, make sure you get a receipt that lists all services and individual prices. A good optician wants you to be happy with your new glasses, and should offer to make any necessary improvements and additional modifications.

Dispensing

When dispensing your glasses, you optician needs to check a few different things, including: How well do you see overall? Have the lenses and the frames been optimally fitted? A particularly important question for varifocal lens wearers: Is the centration perfect? Are the lenses securely inserted in the frames? If not, then the optician needs to make some adjustments. The same holds true if the edge of the lens is too clearly visible when wearing the glasses, if the glasses aren't comfortable to wear, or if they exert too much pressure on your nose or behind your ears.

If your optician has paid attention to all these issues, then your search is over: you're in good hands.

How do you achieve the best vision test results?

Many spectacle wearers know the feeling: you do two vision tests in a row and get different results. The reason: our eyes' visual performance varies slightly over the course of the day. Usually the maximum deviation is 0.25 dioptres. The objective measurement with the i.Profiler®plus compensates for these differences and integrates them into the lens design with i.Scription® Technology. However, to ensure that your eyes are up to the task, here are our tips for achieving the best-possible result:

  • Try to be as rested and relaxed as possible when you go for your eye test. If less time has passed between getting up and your appointment, the less "work" your eyes have performed.
  • Contact lens wearers should wear glasses instead of their contact lenses for 24 hours before the test. Contact lenses change the shape of the cornea and thus affect your visual performance during the eye test.
  • Do not go on an empty stomach or when you're thirsty. A nutrient deficiency or dehydration can affect the result.
  • Diabetes can cause significant fluctuations in how well your eyes work. It is recommended that diabetics have their eyes tested at different times of the day and, in certain circumstances, by an ophthalmologist.
  • Taking certain medications may also affect how well your eyes work. Depending on the medication, it is recommended that you take them after your eye examination.
  • If you're optician doesn't ask, inform them of any medications you're taking as well as illnesses like diabetes.
  • Take the time to have your eyes tested. A good optician will need about an hour to complete vision analysis, including the consultation.

How often should you have your eyes tested?

  • Adults without eye problems or eye diseases should have their eyes tested at the following intervals: every six years for those between 20-39 years of age, every two to three years for those over 40, and every one to two years for those over 65.

  • It is recommended that spectacle wearers have their eyes tested annually by their optician. The optician should also check the glasses you're wearing and realign them if necessary. No matter how old you are or what vision problems you might have: you should always have your eyes tested if you find that your vision is getting worse, or if you notice you suffer from tired eyes more frequently than usual.

  • Children should have their eyes tested regularly: starting when they are between two to three-and-a-half years old, then before starting school and subsequently every two years until they're adults. This way initial warning signs of a visual impairment or eye illness can be identified early on. Premature babies and children whose parents or siblings suffer from a squint or severe visual impairment should go to an ophthalmologist regularly for an eye examination starting when they are six-months old.
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