Caution!! Buying Eyewear Online


It is becoming progressively easier to buy prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses online, and a quick internet search will turn up hundreds of websites selling prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses. But should you consider this method for ordering a medical device such as corrective eyeglasses? It is not quite as straightforward and easy when it comes to prescription eyeglasses. Eyeglasses must be designed specifically for you based on your prescription and facial dimensions. Eyewear that is not manufactured or fitted properly could lead to eyestrain, double vision, or headaches.

Fit matters:

Fit matters, not only for comfort and appearance but for your vision as well. Only a Licensed Optician or Optometrist can provide you with a proper fit or can take accurate measurements for the proper alignment of your eyeglass lenses. Your Licensed Optician or Optometrist will take the time and care to assure you are getting the proper lenses by doing a final inspection of the product. In many cases, you will see a difference in the quality of your vision. This is important when choosing progressive lenses and higher lens powers.

In Saskatchewan, the dispensing of eyeglasses and contact lenses is a controlled act, subject to Saskatchewan legislation, that requires a regulated health professional’s involvement. Prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses are both classified and regulated as medical devices by Health Canada, and many glasses and contact lenses purchased online do not meet Health Canada’s Standards. There is no guarantee your online purchase meets the regulator’s stipulated requirements. Although the internet allows you to access websites outside of Saskatchewan, it is considered illegal to purchase corrective eyewear online. The law is in place to protect you, the public.

People often make mistakes while ordering the wrong type of lenses, for example, by ordering bifocals when they really want progressives, which seamlessly transition from the near- and far-distance parts of the lens.

A 2012 study out of the School of Optometry of the Université de Montréal examined 16 frames and 32 lenses that were purchased from online glasses retailers.  Researchers found that six of the 32 lenses did not match the prescription, and 13 of the 16 frames did not receive a passing grade in terms of fit. A 2011 study published in the journal Optometry that evaluated 154 online eyewear orders showed nearly half of the prescription glasses did not meet patients’ “visual or physical needs.” The study showed 28.6 percent of the glasses contained at least one lens that failed a component of the optical analysis. (Source-

It is crucial to seek authorized Licensed Opticians, Licensed Contact Lens Practitioners or Optometrists in Saskatchewan while purchasing eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Decorative contact lenses:

Decorative contact lenses (sometimes called “fashion,” “costume,” “cosmetic,” or “coloured” contact lenses) don’t correct vision; they change how eyes look. They are typically sold at costume and novelty shops, at cosmetic retailers and online.

All types of contact lenses, including decorative lenses, pose health risks, including:

  • cuts or scratches to the top layer of the eyeball (corneal abrasions).
  • allergic reactions (e.g., itchy, watery, red eyes).
  • impaired vision.
  • infections; 
  • corneal ulcers, and
  • blindness.

Risks of side effects (also known as adverse reactions) from contact lenses are higher for smokers and people with certain health conditions, such as eye infections or dry eyes. The risk of adverse effects with unlicensed decorative contact lenses may be higher than with licensed prescription contact lenses.

Only a Licensed Contact Lens Practitioner registered with the Saskatchewan College of Opticians or an Optometrist, is authorized to dispense contact lenses in Saskatchewan. Anyone else found to be selling contact lenses, cosmetic, or decorative contact lenses online or offline would be regarded to be in violation of provincial legislation and may face legal action. The SCO has the right to take any necessary legal action against the seller.

See something, say something!

Health Canada began regulating contact lenses as medical devices in 2016. This means that they must be licensed by Health Canada before they can be sold. Selling unlicensed health products in Canada is illegal.

By using the product name or company shown on the box, consumers can search the Medical Devices Active Licence Listing database Health Canada database online to confirm whether their decorative contact lenses are authorized, or they can call Health Canada at  1-800-267-9675/1-866-337-7705

Anyone with information regarding non-compliant activities or health concerns involving the use of decorative contact lenses is encouraged to:

  • Report to the Saskatchewan College of Opticians (SCO) at about illegal selling of contact lenses in Saskatchewan. 
  • Report an adverse event related to contact lenses in Saskatchewan to SCO or Health Canada
  • Report problems with decorative contact lenses in Saskatchewan to SCO or Health Canada
  • Report a contact lens seller on Health Canada Website