About four months ago, at the very beginning of the Grand Confinement — the lockdown — in France, I had an accident. I was out walking in the vineyard with Tasha. She walks without a leash, and sometimes she stops to sniff something and falls behind. On the walk in question, I lost sight of her. I called her, to no avail. I kept walking slowly but then I turned my head to see if I could see her behind me. That was a mistake. I tripped on something and down I went, face first.
Luckily, I wasn't injured at all. However, my glasses were. My face actually hit the ground, and my glasses scraped across a stray rock that was just lying there. If I hadn't had glasses on, I might have seriously injured my eye. As it was, I badly damaged my glasses. The rock made a deep scratch in the plastic lens. You can see it in the photo above. And here's a close-up.
France and a lot of other countries don't recognize optometry as a legitimate healthcare specialty. In the U.S., when you need to have your eyes examined, you go to see an optometrist. It's the same in England and the rest of the U.K, as far as I know. We have an English friend who is a retired optometrist. In France, when you need your vision tested, you have to go see an ophthalmologist. And guess what? The waiting time for getting an appointment with an opthalmo [uhf-tahl-MOH] is six or even nine months in much of the country. There's severe shortage of them in France.
Finally, a week or so ago, I went to an optical shop to find out what my options were. I was motivated to do something about the spare pair of glasses when, a few days earlier, I had put on my mask to go into our village bakery to buy some bread. When I walked out of the shop and back toward my car, I pulled the mask off because my glasses were fogging up. When I pulled the mask off, it caught on my glasses and they flew off my face, langing landed on the rough pavement of the parking lot. I nearly panicked, thinking I had damaged my only usable pair of glasses. Luckily again, I hadn't.
The big problem is that I've never been examined by an ophthalmo in France. Since my sister in North Carolina is (or was — she's retired now) a professional optician and was employed by an eye care center in our home town, I had my vision tested there by the on-staff optometrist and my sister made my glasses for me on my annual visits to see her, our mother, and other family and friends. I don't have any prescription for corrective lenses that is newer than 2009. Even if I had a newer American prescription, I'm not sure it would be valid in France. I can't even go to N.C. to get new one right now, because of the crise sanitaire.
The first optician I talked to said she couldn't do anything for me until I got a prescription from a French ophthalmo. She said the lead time to get a rendez-vous might not be as long as I'd heard, but that I'd probably have to go to Tours or even Orléans to find one who could see me sooner. Blois was a possibility. It's more complicated than that, because insurance is involved, but I won't go into all the details.
So last Wednesday I went to see another optician, this one just across the river in Noyers-sur-Cher, three miles from our house by car. She was very helpful. She said that if I wanted to be reimbursed a portion of the cost of one or maybe two new lenses, according to whether my vision has changed since my last exam, I had two options. I could try to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmo, but that would probably take many months. Or I could go see my médecin traitant — my primary care physician — and he could write me a prescription for replacement lenses. I had never known that was an option. The optician told me that she could do the eye exam and order the appropriate lenses for me, cut them, and put them into a frame.
I'm trying to decide whether to have the new lens or lenses put into my old black metal frame, above, or this frame
which has old lenses in it that I've "outgrown." I'm open to opinions and suggestions...
Then the optician asked me at what percentage of the cost my top-up, supplementary health insurance policy would cover. I told her I didn't have such coverage — I just have the basic French health insurance through the Sécurité Sociale system. My health has been good enough all these years for me not to feel the need for the supplementary insurance, which is called une mutuelle in France. It seems the basic SS insurance, while it covers dental fees, dermatology, and preventive care like cardiology exams and colonoscopies, doesn't include vision care.
I thanked her and said I'd make an appointment with my généraliste, as the doctor is called, and then I'd come back to see her with his prescription. Well, she said, if you don't have a mutuelle, then you don't even need a prescription. She said she could go ahead and do the eye exam and get me new lenses if I planned to pay the full price. So that's what I'm doing. I have an appointment this coming Wednesday for the exam. I have no idea what it will cost, but at this point it really doesn't matter.
Some of this sounds rather scary. And very uncomfortable. But I am glad you found a way to get new lenses, even if it will be more expensive.ReplyDelete
I can't see (ha ha) any solution but to pay the full price for new lenses. I don't need to buy frames; I have several. I'm still learning about living here. Who knew a general practitioner could give out a prescription for lenses? And I didn't think opticians could give eyes exams, but they can.Delete
Older people and their glasses, and I am one of them. Here our government medical system will pay for one eye check per year if you are of a certain age, two years if you are younger. But the opticians like to load up with all kinds of extra tests for eye health with high tech machines and you have to pay for these. I expect at our public Ear and Eye Hospital you could get free unstylish glasses. Your frames look fine to me.ReplyDelete
Do you have optometrists in Australia, in addition to opticians and ophthalmologists? In the U.S., opticians don't do eye exams. They sell and fit glasses. I'm fine with my frames. I certainly don't need to put money into new ones right now. My sister has supplied me with frames.Delete
Yes, optometrists test your eyes and the government pays for the basic test.Delete
Before leaving California for good in 2012, I had my eyes examined and was given a prescription. For some reason, I never used it for new glasses, but kept it. A few years ago, I took that American prescription to a lunetier near to my place in Paris and asked if they could read it and use it. No problem, they said, and I got two new pairs of glasses for a special price! I still use them. The lenses are glass and not plastic as in the US. So I think you might use your American prescription in France, if necessary.ReplyDelete
The problem is that I don't have an up-to-date American prescription to use. Even if the one I have, dated 2009, is the latest, it's just too old.Delete
Since your most recent prescription is from 2009, I'm glad you're scheduled to get a new one. Eyes change over time, and at our age, they can deteriorate quite a lot in a decade. I have my eyes tested every year or two and have now added a visit with an ophthalmologist owing to early onset of cataracts. It looks like corrective surgery is in my not too distant future (5 years?). I felt that reading was becoming more difficult, no longer nice crisp letters, and that got me concerned. Andrew's comment that your frames look good sounds right to me, but it is a good idea to get a professional take on that, hopefully with no upselling pressure.ReplyDelete
Good advice, Bob. I'll have a good talk with the optician on Wednesday morning. She seemed to be very good at her job.Delete
I'm glad you have looked into getting new lenses and still have frames you can use. Take the plastic ones for the optician to see. The plastic tends to dry out and develops cracks that you can't see very easily. Let her look at them first. The metal will hold up longer but it is nice to have a change. Good luck.ReplyDelete
I'll show the plastic frames to the optical shop on Wednesday and see what she says. I have the black frames with the lens that is scratched, as well as new frames you gave me that are in brown-color metal. I like those and might decide to use them.Delete
Good to know there was a way through all those rules.ReplyDelete
Here in the UK, we are (well, I am, but I assume it's the same for most people) used to opticians' shops (most of which are are large chain operations) operating a one-stop service, employing the people who do the eye testing and provide the lens correction prescription (or if the test reveals a medical problem, referral onward to hospital/specialist ophtalmologists - we wouldn't normally go direct without a clear medical issue).
Once the eye test has been done and the prescription worked out, they then pass you on to the people who deal with the supply of lenses and frames. The NHS will pay the shop a set fee so that we get the basic eye test for both vision correction and general eye health) free, but most of us have to pay for the frames and lenses. One is free to take the prescription anywhere, and there are online suppliers, but most people stick with the one-stop shop as they try to up-sell the extras ("fashion" frames, various protective coatings, photochromic lenses and the like). For them the eye tests are loss leaders. The NHS does have schemes to help with the cost, and a set of standard (not very attractive) frames for the less well-off, but of course the chain opticians don't esactly foreground them in their offerings. I have no idea what's been happening to eye tests and the like whioe the lockdown's been on, but presumably routine re-tests have been strongly discouraged.
The thing is, the prescription for lenses is only part of the issue. It is important to have the health of your eyes tested too. High intraoccular (sp?) pressure leads to nerve damage and blindness or glaucoma, and other things such as macular degeneration can be happening without your being aware at first. I've been taking drops for years for early glaucoma and might have lost my vision by now otherwise. JocelynReplyDelete
I know you are right. I am looking for an ophthalmologist who can give me an appointment before the end of 2020.Delete
The plastic lenses can have the scratches polished out, if the depth if not too much. I have had this done. As for your other frames, get them all filled with lenses. Then when something happens (as it no doubt will) you will have one or more back ups. My other half lost the only pair of glasses he had, and he has quite bad vision. With my "encouragement" he now has 3 pairs.ReplyDelete
Sounds like Joanna is the best person to give advice on this, and it's a good thing that she told you about needing to have the older plastic frames checked out. If you're fine using the same metal frames that you had been looking for, it sounds like you'll be in good shape. Glasses are so important -- as long as I can afford it, I don't beat myself up over having to pay a heft sum for mine (my experience has been that, though I have seemingly good insurance for my glasses, I end up paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket... I actually have mine as tri-focals, so that there is a part for distance, a part for reading, and a part for looking at the computer. Every "focal" seems to add another $100 or so to the cost of the lense. I've paid in the $600+ range for glasses, with insurance!ReplyDelete
Speaking of computer use: do you have any trouble with your neck, looking at the computer screen? Even with my tri-focals, I always found that I had to keep tilting my neck up, to see through the lower portion of my glasses. So, I started wearing just off-the-shelf $20 reading glasses, when I use the computer, so that the whole lense was useable for looking at the screen. That helped enormously. But, the last time that I got prescription glasses, I paid to have a second pair made, where the lense was just for computer screen use... it makes a HUGE and WONDERFUL difference for me. I can keep my head at a natural position.
Finally: Many of my younger friends use mail-order glasses companies.... and pay more like $35 to $65 for their glasses, including the lense! They have to get the prescription from an optician or ophthalmologist, and then they pick out a pair of glasses online, and fill in a form with certain information from the prescription, and, voilà... glasses for a fraction of the cost. I do believe that the price mounts with every "focal" as I call them :). I tell you this because, if you can keep a copy of your prescription, you could buy a second pair through one of the online services, to have on hand for a backup. Online places to check are WarbyParker, EyeBuyDirect,EyeBuyDirect, and there are others. You could probably find some that are European, if these don't ship to France.
Sorry, one of those links was supposed to be to ZenniOpticalDelete
Ah, I was just going to post something about them....I have special glasses for computer and piano that are for about 18 inches. It is very inexpensive to get it from Zinni.ReplyDelete
Judy and TH, Walt has computer glasses like that. I'll ask about them at the optical shop on Wednesday. As for the sore neck, I've suffered with that too. Now I keep my laptop on a low table so that I look down at the screen through the bottom of my glasses. It works for me. There are companies in France and other EU countries that sell glasses on-line. I've read that it's probably not a good idea to order progressive lenses that way, however.Delete
Ken, get an appointment with an opthalmologist anyway -- even if it's in 6 months. Only they can check your retina and see if you've got cataracts to deal with. That reminds me, I've got to make an appointment with my guy, soon.ReplyDelete
"She said she could do the eye exam and get me new lenses herself if I wanted to pay the full price." I bet the "full price" won't shock someone like you who's lived in the US.ReplyDelete
I have chosen Health Net for my medicare plan which has the highest credit every two years for vision care. My policy provides $250 every 2 years for new glasses - anywhere I want to go to buy the frames/lens. Once I damaged a lens and I paid only $90 for one lens and those were specialty frames (frameless - similar to Sarah Palin - I liked her glasses - NOT HER!) I have been lucky, at 72 I can still wear those frameless glasses as well as the last 3 pairs of glasses I've purchased. My eyesight has only slightly changed over the years. As Judy said, sometimes the cost was as high as $900 but recently, at Costco I have found designer frames and progressive lens for only $295 inclusive. Progressive lens are wonderful - I play the piano, love to read, do construction work (stray nail during removal damaged that lens) and with progressive lens I can keep my head in a normal position when I sit at the computer as well. I always have my older frames available. I wish you well, Ken. You were so lucky not to have had any physical damage from that fall.ReplyDelete
Mary in Oregon