On occasions, frequently on the advice of travel agents, patients request a copy of their spectacle prescription as a backup, particularly while travelling abroad.
While this strategy may be effective for straightforward distance or reading spectacles, it is inadequate for more complex lenses. The manufacture of progressive spectacles, particularly the latest highly technical customised designs, requires a skilled workforce and extremely expensive equipment which is only available in developed countries.
Such lenses cannot be accurately manufactured and dispensed in the limited time most travellers spend in any one location, even in first world countries and particularly in remote areas. Furthermore, while some optical dispensers in the visited countries may be skilled and take due care, others unfortunately are less so and focus on the speed of delivery, often resulting in poor workmanship. Some also work on the principle that the purchaser will be unable to return to complain or request that the situation be rectified.
A patient consulted me after travelling to India where she had broken her progressive spectacles. As she was visiting family for a couple of months, she purchased a replacement. However, she reported that, in spite of being able to see, she had experienced discomfort and was unable to read for any length of time. Although the prescription was reasonably accurate, the lenses were significantly out of alignment and the spectacle frame was too shallow for her lens type. As a result, the spectacles had to be replaced.
Patients who are dependent on their spectacles would be well advised to pack a spare pair in their hand luggage.