Eye Matters
August 7, 2012
Purchasing reading glasses

There are some things that some people never think of when purchasing over-the-counter reading glasses.

Let’s start with the good. Over-the-counter reading glasses are cheap and that’s a good thing. They can be purchased for between $10 and $30. For those people whose prescriptions are the exactly the same in both eyes, they are absolutely perfect.{{more}} Another advantage is that people can buy several pairs of readers and leave them all over the house and in their offices, so that they are readily available.

Most purchasers of readers, are usually over 40 years of age, although one may find people under the age of 40 buying reading glasses.

The bad news is that because the prescription in reading glasses is exactly the same, people with unequal prescriptions in both eyes can suffer from eye strain. This is because one eye is being used more than the other. Secondly, conditions such as astigmatism are not corrected in over-the-counter reading glasses. This can also lead to discomfort and strain in both eyes. Thirdly, the pupillary distance [i.e. the distance between both pupils] is not taken into account. The pupillary distance in all reading glasses is fixed, but they differ in most people. This can lead to further strain on the eyes. There is also substantial evidence that the mold in which these glasses are cast can induce curve aberrations. These aberrations can cause distortions in the curvature of the lenses. If you get headaches from over-the–counter reading glasses or over-the-counter sunglasses, this is probably one of the reasons.

And now the ugly …

Over-the-counter reading glasses can give patients a false sense of comfort and make them not to follow up with regular eye examinations. This can lead to undiagnosed conditions, such as retinal disease or glaucoma, among other diseases. Some doctors like to tell their patients that over-the-counter reading glasses are the main cause of eye disease. They then explain to them, “People do not get eye disease from the glasses, but because they do not come in for their regular eye check-ups until they have lost sight from the eye disease. Then, it may be too late to get the sight back.” Also due to a lack of guidance, people tend to choose the wrong power (too strong or too weak) putting more strain on their eyes.

Over-the-counter reading glasses cannot take the place of prescription glasses, especially for those with severe refractive errors. You should ask your doctor, if you are qualified to wear “over-the-counter reading glasses”. After examining your eyes, your doctor will know what is best for you and may recommend these lenses for minor reading problems.

If you have over-the-counter reading glasses and you notice that you are having problems, chances are you may need proper corrective lenses.

So, there you have it, the good, the bad and the ugly. The safest way to protect your vision is to have regular eye examinations.

Have a nice weekend.

Dr Kenneth Onu is a resident Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Beachmont Eye Institute/Eyes R Us Send questions to: [email protected]
Tel: 784 456-1210