While many people require corrective lenses for everyday situations, some people may only need them when focusing on objects that are close to the visual field, such as when reading.
Reading glasses can help to alleviate eye strain and enhance visual acuity when focusing on objects up close.
It’s common for people to begin needing reading glasses in their 40s and 50s. If you find you need to hold books and menus farther away from you in order to read them clearly, it’s a sign you likely need reading glasses.
What Are Reading Glasses?
Reading glasses contain lenses with magnification to enlarge whatever is close within the visual field.
They do not require a prescription and can be purchased over the counter at many drugstores and supermarkets. You can simply select a pair by trying them on and determining which level of magnification is needed in order to provide a clear image of objects in near view.
However, it is recommended to see an eye specialist when selecting reading glasses in order to ensure that the level of magnification is appropriate based on your visual needs, reading habits, and whether or not you frequently are exposed to blue light (light emitted by the screens of electronic devices).
An eye doctor can help you choose reading glasses that will work best for your visual needs.
How Are Reading Glasses Used?
The main use of reading glasses is to magnify images that are close to the eye. They can help compensate for age-related declines in vision caused by rigidity to the lens that makes vision more difficult over time.
Reading glasses contain a convex shape that allow for objects that are near to the eye to appear clearer.
Reading Glasses Strength Tests
Reading glasses strength tests are measured in diopters (a unit of measurement signifying the power of the lens equal to the focal length, indicated in meters).
This measure is often categorized based on age, with the following general recommendations:
- For people 40 to 44 years old, the recommended power is +0.75 to +100 diopter.
- For people between 45 and 49 years of age, the recommended power is +1.00 to +1.50 diopter.
- Between 50 and 54 years of age, the recommended power is +1.50 to +2.00 diopter.
- Between ages 55 to 59, the recommended power is +2.00 to +2.25 diopter
- From ages 61 and on, the recommended power is +2.25 and above.
Bear in mind that the exact magnification will depend on your personal preferences and needs; it won’t solely be based on age. These are just general guidelines.
Working with an eye specialist can help you confidently select a pair of glasses that will meet your needs.
When Do You Need Reading Glasses?
In general, reading glasses are needed if words appear blurry and are difficult to read at a normal reading distance.
Experts suggest that if you are holding books at least 14 inches from your face in order to see clearly, reading glasses are likely necessary. You may also notice that you are experiencing headaches when reading, which can be an indication of eye strain and a sign that reading glasses may be needed.
The Best Reading Glasses
The best reading glasses will depend largely on your personal preference as well as any recommendations you receive from your doctor. These are some of the best-selling and most highly rated reading glasses:
- Best overall: Foster Grant McKay
This best-selling model from the Foster Grant company offers an excellent combination of function and style. It is available in a wide range of different color schemes.
- Best option if you’re on a budget: Gaoye Reading Glasses
This model is renowned for its style and quality while being one of the most affordable options available.
- Best if you use a computer frequently: Peepers Blue Light Focus Reading Glasses
These high-quality reading glasses block blue light and are also among the more affordable options on the market today.
What to Look for in Reading Glasses
When selecting a pair of reading glasses, make sure to examine the lens and frame material to assess their durability and comfort. You may prefer plastic to metal, injection molded, or polycarbonate frames.
While you can try them on, you’ll only really be able to assess their comfort after wearing them for a few days. Most companies provide trial periods for this reason and allow you to modify the settings of your glasses over time.
There are also numerous lens features to consider, such as scratch resistance and blue light blocking options. Each feature will add to the total cost, so make sure to consider which you will need.
Consider warranties and return policies when choosing the right pair of reading glasses for you. You want to ensure you’re protected if the craftsmanship on the reading glasses is not up to par.
Alternatives to Reading Glasses
While reading glasses are a fairly simple and effective solution to farsighted vision problems, some people may find them uncomfortable or obtrusive. If you are one of those people, you may wish to consider one of the various alternatives to reading glasses.
- Monovision surgery: A surgical corrective procedure that allows for one eye to focus at distance and the other to focus well when viewing objects up close.
- Monovision contact lenses: These lenses are designed to achieve the same function as the corrective procedure described above, essentially correcting one eye for distance vision and one eye for up-close vision.
- Corneal inlays: These implants are placed within the corneal stroma, allowing for correction primarily in cases of presbyopia.
- Eye drops: VUITY is a prescription eye drop that can treat presbyopia (age-related farsightedness).
Do Reading Glasses Make Vision Worse?
Some people may avoid using reading glasses because they believe it will ultimately damage their vision. The logic behind such a belief is that the muscles within the eye may atrophy based on dependence on an artificial device to focus and function correctly. This is a myth, however.
The general consensus within the medical field is that reading glasses do not damage vision.
Computer Glasses vs. Reading Glasses
Reading glasses serve a different purpose than computer glasses. While the main purpose of reading glasses is to magnify objects at close range, computer glasses are designed to block blue light.
Blue light, also referred to as high-energy visible (HEV) light, is a type within the spectrum of light that is emitted by computers and other electronic devices that can be seen by the human eye.
It’s believed that prolonged exposure to blue light can cause damage to retinal cells over time. Damage to the retinal cells can induce or exacerbate age-related macular degeneration in the eyes. Therefore, individuals who work on computers or who are otherwise exposed to heavy amounts of screen time are often advised to use blue light blocking glasses.
Most computer glasses are simply clear lenses with no prescription, but there are companies that make reading glasses that also block blue light.
Blokz by Zenni (2022). Zenni.
Foster Grant McKay. (2022). Foster Grant.
Gaoye Reading Glasses. (2022). Vooglam.
Research Progress About the Effect and Prevention of Blue Light on Eyes. (December 2018). International Journal of Ophthalmology.
Presbyopia: Prevalence, Impact, and Interventions. (September 2007). Community Eye Health Journal.
New Eye Drops Offer an Alternative to Reading Glasses. (December 2021). The New York Times.
What Is Presbyopia? (February 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
More Than Reading Glasses — New Options for ‘Old’ Eyes. (July 2022). The Washington Post.
Last Updated November 1, 2022
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