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The Truth About Over the Counter Reading Glasses

We could have been fortunate enough in our early years not to require glasses. Then when we reach over 40 we start to develop what the opticians call presbyopic eyes...

We could have been fortunate enough in our early years not to require glasses. Then when we reach over 40 we start to develop what the opticians call presbyopic eyes: this means the lens in your eyes loses some flexibility. As a result, it becomes harder to focus on close objects. Small print can seem blurred or even indecipherable. It may, therefore, be more difficult to do close work such as sewing or drawing as well as reading either printed text or on a screen.

If you're over 40, reading glasses can be a necessity, and they serve double duty as a fashion accessory. Because they are inexpensive and available in a wide variety of styles—and easily misplaced—you may buy them by the handful. Yet, you may be better off investing in a professional eye exam instead.

How our eyes age

As we age, the lens in our eye loses some of its flexibility. As a result, it becomes harder to focus on close objects. Small print can seem blurred or even indecipherable. It may be more difficult to do close work like reading or drawing. if you are nearsighted, you may have to take off your glasses to read the paper or the menu. Difficulty refocusing at close range is known as presbyopia, literally "elder vision."

But the lens isn't the only part of the eye that is aging. If you have presbyopia you're also at increased risk for developing other, more serious conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. "You should be having regular exams to check for these conditions, in addition to having your vision tested," Dr. Peli says.

a man reading news paper with reading glasses

When over-the-counter readers are good enough

Off-the-rack readers are essentially two magnifying lenses mounted in an eyeglass frame. Just like prescription lenses, they afford varying degrees of magnification, or refraction, usually ranging from +1.00 to +3.50 diopters. "These glasses may be fine for people who need the same refraction in both eyes or who have a vision in only one eye. I tell patients who are in these situations to go ahead and use them," 

Even if you're a good candidate for nonprescription reading glasses, it's a good idea to get professional advice on the power of lenses to choose from. Although some states prohibit the sale of lenses with the refraction of over +3.50 diopters, it's possible—and maybe legal—to order them online. "But it isn't a good idea to go to these higher values without getting advice," Dr. Peli says.

When you need prescription lenses

If you need a different correction for each eye, or if you have astigmatism—irregularities in the lens of your eye—prescription lenses are a better choice. Your eyes will be tested to determine the lenses best suited to compensate for the problems with your eyes' optics.

Prescription lenses are also preferable if you require correction for distance vision. In that case, bifocal or progressive lenses are probably a better choice, if only for the convenience of managing a single pair of glasses. Although some people find that they have trouble with space perception when they first begin to wear bifocals or when they get a new prescription, their eyes and brain eventually adapt.

Reading glasses holding with the handA few tips to preserve vision
  1. Get enough key vitamins and minerals vitamins A, C, and E, as well as the mineral zinc, contain antioxidants that can help prevent macular degeneration.

Food sources for these important nutrients include a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits, such as:

  • carrots
  • red peppers
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • strawberries
  • sweet potato
  • citrus

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and flaxseed, are also recommended for better eye health.

2. Don’t forget the carotenoids

A few other nutrients are also keys to improving eyesight. Among them are lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids found in the retina. You can also find them in leafy green vegetables, broccoli, zucchini, and eggs.

Lutein and zeaxanthin can also be taken in supplement form. These carotenoids help protect the macula by improving pigment density in that part of the eye and absorbing ultraviolet and blue light.

3. Stay fit

Yes, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can help your eyes, not just your waistline. Type 2 diabetes, which is more common in people who are overweight or obese, can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels in the eyes.

This condition is called diabetic retinopathy. Too much sugar circulating in your bloodstream injures the delicate walls of your arteries. Diabetic retinopathy causes the very small arteries in your retina — the light-sensitive back part of the eye — to leak blood and fluid into the eye, harming your vision.

Getting your blood sugar levels checked regularly and staying fit and trim can lower your odds of developing type 2 diabetes and its many complications.

4.Manage chronic conditions

Diabetes isn’t the only disease that can affect your vision. Other conditions, such as high blood pressure and multiple sclerosis, can affect your eyesight. These conditions are linked to chronic inflammation, which can harm your health from head to toe.

Inflammation of the optic nerve, for example, can cause pain and even complete vision loss. While a disease such as multiple sclerosis can’t be prevented, you can try to manage it with healthy habits and medications.

High blood pressure can be effectively treated with a heart-healthy diet, exercise, and antihypertensive medications.

5.Wear protective eyewear

Whether you’re playing racquetball, working in your garage, or doing a science experiment in school, you must protect your eyes with appropriate eyewear.

Tough, protective eyewear is essential if there is a risk of chemicals, sharp objects, or materials such as wood shavings, metal shards, or even a stray elbow during a basketball game, entering your eye.

Many protective goggles are made with a type of polycarbonate, which is about 10 times tougher than other forms of plastic.

6. That includes sunglasses

Sunglasses aren’t just for looking cool. Wearing shades is one of the most important steps you can take when it comes to improving your eyesight. You want sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation from sunlight.

Sunglasses help protect your eyes from conditions that stem from eye damage. These include cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium — a growth of tissue over the white part of the eye. Pterygiums can lead to astigmatismTrusted Source, which can cause blurred vision.

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat can also help protect your eyes from sun damage.

7. Follow the 20-20-20 rule

Your eyes work hard during the day and need a break now and then. The strain can be especially intense if you work at a computer for long stretches at a time. To ease the strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule.

That means every 20 minutes, you should stop staring at your computer and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

8.Quit smoking

You know smoking is bad for your lungs and your heart, not to mention your hair, skin, teeth, and just about every other body part. That includes your eyes, too. Smoking dramatically raises your risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Fortunately, your eyes, lungs, heart, and other body parts can start to recover from years of tobacco-induced harm within the first hours of quitting. And the longer you can avoid cigarettes, the more your blood vessels will benefit and inflammation will ease off throughout your eyes and the rest of you.

9.Learn your family’s eye health history

Some eye conditions are hereditary, so being aware of eye conditions that your parents or grandparents had can help you take precautions.

Hereditary conditions include:

  • glaucoma
  • retinal degeneration
  • age-related macular degeneration
  • optic atrophy

Understanding your family history can help you take early precautions

10. Keep your hands and lenses clean

Your eyes are especially vulnerable to germs and infections. Even things that just irritate your eyes can affect your vision. For those reasons, you should always wash your hands before touching your eyes or handling your contact lenses.

It’s also super important to wash your hands and disinfect your contact lenses as instructed.

You should also replace your contact lenses as advised by the manufacturer or your doctor. Germs in your contact lenses can lead to bacterial infections of the eyes.

How to correct presbyopia?men reading a paper with reading glasses from close

The quick and most inexpensive way to correct close vision (presbyopia) caused by aging is to buy ready-made reading glasses. That is two magnifying lenses of the same strength mounted in an eyeglass frame. The magnification range we offer at Glens is from +1.50 to +2.50 and this includes the availability of quarter step strength options.

These reading glasses are cheap and cost-efficient and most people who require them, tend to have several pairs of different styles and colors. The question, however, is whether these off the shelf reading glasses "cheaters" could be harmful to your eyesight?

"The cheaters on the drugstore rack may help you read the menu, but they're no substitute for a professional eye exam", Dr. Peli Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School states.

Optical experts, however, do not agree they are harmful and in fact, say there is no danger to eyesight in wearing ready-to-wear reading glasses:

“Many patients come to me panicked because someone told them over the counter readers are bad for their eyes and can cause damage but this is completely untrue.” Inna Ozerov MD Miami Eye Surgeon Director of the Miami Eye Institute says.

Buying a good quality pair of reading glasses from a trusted retailer, therefore, makes a perfectly safe addition to your desk/car/home/handbag/pocket. They will benefit the wearer and be safer than no glasses at all. If you are fortunate enough to have good distance vision but have trouble reading, inexpensive reading glasses are an ideal and indeed practical choice.

Reading glasses, therefore, are safe for our eyes but it is essential to;

Have your eyes checked regularly by an optician? It’s a general health check as well as an eye check.

Remember reading glasses are for short vision not for distance vision and should never be worn for driving or long sight.

An alternative to standard reading glasses, to save from taking them off and on, could be a pair with bifocal lenses. Bifocal readers have a clear vision at the top and a close vision lens addition at the bottom.

If you are not sure what strength you require why not try the Glens eye test chart to assist in finding the best correction for your eyes. Please follow the instructions on the document.

Glens backup reading glasses are made to CE standard – meeting all current European health and safety legislation. Every pair of glasses is checked before dispatch to ensure the lens is free from scratches or imperfections to enable the clearest possible vision.