The realization of a need for reading glasses usually kicks in when the smaller print we’ve been reading with no problem suddenly seems to be impossible to read. As we age, our eyes just can’t focus as well as they used to on close up objects. The technical term is presbyopia. Scientists are unable to fully explain the exact reasons why presbyopia is likely to occur, but it may be a result of reduced elasticity in the lenses of the eyes.
The need for reading glasses happens most commonly between ages 40-50, but the fact is that even by age 25, many people begin experiencing a decline in their near vision. This may also include the inability to see objects or small print in a dim light. Symptoms such as eye strain, headaches and/or sore eyes while doing close up activities may be a sign of worsening presbyopia that requires reading glasses.
Studies show that people whose work involves close up tasks tend to go to their eye doctor about reduced near vision sooner than those who are not employed in these sorts of fields.
The best thing to do is not to wait. Why suffer from eyestrain if a pair of reading glasses will solve the problem?
Why visit an eye doctor when you can buy reading glasses off the shelf, sometimes for as low as a dollar a pair? Most people do not have exactly the same prescription in both eyes and almost everyone has at least a small amount of astigmatism. Headaches, eye strain, and even nausea can result from wearing reading glasses that are not a good fit. If you experience these problems and can't find a pair that works then you need to visit an eye doctor for a customized reading glasses prescription. Otherwise, off the shelf glasses are just fine.
One misconception about reading glasses is that your vision will get worse over time by wearing them, but that is not true. Glasses are simply an aid to improve vision and they will not cause your eyesight to grow worse. In fact, an ophthalmologist told me that you cannot damage your eyes wearing someone else's glasses. Likewise, if you wear glasses, not wearing them will not cause your vision to deteriorate.
If you wear reading glasses, the side effects of not wearing them could include blurriness and distortion, but trying to focus without glasses will not make your vision deteriorate faster, though it could lead to squinting and eyestrain. The primary effects of not wearing your glasses is temporary and, at most, can cause discomfort.
Using over-the-counter reading glasses from a pharmacy or online retailer (versus readers from your optometrist) will not hurt your eyes. Non-prescription reading glasses contain magnifying lenses in different powers that work just as well as prescription glasses. However, wearing non-prescription reading glasses that are either too weak or too strong could be bothersome, but it will not cause long-term damage to your vision.
Even if you have 20/20 vision, many eye and vision problems do not have symptoms, so it’s important to get your eyes checked regularly by an optometrist to make sure they stay healthy as you age. Eye exams may reveal health conditions such as tumors and diabetes that can be detected before physical symptoms are present. For example, I was told during a routine eye exam for glasses that my eyes were showing early signs of cataracts, but the cataracts themselves did not show up for almost 25 years!
Optometrists are doctors of optometry, check for routine eye health and prescriptions, while ophthalmologists are MDs and are additionally able to perform invasive surgeries and procedures. Over the years, the lines between these two eye professionals has blurred, as all 50 states allow optometrists to treat many of the same medical conditions that only ophthalmologists previously treated.
Generally speaking, for regular checkups as well as problems affecting the surface of the eye (such as allergies, irritations, eyestrain, and conjunctivitis), see an optometrist. For serious symptoms such as loss of vision or eye surgery, see an ophthalmologist. In my case when I visited an optometrist for new glasses when he saw a cataract in my right eye he immediately arranged for me to see an ophthalmologist.
Reading glasses come in many types and can also be obtained in sunglasses:
Single Vision Full Readers - magnification provided is uniform, meaning that text will look the same no matter which portion of the lens you’re looking through. Perfect for glasses you intend to wear only when you need to read something.
Single Vision Half Readers - these lenses keep the magnification the same, however, the smaller frame allows you to see over the lens when you want to look at something in the distance.
Traditional Bifocals - upper portion of the lenses is clear. Lowering your eyes to the bifocal segment provides magnification for reading. This allows you to wear the frames comfortably for longer periods of time when you’re not using them to read.
Progressive No-Line Bifocals – the upper portions of the lenses are clear (not magnified). As you lower your eyes, the magnification increases gradually, until you can comfortably read small text.
Computer-Style Progressive Bifocals – computer readers have a progressive lens that offers varying levels of magnification. This allows you to switch easily between reading printed documents and working at a computer. These glasses also have a special anti-glare coating that helps minimize eye strain that can be caused by fluorescent lights or flickering monitors.
There are a few valid reasons for getting prescription readers. Over the counter readers have the same power in both eyes and you may need a different power for each eye. Looking through readers of the wrong power can cause eye strain by making one eye work harder than the other.
Only prescription readers can correct astigmatism, which if uncorrected can cause headaches, tired eyes, and vision that seems a little off.
Over the counter readers are one size fits all. Prescription reading glasses are made so that the optical center of the lens is lined up exactly at the center of the pupil. If the optical center is not lined up, you may end up looking through the side of the lens, which can cause eye strain and eye muscle imbalances.
Prescription lenses are made optically perfect with no distortions, waves or bubbles in the lenses. If you examine a pair of over the counter readers of low quality, the lenses may have some unwanted defects. By the way, readers will not correct nearsightedness because the condition usually requires a "minus or negative" lens. Over the counter glasses only come in "plus or positive" powered lenses.
If ready-made readers are suitable, your eye doctor will let you know; mine did. If they recommend prescription readers, believe them. Many people purchase several pairs of inexpensive readers and stash them in different places all over the house and in the car.
Best Reading Glasses of 2018 – Buyer’s Guide & Reviews