December Newsletter: Can Reading Glasses Improve Your Vision?

Old man struggles to read.

Can Reading Glasses Improve Your Vision?

Sooner or later, most of us struggle with poor near vision. Luckily, presbyopia, the age-related vision error that causes near vision problems, can be corrected with a pair of reading glasses.

What Causes Presbyopia?

Presbyopia happens when the lens inside the eye stiffens with age. The lens, typically a flexible disc, bends light onto the precise point on the retina needed for clear vision. The retina serves as the eye's processing center and turns light into electrical impulses. The brain creates the vivid images you see after receiving the impulses from the eyes.

The lens constantly changes shape as you shift your focus between near and for objects. The flexibility of the lens makes it possible to see clearly at near, middle, and far distances. Unfortunately, your near vision suffers when your lens becomes less flexible. As a result, items close to your eyes begin to look blurry. At first, holding a book or newspaper away from your eyes helps, but that trick stops working eventually.

While some lucky people manage to avoid presbyopia, almost 90% of people over 45 have it, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). The AOA notes that presbyopia could develop even earlier if you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes or multiple sclerosis, or take diuretics, antihistamines, or antidepressants regularly.

How Do Reading Glasses Help?

Reading glasses correct near vision. Prescription lenses boost your focusing power, making it possible to see clearly when you're reading fine print or threading a needle. Unfortunately, reading glasses aren't a one-and-done purchase. Stephanie Marioneaux, MD, an ophthalmologist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, told Consumer Reports that stronger reading glass prescriptions may be needed about every five years.

If you've never worn glasses before, it may take a little while to get used to the idea of putting on a pair of glasses for close work. Already wear prescription eyeglasses? Bifocal, trifocal, or progressive lenses might be good choices for you. Bifocals include two powers in one lens. The bottom half of the lens helps you focus on near vision, while the top contains a prescription for myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness.) Trifocals are similar to bifocals but contain three distinct lens powers. Progressive lenses combine two or three lens powers that gradually blend together without lines. If you choose trifocals, bifocals, or progressive lenses for your vision correction, you won't necessarily need a separate pair of reading glasses, although some people find separate reading glasses helpful.

Are Over-the-Counter Reading Glasses Just as Good as the Glasses the Eye Doctor Offers?

Over-the-counter reading glasses, available at drugstores, discount department stores, and grocery stores, are a convenient option when reading the fine print is difficult. Although over-the-counter glasses can be helpful, they do have a few drawbacks, including:

  • Inaccurate Prescription. The over-the-counter reading glasses you pick may not contain the correct prescription. Lenses that are too weak or too strong can cause eyestrain or headaches. Over-the-counter reading glasses contain the same lens power in both lenses, but many people need slightly different prescriptions for each eye. If you buy drugstore reading glasses, your eyes may struggle to adapt to the incorrect prescription.
  • Poor Quality. Reading glasses are so inexpensive because they're made of cheaper materials. The frames may break after a few months of light wear, the lenses might scratch easily, or the fit may be uncomfortable.
  • Few Choices. Style isn't much of a consideration when it comes to reading glasses. Your choices will be limited to a few frame selections, none of which might complement your appearance.

When you visit the optometrist for reading glasses, you'll receive a thorough examination and a prescription that accurately corrects the vision in both eyes. Exams aren't just about testing your ability to see clearly. Your eye doctor will also look for signs of common vision problems, like glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration. If you have one of these conditions or diseases, your optometrist can discuss appropriate treatments.

With your prescription in hand, you can choose from hundreds of high-quality, attractive frame styles offered by your eye doctor. Prescription reading lenses are also better quality than those found in over-the-counter reading glasses. They're less likely to scratch and may offer anti-glare, blue-light protection and other features.

Is it about time you considered reading glasses? Contact our office to schedule your comprehensive eye exam.


American Optometric Association: For 128 million U.S. Presbyopes, Doctors of Optometry Can Provide Treatment Options, 8/24/2023

Consumer Reports: If You’re Straining to Read This, It Might Be Time for Reading Glasses, 8/2/2022

All About Vision: Reading Glasses: How They Help with Up-Close Vision, 2/27/2019

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