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When to Add Prescription Glasses to Reading Glasses

It’s bound to happen—sometime after turning 40, everyone starts having trouble making out the emails on their smartphone or deciphering the menu at a restaurant without holding it across the table. The reason? The all-too-common presbyopia, when your eye’s lenses become less flexible and can no longer focus on nearby objects. That leads current glasses wearers to head back to their doctor’s office for bifocals or progressive lenses. And many times, those who never needed corrective lenses before try to solve the problem by trying out the reading glasses at the local pharmacy.

But before you reach for that discount pair of “cheaters,” meet with an eye doctor first. Here’s why:

• Your eyesight may be changing more rapidly in one eye. That results in needing different magnifications to properly adjust your vision in each eye and could mean that a simple pair of readers from the drugstore would not provide the proper correction for you. Your eye doctor can give you an accurate assessment of what each eye needs to provide optimal sight for you—and you may need a pair of prescription lenses to provide the appropriate level of correction in each eye.

• You may want to consider “computer glasses” Often, one pair of reading glasses isn’t perfect for reading both close up printed materials and a computer screen. Computer glasses are progressive lenses that offer the proper prescription for both close and mid-distance reading, so they work great in office settings, where you may be switching between both types of close work regularly.

• You may need higher quality lenses. Drugstore reading glasses may be okay for the occasional user, but if you’re using them day-in, day-out, you may want to spring for a higher quality pair. Prescription lenses like Crizal lenses offer smudge resistance, anti-glare coatings, and filters that protect your eyes from UV rays and the harmful blue-violet light that emanates from computer screens—all very valuable for lenses you’re using for hours at a time.

• You’re finding that the over-the-counter reading glasses aren’t working for you. If your eyes regularly feel fatigued or you get frequent headaches, or find that your vision isn’t as improved as you need when you wear the over-the-counter pairs, it may be time to revisit the doctor and see if a prescription pair of reading glasses works better for you. You may have astigmatism or another underlying vision problem that a thorough eye exam will bring to light.

Over-the-counter reading glasses may be great for an occasional wearer, but talk with your eye doctor first before you pick your own magnification, to make sure that you have lenses that really suit your needs and your lifestyle.