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What Should I Consider When Buying Reading Glasses?

By O. Wallace
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Thanks in part to aging baby boomers, reading glasses have become a huge business for eyeglass makers. With a huge percentage of the population experiencing presbyopia, the loss of ability to focus on objects close up, people are relying on these glasses more than ever. There are many things to consider when buying them — the most important being your specific condition and what you need to use them for.

There are two main ways to purchase reading glasses: at the drugstore or through your optometrist. Although it is always smart to have your eyesight assessed by a professional, many people have a minor enough problem to buy a "prefab" pair of glasses at the drugstore. These typically come in a power of plus 1 diopter, which is the lowest strength, up to plus 3.5 diopters. Their power increases in increments of .25 diopters. Drugstore reading glasses are cheap and convenient, allowing people with minor vision problems the freedom to easily purchase a new pair if they lose the old one, or to have several around the house and office. One rule of thumb when selecting a pair on your own is that they're too weak if you have to hold the reading material far away, and too strong if you have to hold it uncomfortably close to your face.

Optometrists argue that one-size-fits-all drugstore reading glasses are a bad solution. Regular visits to the optometrist will catch any eye disorders that require treatment, and you will be sure to receive the correct prescription. Other arguments against drugstore glasses are that they are cheaper in quality and may have imperfections in the lenses. Because prefab ones aren't tailor-made to your eyes, the area of magnification may not be lined up to your eyes, or you may need a different prescription in each eye.

When selecting a pair of reading glasses, consider what you will be using them for. If you do a lot of outdoor reading, there are sunreader glasses available that are either polarized, tinted or UV protected. Folding glasses are good for people on the go, and can be tucked into a shirt pocket or small purse. Computer glasses have become very popular because they are designed for a further reading distance and have the magnification area higher up, minimizing the need to tilt your head back to see through the bottom of the lens.

Bifocals, the mainstay of reading glasses, are only magnified in the lower portion of the lenses. No-line bifocals provide the same benefit, but instead of a distinct line between the magnified and non-magnified area, the magnification increases slowly as you lower your eyes. Half frames make it easier to see over the top of the frames, while full frames provide uniform magnification over the entire area. With all the types and styles available, you don't have to look far to find a pair to suit your needs.

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Discussion Comments

By anon340095 — On Jun 30, 2013

I have +1.25 in my left eye and +1 in my right eye. If I want to get reading glasses, which is better to get 1.25 or 1? Since they don't have different strengths for each eye.

By anon150205 — On Feb 07, 2011

This is good info! My optometrist told me it would be a good idea to get some reading glasses if I needed it. Now I just have to find out what power reading glasses do I need?

By ModaVision — On May 09, 2010

Be sure to look for UV Ray protective sunglasses should you be reading outdoors. Your eyes are just as susceptible to sun damage when reading as when doing any other outdoor activities.

By anon36325 — On Jul 11, 2009

I had cataract surgery a week ago and needed a temporary solution for reading problems caused by my prescription changes. My eye doctor suggested I use 1.75 diopter reading glasses until I could have my other cataract operation. I bought an attractive pair today and am amazed at how well they work.

By anon23376 — On Dec 23, 2008

I have a pair of prefab 0.75 diopter reading glasses. These are good for comfortable viewing of computer monitors.

By anon2213 — On Jul 03, 2007

Drug stores and optometrists are terrific sources of reading glasses. But many Boomers such as myself are style and price conscious. I like to buy online for selection, price, and convenience.

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