If you see well at a distance but have blurred vision at close range, are over-the-counter reading glasses the answer? Maybe, according to Dr. Melvin L. Rubin. There is no harm in trying. Even if the inexpensive glasses do not give you perfect vision correction, they will do nothing to hurt your eyes.
The only harm than can come from this option is that you may decide you don't need to see your eye doctor as long as you can still read with non-prescription glasses. If you're over 40, you need annual eye exams to check for early signs of glaucoma, macular degeneration, and less common eye conditions that may be highly treatable.
However, if the inexpensive reading glasses work for you, then there's no need to spend more money on the prescription option. The ideal candidate for over-the-counter reading glasses has these characteristics:
1.Good distance vision in both eyes,
2.Little or no astigmatism (see references),
3.Symmetric face and eyes.
Dr. Rubin recommends that you try the weakest power reading glasses on the rack first. Try to read some fine print. If it's still blurry, move up to the next higher power. Repeat until you're happy with what you see.
If none of the glasses on the rack works for you, don't despair. Prescription reading glasses are customized for the distance between your pupils, and will correct astigmastism if necessary. Over the counter glasses are “one size fits all”, so they may not fit very well.
If you're highly nearsighted, as I am, reading glasses are unlikely to provide any benefit. But if you never need glasses until sometime after age 40, then you have a good chance of getting the vision you want from one of the glasses on the rack at your nearest drug store.
You may find that your vision at all distances gets blurry after age 40. If this happens, don't panic. One possibility is that you are mildly farsighted, but your natural lenses were able to compensate until they lost elasticity with age. You may want multi-focal lenses, such as bifocals or progressive lenses.
Melvin L. Rubin, MD, and Lawrence A. Winograd, MD, “Taking Care of Your Eyes”, Triad Publishing Co., 2003.
Linda Fugate is a scientist and writer in Austin, Texas. She has a Ph.D. in Physics and an M.S. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering. Her background includes academic and industrial research in materials science. She currently writes song lyrics and health articles.