Did you wake up on your 40th birthday and suddenly feel you couldn’t see anymore? The need for reading glasses is a rite of passage. Actually, the decline in your near vision has been happening slowly since age 20 and only now are you beginning to “see” the difference.
Before you even think about buy a pair of reading glasses, make sure you have a comprehensive eye examination. Regular ongoing eye care can protect and preserve your vision. “Blurred near vision is how Mother Nature makes sure we have our eyes examined,” says Dr. Andrea Thau, OD, an optometrist in New York and spokesperson for the American Optometric Association. Eye exams are especially important in our 40s because doctors see an increased incidence of eye problems including glaucoma, macular degeneration and dry eye.
Before you even think about buy a pair of reading glasses, make sure you have a comprehensive eye examination.
You’ll know you’re ready for reading glasses when your arms aren’t long enough to see the fine print anymore. These are all signs that your near vision has changed. There’s a name for this – presbyopia – a condition in which the lens of the eye loses its ability to focus, making it difficult to see objects up close.
When we hit about 40 our near vision drops to a level that starts to affect us, says Dr. Thau. “When it happens depends on your eye history. If you’re far sighted to begin with, you may notice symptoms sooner. If you’re near sighted, you could go longer without needing any reading glasses.”
Now that we’ve admitted that we can’t see like we used to, can we buy a pair of reading glasses over-the-counter (OTC) at the drugstore or does it have to be from the optical?
Your doctor of optometry can advise you of the best route, says Dr. Thau.
Drugstore reading glasses are designed for people without astigmatism and who have an equal prescription in each eye. If you have astigmatism or an unequal prescription, drugstore reading glasses won’t work. Optical quality varies greatly with drug store glasses, too. Some people use OTC glasses as a spare pair but only if they don’t have astigmatism or an unequal prescription.
Your optometrist can give you a prescription that you can fill anywhere. They also can tell you whether OTC readers are OK for you and if so, which power is best.
There are several choices in reading glasses.
Single-vision. These give you clarity at one range of distance but depending on their strength, you may not able to see far or on a computer.
Bifocals. These glasses have two distinct zones in the lens. The top portion is for distance; the bottom is for reading. They often have a marked line through the bottom third of the lens where you can see the reading zone.
Trifocals. These glasses have three distinct zones. The top is for distance, the first segment is for intermediate distances and the bottom segment is for reading. There are two lines on each lens.
The most popular choice is the progressive lens. These glasses have multiple prescriptions built into the lens and a gradual change in prescription from top to bottom. New lens designs are highly customizable based on the shape of your frame and how it fits your face. There is no marked line, so nobody can tell you’re wearing progressive lenses. It’s much easier to adapt to these lenses because they have developed ways to maximize the usable visual portion of the lens and minimize the distortion in the lens.
Contact lenses are another popular option. You can wear distance contacts with reading glasses over them, monovision contacts with one eye corrected for reading and the other for distance, or multifocal contacts that have distance and reading prescriptions in them.
As your prescription gets stronger over the years, you’ll continue to lose focusing ability and will need stronger reading glasses, says Dr. Thau. You may need a different prescription for computer use than you will for reading.
Wearing reading glasses or progressive lenses will not make your eyes worse, she says. Your eyes will continue to get worse regardless of whether you wear correction. When you reach age 65, you have lost all your focusing ability and your vision and eyeglass prescription will stabilize.
For more information visit www.aoa.org.