Why You Shouldn’t Buy Over-the-Counter Reading Glasses

by Chris Cehlarik

If you’re in your late thirties, you may notice that small print is getting harder to read. This is a completely normal condition called presbyopia, and it happens to almost everyone lucky enough to live a long life. To make reading easier, you may be tempted to pick up some reading glasses at a drug store, dollar shop, or another retailer that doesn’t specialize in optics. Buying these ‘readers’ can be a terrible idea for several reasons.

Lack of Eye Exams
People who use over-the-counter reading glasses may be lulled into thinking that they don’t need regular eye exams. After all, your reading problem is being solved by the glasses, so why do you need an exam? Optometrists look for signs of cataracts, glaucoma, ocular cancer, and retinal disease with every exam. Diabetes can also be diagnosed by an optometrist should he or she detect diabetic retinopathy. By avoiding these exams, you are placing yourself and your vision at risk.

Choosing the Wrong Power
Simply trying on reading glasses until you find a pair that seems to work is a poor way to correct your vision. If you under-correct your vision, you could experience nausea, dizziness, headaches, eye strain, and dry eyes. All of these symptoms can also be caused by over-correcting with a pair of readers that are too strong for you. You are simply not qualified to correct your own vision with any degree of success.

Lack of Ocular Symmetry
Your eyes are not always a matched set. It is not uncommon at all for there to be a difference in prescription between your eyes. However, over-the-counter readers have the same power of magnification in both lenses. If this is inappropriate for you, all of the unpleasant side effects of over- and under-correction can happen.

Poor Materials
Some readers can be bought for a dollar. Do you really want something constructed that cheaply on your face? Lots of over-the-counter reading glasses frames are made with hard plastic that is unsuitable for eyewear. It cannot be adjusted to fit properly and can rub or pinch your nose and ears. Other manufacturers use soft, pliable plastic that is also unsuitable for eyeglasses. These can harbor bacteria and give you an infection on your face or ears. With all reading glasses not purchased at an optical center, you run the risk of having an allergic reaction to the materials. Itching, redness, and even blisters are possible outcomes. None of these are pleasant and can make wearing glasses of any kind quite uncomfortable until you heal.

No UV Protection
Quality optical materials often include protection from ultraviolet light as a matter of course. UV rays can damage your eyes, are known to cause cancer, and also accelerate the aging process of your skin. Over-the-counter readers usually don’t offer any protection against UV and, to make matters worse, the magnification can actually intensify the rays. Crow’s feet and cataracts await you.

Only a licensed optometrist is qualified to diagnose your presbyopia and prescribe appropriate reading glasses. The glasses you buy from an optical store are higher quality and provide many more benefits than those sold over-the-counter at other retailers. The protection of your sight and skin is worth the additional expense.