Do Cheap Eyeglasses Damage Your Vision?

drugstore readers vs prescription eyeglassesBeginning in the early to mid-40s, most of us start to have problems seeing clearly at close distances, particularly when reading or working on the computer. This is because our eyes and vision change over time, just like our bodies do. Over time, the lens in your eye becomes less flexible, which makes it harder for your eyes to focus on objects close up. This condition is called presbyopia, and it’s is a natural part of the aging process of the eye.

Presbyopia is not a disease, it cannot be prevented, and it is not the same as farsightedness (even though the symptom of not seeing well close up is similar). However, you can correct your close up vision with eyeglasses. In fact, all those over-the-counter drugstore glasses that you see everywhere are designed especially for presbyopia.

Constructed from magnifying lenses set into eyeglass frames, these drugstore glasses, also known as “readers,” are cheap and popular options for people who need help reading or seeing things close-up. The question most commonly asked when it comes to readers is, “Do cheap eyeglasses damage your vision?” Or, “Is it safer for my long-term vision to use prescription glasses instead of readers?” What’s the difference between the two eyeglass options?

Over-the-Counter Readers Vs. Prescription Eyeglasses


For starters, generic over-the-counter reading glasses typically cost quite a bit less than prescription glasses. Their low cost also means lower quality, with weaker frames and lenses that scratch easily. These glasses won’t correct other visual conditions, such as nearsightedness or astigmatism.

Readers also have the exact same prescription in each lens, so if your vision isn’t identical in both eyes, which it usually isn’t for most people, they may not provide as much clarity as prescription glasses.

That said, if you just need to quickly grab a pair of magnifying eyeglasses to be able to read the paper, or a menu, or the small print on a label, drugstore glasses can fit the bill, especially considering their cost and convenience.

If you only need reading glasses occasionally, then over-the-counter glasses may be a fine solution for your presbyopia. But if you need to wear them for an extended period, such as reading for hours, you may experience eye fatigue and headaches. However, they do not cause damage to your long-term vision.

Prescription Glasses:

Most people have different vision in each eye. In contrast to the generic drugstore readers, prescription eyeglasses are precisely customized to correct for the exact amount of vision loss you’re experiencing in each eye, separately.

Corrections can be also made for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism in each eye. An optician will make lenses based on your prescription, including the distance between your pupils. To get your best vision correction, your pupils must be aligned to the optical center of the eyeglass lenses.

Lenses made in a prescription laboratory are made of higher quality materials and sharper clarity than drugstore glasses. Prescription glasses are a better choice if you need up-close vision correction more than just occasionally. Plus, if you need vision correction for driving or seeing at a distance, prescription glasses can be made to cover both conditions.

Even if you decide that drugstore eyeglasses are sufficient for your vision needs at this time, it’s a good idea to have an eye exam from a knowledgeable eye doctor so that you know which magnification level you need. For example, if your doctor recommends +2.00 for both eyes, then over-the-counter readers of the same power should generally suffice.

Keep in mind that presbyopia will continue to progress over time, so you’ll likely need to change magnification levels or prescriptions at some point.

A comprehensive eye exam is the best, most reliable way to determine exactly what’s going on with your vision, and how best to correct it. Any of the eye specialists at Baptist Eye Surgeons will be happy to talk with you about the most realistic options to help you see clearly as you age.

Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice dedicated to providing quality eye care to patients whose needs range from routine comprehensive eye examinations to the treatment of more complex vision-loss eye diseases. To request an appointment or get directions to our Knoxville and Morristown locations, visit our website. Call us at 865-579-3920 for more information or visit us online to schedule an appointment.

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