How to Tell If You Need Glasses

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According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, over 150 million people in the United States use corrective eyewear.1 That's nearly half of the entire population. 

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that they need glasses. This is most common in children, but it happens to adults too.

There were approximately 702 million cases of distance and near vision impairment caused by uncorrected refractive errors worldwide in 2007.2

Vision Impact Institute

Nearly everybody’s vision changes as they age. Many of these changes are insignificant and don’t require vision correction. However, some people develop vision problems that need correction.

Fortunately, eyeglasses, contact lenses, and eye surgery can easily fix most vision conditions. However, it’s not always clear whether you need glasses or not.

If you think you might need glasses, the best thing to do is to schedule an eye exam with your eye doctor. 

Some people who need glasses may have no symptoms. However, there are several signs that may indicate you have an uncorrected vision error. Read on to learn about the most common signs you might need glasses.


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Signs You Might Need Glasses

If you experience any of the following, you may need glasses:

Blurred Vision

Blurry vision can manifest in many ways. You may have trouble reading, recognizing faces, or need to hold your phone at a specific distance. These all could be signs of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.

Frequent Squinting

Squinting is another common sign that you may need glasses. By squinting, you’re adjusting the amount of light entering your eye. This can actually help make images clearer. However, glasses may be able to improve your vision, so you don’t need to squint.

Headaches

Not all headaches are signs of vision impairment. However, sometimes headaches are the result of your eyes trying too hard to focus. Many people adjust to their vision problems, and frequent headaches are their only noticeable symptom. 

Eyestrain

Eyestrain is usually caused by intense use of your eyes. Driving long distances or spending too much time on the computer (computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain) are common causes. However, it may be a sign that your eyes are having difficulty focusing. If you find your eyes straining frequently or in situations where they didn’t before, it could mean you need glasses.

Eye Fatigue

Eye fatigue can last for hours or days. If you feel pain, burning, or want to keep your eyes closed, it may be a sign of an uncorrected vision problem.

Difficulty Reading, Texting, or Doing Computer Work

If you find yourself getting headaches, eye strain, or fatigued from reading or using digital screens, it could mean a couple of things. You may be experiencing digital eye strain. It could also be an underlying vision issue. If you find yourself holding your phone or reading material at arm's length or have difficulty focusing, it could be a sign of an uncorrected refractive error.

Halos

Seeing halos around lights is a common symptom of vision problems. You may experience them when looking at a lightbulb or headlights in the dark. They may be a sign of astigmatism, cataracts, or another night vision issue.

Eye Pressure

If you feel eye pressure building up behind your eyes, it may be a sign of glaucoma or other eye conditions. This is treatable, but definitely a sign that you should schedule an eye exam.

Fuzzy Vision

Fuzziness, or a lack of clear, defined lines, is another common symptom of vision changes. Shapes or lines that once appeared clearly may seem fuzzy or start blending together. 

Double Vision

Double vision can result from issues with your cornea or eye muscles. It is also a symptom of cataracts. If you experience double vision, see an eye doctor immediately.

Poor Night Vision

Difficulty seeing at night is a common sign of vision impairment. Many people do not notice, as seeing is obviously more difficult at night. You may find yourself squinting more or having trouble seeing the road or signs at night.

Distorted or Wavy Vision

If certain objects, such as shades or blinds look wavy or distorted it could be a sign of deteriorating eye health. Sometimes objects will look like they are underwater, bent, or misshapen. 

Trouble Adjusting from Dark to Light

Difficulty transitioning from dark to light environments (and vice versa) is another often overlooked sign of visual impairment. If it takes your eyes longer than normal to adjust to changes in brightness, you may want to speak with your doctor about your eye prescription.

Trouble Recognizing Faces

If you have difficulty recognizing familiar faces, it may be a sign of myopia (nearsightedness). People with myopia have a hard time focusing on objects in the distance. This can be corrected with glasses, contacts, or surgery.

Rubbing Your Eyes

Rubbing your eyes frequently can be caused by many vision problems. It could be an infection or piece of debris. It may also be the result of eye fatigue or strain, which could require treatment. 

Types of Vision Problems

Many eye conditions can cause vision problems. These are some of the most common conditions that can make you need a pair of glasses.

Refractive Errors

Refractive errors are very common eye disorders. They occur when the eye has trouble bending (refracting) light that enters the eye. This causes difficulty focusing. The most common symptom of refractive errors is blurred vision. 

Myopia (Nearsightedness)

Myopia is when your eye’s focusing power is too strong. This makes it difficult to see objects far away. There are two causes of myopia:

  • Your eyeball is longer than average
  • Your cornea (the clear covering in front of your eye) is too steep

 Myopia affects more than 34 million Americans over the age of 40.1

Hyperopia (Farsightedness)

Hyperopia is when your eyes focus images too far behind your retina. This makes seeing things up close difficult. It can be caused by:

  • Your eyeball being shorter than average
  • Your cornea being too flat

Over 14 million Americans age 40 and older are hyperopic.1

Presbyopia (Age-Related Farsightedness)

Presbyopia is a decrease in your ability to see near objects as you age. It usually starts around age 40. The stiffening of your natural lens causes presbyopia.

Astigmatism

Astigmatism is another refractive error. It is usually caused by a misshapen cornea. It can also be caused by changes in the natural lens. Astigmatism occurs in about 1 in 3 people and can occur with myopia or hyperopia at the same time.1

Other Common Eye Health Conditions

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages your optic nerve. It can cause irreversible vision damage that may lead to blindness. Glaucoma affects more than 2.7 million Americans age 40 and older.2

Cataracts

Cataracts are a common eye condition. It occurs when the lens inside your eye becomes cloudy and causes blurry vision. Cataracts affect more than 24.4 million Americans age 40 and older. By age 75, approximately half of all Americans have cataracts.2

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age-related macular degeneration is when your macula (the central portion of your retina) wears down. Over 2 million Americans age 50 and older have late AMD. In 2010, 9.1 million Americans had early AMD.2, 3

Can You Have 20/20 Vision and Still Need Glasses?

Yes, it is possible to have 20/20 vision and still need corrective lenses. This is a measurement of visual acuity, or the ability to see small details.

However, this doesn't measure peripheral vision, depth perception, how well you see colors, your ability to see movement, or how well your eyes work together. 

These, along with other factors, such as your eye health, make up your ability to see clearly. Even if you have 20/20 vision, it's possible that glasses could help you see better. 

How Do Eye Doctors Know If You Need Glasses?

The best way to check to see if you need glasses is to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam. An eye doctor will determine whether you need glasses or other vision correction and guide you through your options.

During an eye exam, you can expect your optometrist or ophthalmologist to:

  • Measure your visual acuity with a vision chart
  • Evaluate your eye muscle movement by watching your eyes while they follow a target
  • See how well your eyes work together by covering one eye at a time while you focus on a target
  • Measure your eye pressure with a tonometer 
  • Evaluate your eye health by using lights or imaging to check the front and inside of each eye
  • Perform a refraction test to check your prescription

How Can I Check My Eyesight at Home?

A home eye exam is not a substitute for a comprehensive vision test by an eye care provider. However, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has directions for Home Vision Tests for Children and Adults.

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Resources
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(1) “Eye Health Statistics.” American Academy of Ophthalmology.

(2) Fricke, TR, et al. “Global Cost of Correcting Vision Impairment from Uncorrected Refractive Error.” Vision Impact Institute, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2012.

(3) “Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Data and Statistics.National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 17 July 2019. 

(4) Walline, Jeffrey, and Molly Smith. “Controlling Myopia Progression in Children and Adolescents.Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, vol. 6, 13 Aug. 2015, pp. 133–140., doi:10.2147/ahmt.s55834.

(5) Legault, Gary, and Preeya K Gupta. “Choosing the Right Treatment for Hyperopia.” Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today, July 2014.

(6) Lopes, Margarida C., et al. “Identification of a candidate gene for astigmatism.Investigative ophthalmology & visual science vol. 54,2 1260-7. 1 Feb. 2013, doi:10.1167/iovs.12-10463

(7) Heys, K. R., et al. “Massive increase in the stiffness of the human lens nucleus with age: the basis for presbyopia?Molecular Vision, vol. 16, no. 10, 10 Dec. 2004, pp. 956–963.

(8) Tham, Yih-Chung Y., et al. “Global Prevalence of Glaucoma and Projections of Glaucoma Burden through 2040.Ophthalmology, vol. 121, no. 11, Nov. 2014, pp. 2081–2090., doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2014.05.013.

(9) Chang, Jessica R., et al. “Risk Factors Associated with Incident Cataracts and Cataract Surgery in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS).Ophthalmology, vol. 118, no. 11, Nov. 2011, pp. 2113–2119., doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2011.03.032.

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