Updated on 

May 2, 2022

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Reading Glasses

What are Reading Glasses?

Reading eyeglasses improve up-close vision. Many people wear them when looking at a computer screen or reading. 

Some reading glasses feature blue light blocking lenses out the light from technological devices. Reading glasses can be prescription or over-the-counter (OTC). They come in a variety of strengths.

Usually, vision experts recommend that OTC reading glasses only be used on a short-term basis. They are also best for people who have the same vision strength in both eyes. 

Prescription glasses are a better option over reading glasses if you have:

  1. Different prescriptions in each eye
  2. Astigmatism that causes blurred vision
  3. A need to wear reading glasses for a long time

How to Tell if You Need Reading Glasses 

Most people realize they need reading glasses when they are straining to read, especially when words are written in small print. 

They might move the text further from their eyes or shift materials around until their eyes can focus.

The most definitive way to know if you need reading glasses is to undergo a professional eye exam. However, this isn’t always necessary. 

The following are an indication that reading glasses might help you see better:

You’re getting older

People usually begin to experience a shift in vision after the age of 40. Some people need reading glasses as young as 20 or 30, especially if they deal with eyestrain. This is more common now because of peoples’ frequent use of phones and computers. 

Needing more light to see

It’s always good to have sufficient light when reading. However, if you notice it’s tougher to see in dimmer light than it used to be, it could indicate that you need magnification. If you find yourself turning up the light when trying to read, reading glasses might help.

Feeling fatigued

Constantly having to put significant effort into seeing clearly is exhausting. If you are tired after doing relaxing activities like reading, it could be because you are straining to see clearly.

Try wearing reading glasses the next time you read and see if you feel as tired as before.


Headaches are a big indicator that someone’s vision needs support.

Headaches can be a sign of other problems, so it’s a good idea to undergo a medical examination to rule out other more serious health concerns related to headaches. In some cases, investing in a pair of reading glasses might be enough to ease the pain of vision-related headaches.

Sometimes headaches are from looking at screens too long, which makes reading glasses with blue light protection a great option.

Where to Buy Glasses + Contacts

Best Overall: Warby Parker

Fastest Delivery: EyeBuyDirect

Also Great: Liingo

Best Place to Buy Contacts: 1800 Contacts

What is the Lowest Power for Reading Glasses?

Reading glass power is measured in units called diopters. The lowest strength is usually 1.00 diopters.

What is the Highest Power for Reading Glasses?

Glasses increase in strength by factors of .25 (1.50, 1.75, 2.00). The strongest reading glasses available are 4.00 diopters.

Can You Get a Different Power for Each Eye? 

Yes, but you won’t find them as easily as generic glasses. 

In most cases, you’ll need prescription reading glasses if you have two different strengths.

How to Pick the Right Prescription Reading Glasses 

Your eye doctor will help you choose the right prescription reading glasses. They’ll create a prescription for your lenses after you undergo a vision examination.

Once you have a prescription, you can choose frames that can be customized to the prescription and your eyes. 

When choosing prescription reading glasses frames, consider:

  • Price
  • Quality of materials
  • Durability
  • Fit
  • Frame style
  • Blue light protection
  • Shipping cost or whether free shipping is offered if you order online
  • Whether you can return readers that don’t fit or work for you

If you don’t need prescription reading glasses, you’ll likely be on your own when making your choice. 

Most people use some trial and error when they shop for OTC reading glasses. 

A customer can try on a few different magnification strengths and styles when they shop. Some even want a different style or frame based on what they’re doing or where they are wearing their glasses. 

If you’ve never worn glasses, determining what style looks best and is most comfortable can be challenging. But it can also be fun. 

Non-prescription reading glasses are inexpensive, so many people have several pairs in different styles. You can also choose a different frame or style of glasses for various occasions. 

Just like any type of glasses, it’s important to invest in a style that you love and keep searching until you find something that suits you.

Another popular practice is to buy backup pairs of OTC reading glasses that can be used when you don’t want to use prescription glasses. 

Some people only wear their prescription glasses while working or reading. Then they wear their OTC reading glasses during recreational activities. 

Do Cheap Reading Glasses Work?

Yes. For many people, inexpensive OTC reading glasses are all they need to see better when looking at close-up materials. 

The key to making cheap reading glasses work for you is to choose the right lens type magnification. 

It helps to try a few different magnification strengths before making your purchase. Also, remember that the magnification you need might increase as you get older. 

What are Some Alternatives to Reading Glasses?

If you’re someone who doesn’t want to wear reading glasses, there are other options available. 

In some cases, people opt to undergo LASIK or PRK surgery to improve their vision. This is more common for people who have non-age-related vision issues. These procedures correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. 

Another alternative to reading glasses is refractive lens exchange. This is a procedure that removes that eye’s natural lens and replaces it with an intraocular lens implant. The steps are essentially the same as cataract surgery.

In addition to refractive lens exchange, a person who wants to avoid wearing reading glasses can choose monovision. 

Monovision corrects someone’s dominant eye for distance vision and corrects their non-dominant eye for near vision. 

In response to these corrections, the brain makes the needed vision changes automatically. Monovision allows for a change in the range of focus without the need for glasses or contact lenses.

Keep in mind, neither of these corrective alternatives to readers gives you blue light protection. It might be a good idea to invest in these lenses to protect your eyes, even after your vision is corrected. 

Best Places to Buy Glasses

Best Overall

Warby Parker has stylish, high-quality frames at affordable prices.

Also Great

Liingo Eyewear is another great option to buy glasses online.

Best on a Budget

EyeBuyDirect has a wide variety of budget frames starting at $6.

Best Places to Buy Contacts

Best Overall

1-800 Contacts is our #1 recommendation to buy contacts online.

Also Great
glasses usa logo

GlassesUSA has a huge selection of contacts, glasses, & sunglasses.

6 Cited Research Articles
  1. Presbyopia | National Eye Institute.” www.nei.nih.gov.
  2. Mayo Clinic. “Presbyopia - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 2017.
  3. Aging and Your Eyes.” National Institute on Aging.
  4. Vision Changes as We Age: What’s Normal, What’s Not?” Utah.edu, 2016.
  5. Eyestrain - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 2018.
  6. Tips for Eye Health in Adults over 65.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 14 Aug. 2020.
Melody Huang is an optometrist and freelance health writer. Through her writing, Dr. Huang enjoys educating patients on how to lead healthier and happier lives. She also has an interest in Eastern medicine practices and learning about integrative medicine. When she’s not working, Dr. Huang loves reviewing new skin care products, trying interesting food recipes, or hanging with her adopted cats.
Kelly Brown is a content writer for Vision Center. Her goal is to share important information so people can make the best decisions about their vision health. From choosing the best eye doctor to managing health issues that affect vision, she hopes to share what she learns through informative content.
Author: Kelly Brown  | UPDATED May 2, 2022
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Medical reviewer: Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.

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