Why You Should Think Twice About Drugstore Reading Glasses

Remember the first time you dove into a new book or opened an email, and your forehead and nose collectively scrunched up, as your eyes struggled to focus on the words? That's the moment you knew reading glasses were in your near future. So, whether you've just bought a pair of readers, or have been wearing them for years, there are a few things you should know about these glasses. 

According to Verywell Health, in general, reading glasses make the words on a page appear bigger through magnification — makes sense, right? It also makes it sound as if any pair of reading glasses will do the trick. But while grabbing a cheap pair at the drugstore might seem like the quickest, most economical route, doctors have a word of caution. Eli Peli, professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, believes any vision changes first should be addressed with an eye exam (via Harvard Health Publishing). And he goes on to explain a drawback to buying drugstore reading glasses: "If you think you have solved the problem on your own, you may delay or even avoid getting regular eye exams." 

Dr. Ming Wang of Wang Vision 3D Cataract & LASIK Center adds: "Lower-quality, less expensive reading glasses may be made with low-quality lens materials, which can cause vision distortion, color distortion, or glare. This can contribute to difficulty focusing when reading. It is worth spending a little extra to get better visual quality," Wang says (via All About Vision). 

Drugstore reading glasses may cause eyestrain

It could still be floating through your mind that a cheaper pair bought from the drugstore is okay since you are not an avid reader. But optometrist Samuel Pierce says reading glasses like the ones found in drugstores are made for short-term wear and are best for people who require the same lens power in each eye (via All About Vision). But we most likely don't know if we have the same lens power in each eye without a visit to the optometrist. 

In addition, Verywell Health explains that drugstore reading glasses are mass produced, whereas a pair of prescription lenses are designed specifically to align the eye lens to the center of your pupils. Why is this important? Consider: Research from the University of Cincinnati found that as many as 24 percent of over-the-counter readers had optical centers that were off by up to 2 millimeters, which researchers found may cause eyestrain and double vision, per the scientific journal JAAPOS

National sales manager for retailer I Heart Eyewear, Lori Steigerwald, sums it up to All About Vision: "Consumers need to know what differentiates a good pair [of reading glasses] from a pair that, over time, can cause headaches ... When it comes to your eyes, you should not fool around."