This is one of the more common questions asked of our optometrists. Many people will use drug-store or “over the counter” (OTC) reading magnifiers for their near-field tasks like reading and computers. As they are not prescription glasses, will they hurt your eyes?
Wearing glasses that are not the correct prescription for you may cause problems. Blurriness, headaches, eyestrain and fatigue are common symptoms. Some people are able to wear OTC readers with none of these symptoms. Our advice depends on the amount of near work (reading and computer type activities) done on a daily basis as well as the type of lens prescription you have. Most people have at least a slight difference in eyeglass prescription between their two eyes, which if not corrected will cause the eyes to focus at different planes and reduce visual efficiency. Small amounts of astigmatism can have a similar effect.
OTC readers will usually have lenses that are not made with the best quality materials. If present at all, the anti-glare coating will typically scratch easily and wear away quickly. These factors can degrade the image quality and cause distortion or blurring. As they are made “one size fits all”, you may not be looking through the correct part of the lens which could induce eye alignment issues and affect eye teaming.
Over the counter reading glasses have their place. They can be very useful for short-term reading tasks or quickly looking things up like stock quotes or medicine bottle print. The longer you need to wear them, the less adequate they will be.
Be sure to bring all your glasses with you to your next appointment, including any readers you use. Your optometrist will advise you on any changes that need to be made to keep you eyes working efficiently during all your daily tasks.