Reading Glasses vs. Prescription Glasses

Many people who have just recently started experiencing vision problems may wonder whether they need prescription glasses or if they can simply wear over-the-counter reading glasses. While there are similarities between reading glasses and prescription glasses, it's important to know the differences when shopping for a new pair of eyeglasses.

Differences Between Reading Glasses and Prescription Eyeglasses

Reading Glasses Reading glasses are made primarily for presbyopia which is an age-related eye disease most people experience around 35 to 45 years of age. Presbyopia is caused by a decreased elasticity in the eye's lens, making it more difficult to focus on objects in a close range. Reading glasses come in generic strengths that can be picked out by a consumer via a trial and error process. While reading glasses can help correct problems related to close-range vision, they are not made to correct long-range vision problems. Furthermore, for people who are experiencing presbyopia, wearing reading glasses may hinder their ability to see long-range. For this purpose, bifocal reading glasses were invented, which use two lens powers for distance and close range vision. Finally, reading glasses are typically made with lower quality materials than prescription eyeglasses, and they won't give the wearer the accurate vision correction a pair of prescription glasses can give. Prescription Eyeglasses Prescription eyeglasses use highly specified lenses made to correct your personal vision problems with a high level of accuracy. Prescription glasses can be used to treat almost any vision problem, ranging from presbyopia, to myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and more. Unlike reading glasses, prescription eyeglasses require an eye doctor to provide an accurate prescription, and will generally cost more than a pair of over-the-counter readers. Prescription eyeglasses come with a wide variety of high quality options including superior lens materials, stronger frames, a wide variety of styles, and greater durability. The primary draw back to prescription eyeglasses is that they almost always cost significantly more than reading glasses. This is due to the more detailed manufacturing process which tailors them to the wearers needs and makes them durable for everyday use.

Deciding Whether To Buy Prescription Glasses or Reading Glasses

While this is largely a decision based on personal preference, there are some common guidelines when determining which to purchase.
  • If you have mild presbyopia or hyperopia, reading glasses may be a more affordable and practical choice. For people who don't normally need vision correction but on rare occasion need help focusing, readers are an ideal choice.
  • If you regularly wear contacts, but want a pair of glasses for around the house, reading glasses may be a more affordable and easy purchase.
  • If you require strong vision correction or have myopia, astigmatism, or any other more serious eye condition, prescription glasses are the best choice to meet your vision-care needs.
  • If you wear readers every day, prescription strength glasses are a better choice for the long run, as they'll last longer, look better, and provide better vision, tailored to your needs.