Are Non-Prescription Reading Glasses Bad For My Eyes?

Non-prescription glasses (commonly referred to as “over the counter”) are widely available at a fraction of the cost of prescription reading glasses. Because many people benefit from these glasses, there can understandably be some confusion around their safety and effectiveness. Let’s clear up some of that confusion right now. 

What are ‘non-prescription reading glasses’?

Non-prescription “readers” typically come in a single power ranging from about +1.00 to +3.00. This is because most people over the age of 40 who see fairly well in the distance will benefit from a power somewhere in this range for reading and near tasks. However, over the counter glasses are essentially a “one size fits all” solution when it comes to four crucial factors.

Here Are 4 Important Factors Reading Glasses Miss:

  1. The distance between optical centres (also known as pupillary distance): this is unique to each person and depends highly on whether that person is looking at further distances or close up. If this distance is incorrect, it may result in unintended “prism”, a significant factor in causing further eye strain and/or double vision when tired.
  2. The overall power: many require a significantly stronger or weaker lens power outside the +1.00 to +3.00 range found over the counter. This depends on factors such as a person’s overall nearsightedness or farsightedness
  3. Astigmatism: as non-prescription glasses do not correct astigmatism, patients requiring correction who use non-prescription reading glasses may experience blurry vision, headaches, eyestrain, etc
  4. The difference in prescription between the eyes: known technically as anisometropia, many patients have a different prescription in one eye compared to the other. As non-prescription do not account for this difference, they are not recommended for these patients

Are prescription glasses healthier for my eyes?

In contrast, prescription glasses are dispensed as part of a full, comprehensive eye examination from an Eye Doctor (either an Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist). Prescribing glasses has been described as both an art and a science. Eye Doctors understand the correct lens type that provides maximum clarity and comfort, taking into account the state of the visual system and the health of the eyes as a whole.

The bottom line is that having a routine, full eye examination is important to ensure that non-prescription reading glasses are right for you.


Dr. Danny Walker Downtown Kelowna Optometry

Dr. Danny Walker hails from Mississauga, Ontario, and has been practicing Optometry in the Okanagan for the past three years. Dr. Walker completed both his Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Optometry degrees at the University of Waterloo, graduating in 2012. At Inspired Eyes Optometry, Dr. Walker enjoys being able to provide his patients with thorough examinations and personalized eye care. He has a special interest in protecting and maintaining optimal visual wellness through a variety of factors that include lifestyle and nutrition.
Dr. Walker is available for morning, daytime, evening and Saturday appointments at Inspired Eyes Creative Eyewear & Optometry. Call (250) 862-5900 or Book Online.


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