Prescription glasses vs drug store glasses
March 7, 2011 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Prescription glasses vs drug store glasses

I went to see my eye doctor and he said I have presbyopia; yes, I'm 42 so that one was expected. He gave me a prescription for reading glasses; I spoke with the optician, got the price of the glasses and I told him I would be back in a few days. Now I'm wondering what is the difference between the glasses you order with the optician and the ones you buy at the drug store besides quality? Drug store glasses, even if they a poor quality and you have to buy a pair every month still don't match what you would spend in a year for a pair of the ones opticians sell (you can buy 3 pairs at costco for less than $20) I don't know, just wondering. As a side note, I really like the ones you order and most likely will get those.
posted by 3dd to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Now I'm wondering what is the difference between the glasses you order with the optician and the ones you buy at the drug store besides quality?

The ones you buy at the drug store are basically magnifying lenses, I believe. They do not necessarily adjust for correct focus. You will see things bigger, but they will still be blurry.
posted by kindall at 6:02 PM on March 7, 2011

I can't tell you what the optical differences might be, but my wife's eye doctor recently suggested she get some reading glasses to deal with presbyopia and he explicitly recommended the drugstore variety.
posted by jon1270 at 6:03 PM on March 7, 2011

Prescription glasses focus the image your eye sees so that it's not blurry.

Glasses that you buy in a drugstore are not customized for you, do not focus the image but rather just make it appear bigger, and so cost significantly less.
posted by dfriedman at 6:04 PM on March 7, 2011

My eye doctor told me to buy the ones at the store.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 6:10 PM on March 7, 2011

Best answer: I hit that point at about the same age. I purchased a $300 pair of glasses from the eye doctor (who had seen my wife and one of the kids for some non-age related vision problems). Those glasses worked great, I wore them when I read, made a world of difference. Then i sat on them (I sit on ALL my glasses, after hooking them on my back pants pocket). I didn't want to spend another $300, went to the drug store, bought a pair of reading glasses for $25 that worked just as well. This system worked for the next 15 years or so, until I started having some additional focus issues between the two eyes, at which point having true prescription glasses was necessary.

At this point, you're probably fine with cheap reading glasses, if you start to notice issues with your vision not related to close reading, it's time to take the more expensive route.
posted by tomswift at 6:14 PM on March 7, 2011

Best answer: Have you considered Zenni Optical? Might be a worthwhile compromise.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:17 PM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If your eyesight is perfect apart from presbytopia, drugstore glasses should work fine.

If you have other things that need correction as well, prescription glasses would deal with those issues as well as presbytopia.

Drugstore glasses provide some magnification, but more importantly they are designed to be in focus for objects relatively close to your face that you otherwise would have to hold further away to be able have in focus, in which case the fact that they are further away makes them smaller and harder to read.
posted by philipy at 6:21 PM on March 7, 2011

Best answer: What's your prescription say? If both eyes are the same positive number and it's less than about +3, you can find an exact match at the drug store. kindall's answer above is mistaken.
posted by fritley at 6:28 PM on March 7, 2011

BTDT. Got a prescription from my specialist, who gave me a choice - $200 and up from the optician, or $20 from the chemist/service station/etc.

Actually, I haven't paid over $10 yet ...

There is a catch though - both my eyes are failing at the same rate, ie the prescription is the same for both eyes, so a +1.5 from the supermarket IS a prescription lens for me.

Once they start to vary though I will be in trouble. And at that point I am not going to fool around with my sight, so it will be off to the optician, with an open wallet. But until then I am laughing.
posted by GeeEmm at 6:40 PM on March 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you so much. You guys are awesome! Ordering from zenni optical, latest trends at drug store price.....
posted by 3dd at 6:41 PM on March 7, 2011

Yeah, I just started needing reading glasses occasionally. My eye dr said I could do fine with drugstore cheater glasses while I'm still at the early stages and there's nothing complicated going on.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:41 PM on March 7, 2011

Looks like you're already onto Zenni Optical; if you want to delve deeper into the world of cheap online eyeglasses sales, check out the GlassyEyes blog. See especially the posts titled How It Works, Why I Do It, and Eyeglasses Stores are for Suckers.
posted by Orinda at 6:51 PM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Already been spoken of, but the only deal-breaker for me would be if my eyes get further apart (in correction needed, not on my face). My left eye is somewhat fuzzier than my right, so I have to put up with a bit of imperfect correction as is, but not nearly enough to warrant spending the $$$ for prescription glasses. I disagree with the assessment that drugstore glasses somehow "just magnify" and prescription ones "correct." Optically, they're doing about the same bending on the light waves, and when I put them on, I can see all kind of detail in near objects that I can't anymore without them.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:28 PM on March 7, 2011

The glasses you get from your eye doctor (for presbyopia) are optically identical to the ones you get at the drug store (assuming your prescription is +1.25, +1.5, +2, etc. and the same for both eyes. The frames, however, are not.

My advice - get a couple pairs of drug store glasses and scatter them liberally through your life. Then have the pair of reasonably well made glasses that you trust to fit you well for when you're reading or some such.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:00 PM on March 7, 2011

You can also use different pairs for different tasks. I use 1.75 for the computer and 2.25 for needlework and 3 for poking at blackheads right up next to the mirror.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:57 PM on March 7, 2011

Several of my friends buy their prescription glasses from Clearly Contacts and have only good things to say about them. Prices start under $40.
posted by jjb at 10:21 PM on March 7, 2011

If anyone reading this thread wants to go really cheap, most dollar stores have reading glasses, so you can buy a bunch and leave them everywhere you might need them!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:19 AM on March 8, 2011

A few differences, nothing major:
  • With drugstore glasses, you're limited as to the prescription strength they provide. If your prescription is weaker or stronger than what they sell "cheaters" in, then you're out of luck. I myself have a prescription of +8.25, and drugstore glasses are rarely stronger than about +3.
  • I believe they only sell glasses with the same prescription strength in both lenses. Many people (myself included) have a slightly different prescription for left versus right eye.
  • They are, as you might have noticed, pretty dorky-looking. Cheap plastic frames, and a style that's outdated.
But for those that can wear them, and can scrounge up a pair that looks nice, more power to ya!
posted by ErikaB at 12:10 PM on March 8, 2011

Nthing "buy lots of dollar store glasses and leave them everywhere". Before I found another hack, that was the only thing that worked for me. The one problem was that the construction was typically shoddy, with the earpieces bending so much after a few months of use that they fell off my face. Sometimes brute force bending would work

One additional point for the nearsighted who are also developing presbyopia: you may find that your close vision is still awesome with no correction at all, but reading and computer work may require magnifying glasses as well when you're already wearing contacts. What I found out accidentally after using some mislabelled contacts is that slightly undercorrecting my dominant eye (which is also more nearsighted) gave me near-perfect vision again. Books and the computer screen are quite clear, and my distance vision is good enough for cycling in the city.
posted by maudlin at 12:39 PM on March 8, 2011

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