Eyeglasses for distance cause up-close things to be blurry...
November 16, 2011 8:58 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine just got new glasses (for distance/night) and everything is super sharp... unless it's up close. Then, it's blurry. For instance, he can't read his phone at arm's length. He can read his phone perfectly without glasses and things become blurry for him without glasses at about 25 feet. I don't think this is normal for glasses. It's certainly not the way my glasses work. What say the hive?

In case it's relevant, his prescription is:

125 - 50 x 165
150 - 25 x 165

Should he complain to the glasses people? Is this normal? If he does complain, what's to be expected? Should they be redoing the lenses at no cost or what?
posted by You Should See the Other Guy to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect he needs bifocal glasses. He should return to wherever he purchased them and let them know that they aren't working for him, they should correct this problem without hesitation.
posted by tomswift at 9:01 PM on November 16, 2011

How old is your friend? People lose their ability to change their eye focus much, generally in about their 40s. So it's possible he has just hit that point and the glasses are only bringing it to his attention. Lots of people have the exact same situation as your friend all day every day, and that's why they are always taking their glasses off, putting them back on, etc etc etc. (Or wearing bifocals, though those have their drawbacks as well.)

It is also possible, though, that they just made the wrong prescription for him. Definitely take them back to where he got them and have it checked out.
posted by flug at 9:06 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would give it a few days to get used to the new glasses, but yes, it does sound like he's going to need bifocals. The place he purchased the glasses should have checked both far and near vision before ordering the lenses, so I suspect they would make the switch, but probably charge the difference between standard lenses and bifocals.
posted by blurker at 9:08 PM on November 16, 2011

Thirding how old is he. My husband is 42 and can only read close up without his glasses. According to my doctor, when you correct the far vision, you screw up the close vision. He left my left eye slightly undercorrected for far vision when he did my LASIK so that I'd be able to go longer without reading glasses.
posted by artychoke at 9:09 PM on November 16, 2011

He's early 40s.

I thought bifocals were for people who couldn't see things without glasses up close or far, therefore two prescriptions, but since he can see things fine up close without...

And I think he got his prescription from a doctor that is unrelated to the glasses shop. Who'd be at fault in that case?
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:13 PM on November 16, 2011

My doctor has been telling my husband to wait to get bifocals until he can no longer read when he takes off his glasses. Taking off glasses to read is less of a pain than getting used to bifocals, I suppose.
posted by artychoke at 9:24 PM on November 16, 2011

" he can see things fine up close without..." then the lens might not need to make any correction for close reading. The point is, his distance vision is different than his close vision, the lens needs to reflect both, it sounds like it's just adjusting for the distance issue. bottom line, the glasses don't work for him, he needs to go back to where they were made and let them know.
posted by tomswift at 9:29 PM on November 16, 2011

If the doctor who did the eye exam didn't explain this, you might want to go somewhere else. Bifocals are more expensive and progressives are even more so getting a second pair of "reading only" glasses might be worth looking into. I have progressives, they aren't horrible. Neither of the prescriptions is too extreme so it's not a radical shift but in the end I think I'd rather just have two pairs of glasses
posted by doctor_negative at 9:52 PM on November 16, 2011

My (50-something) dad wears glasses for driving, movies, etc. and takes them off when he reads and does other close-up things.

When I first started wearing glasses (at age 12 or so) I did the same thing. As my eyes got worse, I started needing them to read, as well. I can't tell how bad your friend's eyes are, as I'm only familiar with contacts prescriptions.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 10:01 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have two pairs of glasses - one for distance and one for reading. I've always worn the ones for myopia [short sight] since age 9 but the reading pair is now necessary in my midforties. I can't read phones, books, text etc with my regular pair now. What it implies is that these glasses were specifically designed for distance vision, not for reading etc
posted by infini at 10:07 PM on November 16, 2011

I have contacts and reading glasses, which I often wear at the same time. Weird sounding I know but my eye doctor said it would be both cheaper and easier and she was right. No more eye strain either.
posted by fshgrl at 10:59 PM on November 16, 2011

If anyone is at fault here, it seems more likely the doctor who checked his eyes and wrote the prescription.

If your friend can see normally (at whatever distance) without glasses, then it's probably easiest to just not use glasses for that distance.

As an aside, bifocals aren't just for older people. I had bifocals when I was about 12.
posted by maurreen at 11:21 PM on November 16, 2011

He could just be overminused. I got too strong of a prescription for some new contacts once and was devastated when I finally got around to putting them in, went to work, and I couldn't read.

(I'm myopic; evidently the eye is better at accommodating farsightedness, so sometimes farsighted folk end up with too weak a prescription, while us myopes (?) end up with too strong of one).

It's a balance, though; I don't see as well far away, and I might be looking into getting another prescription soon.

Additionally, be sure the glasses are being worn at the intended distance from the eye, and at the right angle; if I let mine get smushed so they aren't sitting right on my nose, then I don't see as well. (I've got a reasonably strong lens, though; things are blurry about a foot away.)
posted by nat at 1:06 AM on November 17, 2011

I am currently in that situation. If I wear corrective lenses I can see distances brilliantly, but I can not read with magnification. If I don't wear corrective lenses, I can read brilliantly, but I can't see anything beyond about 10 feet. My doctor assures me that this situation is temporary and soon I won't be able to do either one without correction. I'm in my late 40s. At present, my hack is to wear one contact and I can see distance with one eye and read with the other. Once that stops working, I guess I'm on to bifocals or reading glasses.
posted by Lame_username at 2:12 AM on November 17, 2011

Thirding how old is he.

Fourthing. I'm 45, and with my current glasses (-2.25 OD, -2.75 OS) I can read at arms length, but not closer. Without my glasses, I can read fine close, but everything beyond 18" is blurry. Right now, I just deal with it, but I suspect my next glasses will end up being bifocals.

However, it could still be the wrong prescription. I can see he has astigmatism, because of the second element of the script, but the one thing that confuses me -- if he's nearsighted (that is, he can see near normally, but not far) he should have a negative diopter prescription.

How to read these. The first number is the spherical diopter. Negative diopters are for the nearsighted, which focuses far away images better. Positive diopters are for near vision, they are, in effect, magnifiers.

For pure NS/FS, that's all you need. For astigmatism, there is a prism element. The first number is the difference of this prism from the primary spherical correction, the second is the angle of that prism.

So, in this case, (and assuming a primary negative diopter), there is, on the right eye, a spherical diopter correction of -1.25, with a further -.50 diopter prism, oriented at 165 degrees, or just slightly counterclockwise from vertical.

Of course, if they meant to write -1.25 -.50 165°, and they wrote 1.25 -.50 165°, well, as MeFi's own asavage would says, "There's your problem right there!"
posted by eriko at 2:15 AM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Ditto, ditto the bifocals. They're not just for people who need a prescription for reading: they're for anyone who needs a DIFFERENT prescription (or yeah: none at all) for closeup and for distance. (My own first bifocals were basically distance-correction prescription on top with no correction for closeup on bottom.)
posted by easily confused at 2:51 AM on November 17, 2011

Lens that correct for poor vision at a distance make the light rays diverge; lens that correct for poor vision close-up make the light rays converge.

In either case, sometimes, the lens in the eye (yes, you do have a lens in your eye) can work in such a way as to compensate for the divergence/convergence introduce by the lens of the glasses such that one can see perfectly well at both large and small distances while wearing corrective glasses. However, this is not often the case - especially as one gets older.

When this happens, one needs bifocals as others have pointed out.
posted by aroberge at 4:08 AM on November 17, 2011

I have worn glasses for distance vision for years and years and have always taken them off for reading. This really isn't a problem for me. The glasses mean I can drive and taking off the glasses means I can read.

At some point I asked an optometrist about this and he said my options were to (a) continue doing this or (b) get bifocals with clear glass for the close up bit. He strongly recommended against the bifocals because they are both way more expensive and also really difficult to get used to.

I tried wearing contacts for a while, but that was silly because I had the hassle of wearing contacts AND I had to carry around reading glasses. I had a different optometrist at this time and also asked him about it. He thought it was pretty normal and was the one to suggest I try reading glasses when I complained I couldn't see up close with my contacts in.

So, your friend's situation sounds pretty normal to me, I'd be surprised if a professional were to tell him anything different than "take your glasses off when you read", and I don't think anyone's at fault. If he has great distance vision with his glasses on, it sounds like he has the right prescription and they were made correctly. And he should take the glasses off to read.

Data point: my experiences are from my teens and twenties. I'm definitely not 40 yet.
posted by mosessis at 4:12 AM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

If the glasses are for distance only, he should take them off when he reads.

I'm 39, and have had glasses for distance since I was 11. I wear them for driving, TV-watching, movies, and walking around so I can see Bob at the other end of the office instead of Blob at the other end off the office.

I've always taken them off for reading or working at my computer because I don't need them for that.

posted by ladygypsy at 4:41 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

My doctor has been telling my husband to wait to get bifocals until he can no longer read when he takes off his glasses. Taking off glasses to read is less of a pain than getting used to bifocals, I suppose.

Our eye doc said the same thing to Mr. Darling (45), and boy does he find it annoying, but he's waiting it out.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:53 AM on November 17, 2011

Yet another near-sighted person who takes off her glasses to read; I hold the magazine or book about 12 inches away and it's not a problem.

For working at the computer which is a bit farther away I have a pair of clip-on magnifier glasses. They look dorky but I love being able to flip them up when I don't need them. I bought mine overseas but they are similar to these. (Mine actually sit a bit lower so that I can look over the top of the magnifying part but still be looking through my corrective lenses.)
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:08 AM on November 17, 2011

This is normal, IME - when my mother was in her mid-40s, she started wearing glasses for driving, watching movies at the theater, etc. She takes them off when she needs close vision like reading, etc.

Essentially, it's the opposite of people who need "reading glasses" for reading but don't need any correction for distance work.
posted by muddgirl at 7:08 AM on November 17, 2011

I want to disagree.

I am under 40. I didn't wear contacts until I was ~28. At first only in one eye, then around 30 in both eyes.

As soon as I was wearing contacts in both eyes, I had a very hard time focusing on text (newspaper, books, general reading) had headaches etc. Eye doc said I needed reading glasses. I said pssh.

After a few weeks of getting used to the contacts, I could see/read just fine, and did not need reading glasses.

Now, he is in his 40s which tends to mean reading glasses, but in my experience, it was the transition to wearing contacts and adjustment time, that once passed, headaches and reading problems went away.
posted by k5.user at 8:07 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

FYI, you can save a bajillion dollars by buying progressives or bifocals at Zenni Optical or its ilk rather than ordering glasses from your local optician. I think I paid $50 for my progressives, and they would have cost $450 locally.
posted by Addlepated at 1:30 PM on November 17, 2011

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