Are my glasses right?
March 7, 2012 6:57 PM   Subscribe

I got new glasses. The lenses seem cut wrong. I also have horrible vision. Did the optometrist screw up?

I have poor vision. According to my contacts, my prescription is -12. I haven't worn glasses in nearly a decade. I decided to get a pair recently as I realized how irresponsible not having glasses is in case I get an eye infection.

I picked up my glasses the other day and my immediate reaction was that something was wrong. Straight lines seemed bent, I noticed some colors diffracting, etc. I felt like I was looking through a fish bowl. I was assured by the optometrist's office that this was normal for a prescription as bad as mine, and that with time I would "adjust." Google seems to confirm that feeling this way is normal.

However, what really bothers me is how my eyes appear to others. Please see this photo of what I am referring to. Is this really normal? Is this a product of my particular frame / lenses and should I have been persuaded to get a different pair? Please let me know what my options are here as right now I feel like I can't wear these outside.
posted by prunes to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Totally normal. My glasses are half the strength of yours and this happens as well.

The "fisheye" effect bothered me when I went from contacts to glasses, but you stop noticing after a couple weeks.

If you think your lenses are cut wrong, take them to another optometrist and ask if they'll check them against the scrip. I've done that before, and they'll usually do it for free.
posted by dw at 7:03 PM on March 7, 2012

Yes, everything you're describing is quite normal. Even switching to a new pair of glasses is a few days of freak-out-everything-looks-weird-and-curvy-and-too-small-and-weird-fringes-especially-on-the-periphery. And going from contacts to glasses, all these things are many times more noticeable.

There are high-refraction lenses and other things they can do to minimize some of this a little but you might not have chosen these options (they tend to be more expensive, sometimes a lot more expenseive) if you're basically looking for seldom-worn back-up glasses just to have on hand.

Also, every time I go to the the optometrist, they try to sell me on frames with much, much smaller lenses, even smaller than what you have. Those minimize weight, fringing, and distortion, and they really push them for people with strong prescriptions, but then of course only a small part of your central vision is corrected. Personally, I like (and use!) my peripheral vision.
posted by flug at 7:11 PM on March 7, 2012

The exact same thing happened to me (my vision is between -3 and -7, so not as bad as yours), and it adjusted within a few weeks. I love my new glasses now.
posted by 200burritos at 7:21 PM on March 7, 2012

But guys do my eyes look right? Specifically, look to the sides.
posted by prunes at 7:24 PM on March 7, 2012

You have to think about it logically: Glasses are designed to bend the light in such a way that your screwed-up eyes will perceive everything as being in focus. So yes, from the outside looking in, your eyes/face looks a little bent as well. This is true for all of us (including me!) who wear a strong prescription. You've seen it on a hundred of your friends, colleagues and people you encounter on a daily basis, you just haven't noticed. Because it's actually nowhere near as noticeable as you're thinking it is.

Wear the glasses for a week. If they're still bothering you, go back to the optometrist for a double check. Mistakes do happen, but it's also true that it can take a few days to adjust. I was really, absolutely, positively sure that my current glasses had been made wrong, but once I adjusted I realized they were actually correcting my vision better than it had been for several years, and it just was taking me a while to get used to it.

And maybe you're gonna decide you're really not a glasses person. So that's fine - stick with the contacts. But do have a pair of glasses on hand for emergencies. (Especially with a prescription as strong as yours!)
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:29 PM on March 7, 2012

Really normal for such a strong prescription. Here's a picture of me in my coke bottle specs, and my eyes are nowhere near as bad as yours (-4 and -5). From what I can tell, nobody notices.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:32 PM on March 7, 2012

Most people who are nearsighted are between -1.00 and -4.00 diopters. You are -12.00, which is way beyond the average case. It's harder to make your lenses thin, but it can be done. Did your optometrist ask if you'd like them as thin as possible? This costs extra, but in your case, you'd probably want them as thin as you can get them.

That being said, they look okay to me, but I see what you're saying about the sides of the glasses. It looks distorted, and while I say it looks okay, if it bothers you, you should check to see if they can make the lens less thick. I don't think it's a function of the frames.
posted by Sal and Richard at 7:33 PM on March 7, 2012

That's more or less what my husband's glasses (-10 or so) look like at the sides. I think in general wire frames look better with very high correction lenses than plastic frames do--for whatever reason, the plastic frames tend to emphasize the "fishbowl" effect.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:49 PM on March 7, 2012

Yeah, this is just how high powered lenses make your eyes look. Your glasses, if you're nearsighted, are basically like the opposite of a magnifying glass. Try wearing your contacts and looking at something through your glasses (don't wear them, just hold the lenses a few inches away from something). You'll see the effect you're seeing in the photo.

I'm not sure that getting thinner lenses will help with anything but weight- chances are you got ultra thin lenses anyway, with a prescription that strong and glasses that large. Normal lenses would weight a ton and be obviously crazy thick at the edges. Getting glasses with smaller lenses will help a little, since less of your face will be seen through the distortion of the lends. Hipster glasses just don't work very well for those of us with strong prescriptions :/
posted by MadamM at 8:06 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

After looking at PhoBWanKenobi's pic of her glasses - I'm revising my previous statement. Again, your lenses are going to be thicker than average, and PhoB's are less thick than yours, but still, she has the same effect going on. Perhaps if you try a frame like hers where the eye is drawn to the interesting plastic part at the top, it's not as noticeable. It's worth a shot.
posted by Sal and Richard at 8:06 PM on March 7, 2012

Actually, looking at your picture again, maybe your lenses are crazy thick at the edges? Your optometrist should have steered you towards smaller lenses, in that case.
posted by MadamM at 8:07 PM on March 7, 2012

Agree with MadamM--smaller lenses might definitely help. My huge frames that are pictured definitely look a bit more ridiculous than the smaller frames I have. (You might try ordering a second pair online for cheap to see if it improves things any.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:11 PM on March 7, 2012

The optician should have offered high-index lenses, which are more expensive but thinner. As MadamM says, they should also have steered you toward a frame with much smaller lenses. The combination of high-index lenses and a small opening reduces the thickness at the edges but doesn't completely eliminate the coke-bottle effect. You might go back and see whether they'll let you return the glasses and try again.

I buy the smallest possible frames. It's hard to do these days, now that the wide rectangular look is in, but sometimes children's frames will work for me. You'd still have an adjustment period as you adapt to the lenses themselves and to the fact that only the bare minimum of your visual field is in focus.
posted by ceiba at 8:19 PM on March 7, 2012

My husband has terrible eyesight and wears hipster glasses. If he wears his old pair, which are ginormous, the bending is much more noticeable. So, if you think you might want to wear glasses more often, it's worth looking at options. Also, give it a week for your eyes to adjust but then do not hesitate to take them in if it doesn't feel right. I got some new specs and was assured that they'd feel normal after a week. Well, after nearly breaking my ankle stepping off a curb that I couldn't see, I took them in. Completely wrong prescription. It happens.

also, PhoBWan, you are adorable!
posted by amanda at 9:10 PM on March 7, 2012

Yep, I just got glasses for the first time in 15 years, and had the same shock. I got used to it pretty quickly...
posted by empath at 9:11 PM on March 7, 2012

My guess, though, is from the description of your experience (different colors refracting) that you do have high index lenses, because I get the same things you describe (though, again, with -6 lenses). You get used to it.
posted by dw at 10:01 PM on March 7, 2012

FWIW, just as an observation about how self-conscious you actually need to be, rather than about whether you're going to get headaches or whatnot: I looked at both your and PhoBWan's pics and thought, "Huh, what are they talking about?" and had to think about it for a few seconds to recognize the distortion. My brain definitely edits that information when I'm looking at someone who wears glasses.
posted by gingerest at 11:07 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, for the degree of correction that you require, this is normal.

I can sympathize...before laser surgery I had -7 diopters of myopia, and I hated how my eyes looked behind the lenses, regardless of how stylish the frames were or how thin the lenses were with high-index glass.
posted by wutangclan at 12:37 AM on March 8, 2012

Even with a weak prescription, when I first got glasses everything seemed weird and I had trouble walking. After a short time I adapted though, and now I don't have any problem. Also I don't have any problem switching from using them to not using them.

Your eyes don't look that odd to me in that photo, though every glasses-wearer must have some distortion. Don't forget the spotlight effect error: people tend to think details of their own appearance are far more noticeable than they really are. (There was a famous experiment where students were forced to wear an unfashionable T-shirt: they mostly thought everyone else was judging them by it, but in fact most of their peers never even noticed).
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:20 AM on March 8, 2012

I replaced my coke-bottle lenses with superthin (which amounts to normal-looking on one side, and still noticably thicker on the other, but not AS bad). It helps my vision because my glasses aren't sliding down my nose due to the weight of the lenses/frame. They were more expensive, but I wear my glasses a lot more often than you do. My eyes do look smaller with my glasses on, but smaller lenses seem to minimize this. I miss my peripheral vision, but I'm older and have progressive lenses now so that's out anyway.

Anecdotal experience suggests that optometrists are as fallible as the next person, so your prescription may be wrong or may have been filled incorrectly. I've had problems with new prescriptions where the 'script was filled wrong. The 'script said one thing, but the lens didn't match it. I also once had a problem where the prescription was transcribed incorrectly at the doctor's office, so what the grinder made matched what was on the slip... but the slip didn't have my prescription written on it correctly. This was the ONLY time that an eye doc's office gave me a hard time about getting a prescription corrected... they kept insisted that I needed more time to adjust, and I kept insisting that then they were going to give me a ride home then because I refused to kill someone driving with these glasses. They checked them just to prove their point... then, oh, ooooops...

I've also just had the wrong result from my eye exam. An optometrist told me once that it's harder to diagnose near-sighted people accurately with the testing, so sometimes it takes a couple of tries to get the 'script perfect... if your 'script was wrong, or filled wrong, you shouldn't be charged for a recheck of your eyes, the glasses, and a replacement pair of lenses for your frames.

Once it took me 3 tries (and 2 different doctors!) to get glasses that were accurate.

If you can get around fairly safely, wait a few days. If you don't adjust, go back to your original doc and give that office a chance to check for any errors. They're used to doing this; there should be no problem. In the unlikely event that they do give you a hard time, get a second opinion. If your vision seems bad to the point where you don't feel safe to drive, get someone to take you to the doc's office and check them right away. In my experience, they may actually be wrong.
posted by theplotchickens at 4:50 AM on March 8, 2012

After years of wearing contacts exclusively, and then getting a pair of glasses, the personal reaction you describe is completely normal. You will adapt. Just wait until you get old enough to start wearing bifocals. Now that is a murderous adaptation process! Especially going down stairs.

And, the effect you illustrate in the picture is completely normal. That's just the way strong optics work, I'm afraid.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:31 AM on March 8, 2012

I also agree, this is normal. The only solution for the effect in your photo is smaller frames that you can wear closer to your eyes.

According to my optometrist, higher index lenses will eliminate some of the fishbowl and exaggerate the prism-like color flares, and lower index lenses have more fishbowl while eliminating some of the color flares.

This is why I thank god every day for contact lenses.

Note: other people don't notice this as much as you do. If you have to wear your glasses regularly, just take them off for photos and you should be fine.
posted by gjc at 6:38 AM on March 8, 2012

I got high refractive index lenses and the color flares are basically just at the edge of my vision, but man were they really obvious at first.. I barely notice them now..
posted by empath at 6:43 AM on March 8, 2012

Anecdotal experience suggests that optometrists are as fallible as the next person, so your prescription may be wrong or may have been filled incorrectly. I've had problems with new prescriptions where the 'script was filled wrong.

Yes, prescriptive mistakes are always possible, but would yield symptoms that are very different from what the OP described.

Small under/over correction errors (less than +/- 0.5D) are not uncommon, but won't be so noticeable to the eyeglasses wearer except perhaps as eyestrain. Large errors will result in very obvious blurriness.

Image distortion is inevitable and normal, both of the corrected vision and of the appearance of the wearer's eyes to others.
posted by wutangclan at 9:14 AM on March 8, 2012

Of course, there's a tumblr (NSFW) collecting examples of this very thing. The effect is totally normal. For example, mine are in the +4 to +5 range, and I see the same effect in reverse.
posted by chazlarson at 10:22 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

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