What's going on with these reading glasses?
November 29, 2012 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Can't get the hang of new reading glasses - what's going on?

I've always had very good vision (and my long-range is still 20/20) and never worn glasses, but after my last milestone birthday I noticed increasing eyestrain problems. Yes, I have one of those "look at a screen all day" jobs and yes, I probably look at screens too much at home too.

Went to a recommended optometrist, got a full testing done, and wound up with reading glasses. But I can't tell if there's something wrong with them or if I just suck at wearing glasses. The bottom part, that's supposed to be for close reading, seems fine but the middle zone (for "mid-range") is only clear right in the center. If I glance to either side of my computer screen it's blurry, and if I move my head to see it distorts things in a nausea-inducing way.

When I had them fitted I told the optician that they seemed too strong or something, but he insisted I'd get used to them. I wasn't expecting anything with three "zones" in them, I just figured I'd get something to wear while reading and working. After my testing the doctor said I still had pretty good vision, and just needed something for up-close.

I guess I should have tried over-the-counter readers first, but I'm in this for like $500 now and need to make these work. Problem is, scheduling a new full eye appointment will be a hassle. I've been giving them a go at work today, and have a massive headache. Should I keep at it, or stop now and try a re-do?
posted by JoanArkham to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like there's a problem.

Do you have progressive bifocal/trifocals? Depending on how large a frame you chose, you may be experiencing issues at the edges. Typically the magnifiyer is a round bit at the bottom. If you choose a narrow frame, you never notice it. But if you got huge, Jackie O frames, the edges will be different from the direct middle and you'll get distortion.

Three zones? That makes no sense to me. I have bifocals and top is for regular, and bottom for reading. Is the top of your Rx plain, or is there correction?

Take them back (You don't need another exam) and have them check the prescription. Every now and then they screw up.

They read a +4 as a +6 on my left eye once and I was having excruciating headaches. I'm pretty blind in my left eye, so I never noticed the poor adjustment.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:59 AM on November 29, 2012

Response by poster: As far as I know, they shouldn't be bifocals, just reading glasses, which is why I'm confused about "how" to wear them. The optician told me they work because you look down when reading close, and up when looking at a screen, and that the top would be for distance if I needed any corrections there.

Should have mentioned this in the post - they came with a scratch on one lens, so they have to go back anyway. The question is, do I need another exam or do I tell them to go ahead and get another pair with this prescription?
posted by JoanArkham at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2012

Don't put up with it. Your optician will probably replace those glasses for free with another pair that works better for you, assuming you go back reasonably soon.

The trouble may be that the glasses are too strong and you need a different prescription, or it may be simply the fact that you have progressive lenses. Progressives have a gradual change in strength from the close-up reading section at the bottom to the distance section at the top. Unfortunately it is impossible to do this perfectly; the sides of the in-between part are inevitably outside of what they call the "progressive power corridor" and are distorted, sometimes very badly so. Some brands are more distorted than others, with a narrower section in the middle that you can actually see through. The cheaper ones you can get from mail-order places like Zenni are the worst, but you personally might not like even the more expensive ones with a wider progressive power corridor.

You can ask your optician to try a weaker prescription, or a different brand of progressive lenses with a different algorithm for changing from close-up to distance, or you can go for trifocals, in which each section is perfect for one distance only. Or, since your eyes aren't all that bad yet, get a cheaper pair that is a single prescription, carefully chosen to be the correct strength for viewing your computer (or whatever you're working on). It's going to be trial-and-error to find out which suits you best, but most opticians will charge you only for the glasses you end up with. Don't give up on trying new glasses until you get a pair that does not give you a headache.
posted by Ery at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2012

You may need a new exam, but it's possible that the glasses were made in error and do not have the prescription you were supposed to get. It's happened to me and the optician just remade the lens that was ground wrong, no argument. More likely that they're just not the type of glasses you need.
posted by Ery at 9:10 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with the others that it looks like it might be a mistake either in the prescription or the making of them. But, there is also the possibility that it might just take some getting used to.

For what it is worth, I have a dedicated pair of glasses just for my computer, and another pair for reading. Since I also look at screens all day long, it is so, so nice (really nice) to have a pair just for that purpose. You could pick up glasses at the drugstore for this, or you could have them scripted by your optician so that they can factor in your pupil distance (and astigmatism if you have it), that typically makes your experience much better than something off the shelf.

I could have had progressives years ago, but I don't like having my viewing area cut into pieces so I have glasses for every situation. I keep the cost down by buying my computer/reading glasses online, and my "out-in-the-world" regular frames at a local place.
posted by nanook at 9:24 AM on November 29, 2012

Optometrists make mistakes. It's happened to me. Go back! Explain the issue!
posted by zeek321 at 9:30 AM on November 29, 2012

My ophthalmologist told me "point your nose" instead of moving my eyes to what I wanted to see when she gave me my prescription for progressive lenses.
posted by brujita at 9:31 AM on November 29, 2012

First, terminology.

Bifocals are glasses divided into two distinct zones. Usually the bottom zone is the prescription for reading, since you look down to read. The top zone may be plain glass, or another prescription for distance vision. You can tell them because there's a visibile line between the zones.

Varifocals or progressives are a similar concept, but the different zones blend gradually into one another, so there's no visible line, and the middle section is an intermediate prescription.

It sounds like you've been given varifocals/progressives, but not had this explained to you.

Whenever someone starts wearing glasses, it takes a little time to adjust, but this soon clears up. Varifocals/progressives can take longer to adapt to because they're different throughout. Some people just don't like them at all, some people prefer them.

If you know your prescription, you should be able to get a very cheap pair of "normal" reading glasses that are not varifocals/progressives, nor bifocals. You only wear them for reading, and will need to take them off for other stuff.

It's not clear exactly what the problem is. There are several options:

1. You have varifocals/progressives, they're OK, but you just need more time to get used to them.
2. You have varifocals/progressives, and something is wrong with them.
3. You have varifocals/progressives, they're OK, but you are one of the people who just doesn't get used to them.
4. You have regular reading glasses, and something is wrong with them so they look different in different regions.

Whichever is right, if you're still having problems after a few days you need to go back to your opticians and tell him they're not working.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:47 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, all! I think it's that the "middle" prescription is too strong, but I won't be able to get back to the store until next weekend anyway, so I'll give it a little more time before deciding for sure.
posted by JoanArkham at 10:05 AM on November 29, 2012

My boss has progressive lenses. He said it took a week or two where it was weird, but now everything is perfect. He explained it as the brain adjusting to a new environment, so it might just take some time.
But it sounds like you just need reading glasses.
posted by MtDewd at 10:14 AM on November 29, 2012

If you don't have astigmatism issues, you should experiment with drug-store glasses ($15, or $2 in dollar stores) for reading. I can't use them myself (eyes are quite different and somewhat astigmatic) but I do get cheap +3 glasses for close work.
posted by hexatron at 10:43 AM on November 29, 2012

I could just be that you and progressive lenses don't mix. I tried to get acclimated to progressive lenses for appox 1 year and never did. They completely screwed with my depth perception. I took my life in my hands every time I tried to walk down stairs in them.

I ended up using a contact in my non-dominant eye for reading. It's worked great for me but I've heard other people say their experience with the single lens was similar to mine with progressives.
posted by Carbolic at 1:57 PM on November 29, 2012

I had progressive lenses once. Just once. I had to turn my head to read across a column in a newspaper. Every time I get new glasses, progressives are promoted and have to be declined again.
posted by Cranberry at 2:09 PM on November 29, 2012

You're definitely describing progressive bifocals, whether you asked for "reading glasses" or not. I couldn't stand them either, and ended up just getting two single-vision prescription glasses; one for general use and one for reading/arm's length tasks. That's a pain too, but one I can live with for now.

My ophthalmologist told this was a familiar problem. To use progressives, you need to get used to moving your head back and forth instead of just scanning with your eyes, and some people really don't like that. My wife got a pair a month or so ago, and is fine with it.

Non-adoption with progressives is a common enough problem that many lens manufacturers have a money-back guarantee built in as a sales incentive. You should be able to take them back.
posted by jon1270 at 2:22 PM on November 29, 2012

Response by poster: I took them back, but the price difference was only about $50. They were kind of jerks about it too. Lesson learned, I'm not going back to that optometrist again (and neither is Mr. Arkham, who wears glasses all the time).
posted by JoanArkham at 12:53 PM on January 2, 2013

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