Active guy finds out he needs eyeglasses, needs advice on frames.
June 8, 2015 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I just found out I need to wear eyeglasses full-time and I need help selecting frames, purchasing advice, and moral support. There are difficulty modifiers. Very special snowflake details inside.

So I'm a man in my early 40s and I know I had been in denial for a while, but I guess it hit a critical mass and I went to the eye doctor with vision complaints. Turns out I am nearsighted, farsighted, and astigmatic, so I will need to wear eyeglasses full-time.

Here's my big problem: I have coloboma of the iris, which means my pupil is shaped like an old-timey keyhole with the bottom of the keyhole pointing at roughly 4 o'clock. This gives the false impression that I am cross-eyed. What kind of frames can I pick that will not draw further attention to a condition that I am already horribly sensitive about? I'm thinking rimless, right? I have an oval-shaped face with a shaved head and full beard.

Also, the eye doctor suggested I get safety glases with progressive lenses and strongly suggested I wear them all the time. I have become pretty physically active over the past few years (I'm into road cycling and starting to dabble into kayaking). How many frames am I going to need to accommodate my lifestyle? I'll need prescription sunglasses, but I don't need progressive ones, right? How can I afford all this without breaking the bank?

Finally, any tips and tricks I should know, having not worn eyeglasses regularly since childhood? How does one deal with the realization that your body is starting to betray you and you are sliding into frailty?
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you're worried about losing your glasses, you can get sports straps. I have gone on bike tours and mild kayaking trips and don't have any issues wearing glasses without straps, though YMMV.

If you live in sunny climes, I'd recommend that you get sunglasses with polarized lenses as this really cuts down on the glare. You can get pretty much any frames you like, bring them to an eyeglass shop and they will fill the prescription. That way, you can look cool wearing any shades you want. I rock a pair of Ray Bans in the summertime and virtually no one knows I'm legally blind.

More than rimless frames, you'll probably get more mileage out of asking about "high index" lenses, which are super thin. Though this will cost more, it will help avoid the "Coke bottle" effect with thicker lenses. If you do go rimless, you'll likely want to ask about high index lenses, anyway, since you won't have frame material hiding the edges of thicker lenses. Vanity costs money, but there are options to minimize the hurt (insurance, flex-spend and HSAs can help defer some of the cost).

People recommend getting glasses online through the usual Pakistani outlets to save money, but I have not had much luck with that option. Those glasses never fit my head very well and, honestly, they wore as cheaply made as they cost. They might make a decent spare pair in case of losing the regular pair, though. I haven't tried them, but Warby Parker seems to strike a good balance between style and online pricing, and they offer free returns. I might give them a go next time around. It's a personal choice. YMMV.

As far as the body betrayal stuff, that sounds like anxiety issues that go beyond wearing glasses. If we are lucky enough to get old, our bodies wear down: It's just the way it is. As a coping mechanism, I find fun stuff to do that doesn't require 20/20 vision — for me, skeet shooting went right out at age 12, for instance. Maybe talk to a therapist or psychiatrist about it and see if the issue merits a deeper look.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:23 PM on June 8, 2015

What kind of frames can I pick...

I've worn pretty heavy prescription glasses from the age of 11 onwards full time. The first time I pulled the glasses out of the case to wear them in class so I could see the blackboard drew some ridicule. But I could see.

When picking out frames, do you have the ability to get to a fashion-oriented optician with a sympathetic friend? Someone who gets your concern while looking at what you're wearing with 20/20 vision can give you a good assessment. If this is your first pair of full-time glasses, it's worth the time and effort to walk through what looks good and what you feel confident wearing.

As an almost-40 man, I have to say the frames that are on the market now constitute an amazing array of choices relative to what was available to me as a kid.

Also, with my heavy prescription, the lighter, thin lenses of today mean I'm not relegated to "coke bottle" lens territory.

All that is to say shop around - there's something that will look and feel good for day-to-day wear.

As for cost, nobody's stopping you from, say, going into a good optician, getting sized right for your day-to-day glasses, looking at the type of frame that suits you, then going cheaper via online retailers.

But given that my glasses let me function, I'm willing to pay well for my main pair from an optician who will let me come back in and get them adjusted and fixed for free.

That's the other thing. Even if they're sized right, sometimes you need to go back to get them adjusted a little because after the first few days of wear they get uncomfortable because they pinch here or slide down there.

Finally, any tips and tricks I should know, having not worn eyeglasses regularly since childhood? How does one deal with the realization that your body is starting to betray you and you are sliding into frailty?

I can't dig it up, but one of the best things I've heard about the human eye is that it's an organ that starts degrading from the get go. That said, the decline may be neglible for some
or pronounced over time for others.

Seeing well will change your life. I can't overstate the "holy shit" factor of putting a proper prescription on for the first time. Because vision can change slowly, you adapt to it. But when it's corrected, it opens a whole new sharp, clear world that you forgot existed.

One more thing.

You shouldn't conflate poor eyesight with "frailty." Mr. Conspiracy has lost his eyesight due to a retinal disease. But he can easily squat well over 300 lbs for multiple reps, or pick me up and throw me across the room if he so chooses. I haven't tested the, uh, latter, but based on what he can squat, bench press and deadlift, it's certainly possible.

So my point there is that vision loss is no barrier to an active lifestyle.

You have easily correctable vision. Correct it and enjoy life!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:30 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

There is no substitute for trying on frames. Go to a shop. Try them all on. Even the funny ones. Especially the funny ones, because a) it's hilarious and b) sometimes the funny ones end up actually looking good.
posted by kjs4 at 11:54 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Some places do a deal when you buy both sunglasses and regular glasses at the same time. Ask when you go to pick out frames.

There is no substitute for trying on frames, I am sorry to say. Try on as many different styles as you can - I think you'll be surprised by the selection and variety of styles.

I've had glasses since I was eight - after a while wearing glasses becomes second nature. You'll also enjoy being able to see things clearly! That's always one of the delights of getting (new) glasses.
posted by kariebookish at 12:12 AM on June 9, 2015

Are you able to wear contact lenses at all? Because if so, you could wear them sometimes, so you won't be stuck with glasses all the time. Also, a quick Googling reveals that people can sometimes wear a colored lens to cover coloboma of the iris. Perhaps there are reasons why this wouldn't work for you, but if it did you could improve your vision while also covering your eye so you'll be less self-conscious about it.

If your vision problems can't be totally corrected by contacts, I wonder if you could still wear a colored contact with some or no vision correcting, and then wear your glasses over that. At least that way you wouldn't have to worry about your glasses drawing attention to your eyes, because the colored contacts would make your eyes look unremarkable.

As for dealing with the general decay of the body... Ugh, it's hell, basically. Stay in the best shape you can, groom yourself well, have lots of sex.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:04 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Assuming that your glasses will be a bit on the thicker side (even with todays technology) and that you don't want to end up looking like a meth-cooking chemistry teacher, I would recommend thicker, "stylish" frames in a shape which complements your head. Own your glasses, don't try to hide them :)

I think these or these or these are great examples of how this could look great on you.
posted by Fallbala at 1:08 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like Falibala's suggestions - I agree that rectangular and wayfarer styles that go outward and upward at the outside edges could work, but you do have to just try things on. Things to notice when you're doing that:
- the width of the bridge - a narrower bridge will give the impression that your eyes are closer together (which may be desirable if your eyes are very wide-set); a wider bridge will do the opposite (better if your eyes are set closer together)
- the height of the frame, from top edge of the lens frame to the bottom edge - a "wide" rectangle may seem to "pull" attention down towards the middle third of your face, while a "narrower" rectangle shape will keep focus on the top third

Be as picky as you want to be: try on a load of frames, take pictures of yourself in them, go home, look at the pics, decide over time. I think it'd be better for you not to use online sellers, personal attention and room for tweaks might be a good thing.

Re accepting mortality - ah yeah, I agree with Ursula Hitler, it's just hard. Do the best you can to prevent future injuries (prehab) and arthritis (which I have, and makes me feel sad when I think about it). Focus on what you can do and try to distract yourself from thinking too much about it, otherwise. Accept and work around limitations that show up - denial can be dangerous.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:05 AM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

I had to start wearing glasses full time at 27 and now at 43 I'm facing the decision of whether to get bi-focals this year or if I can manage without for another year, so I know the whole 'I'm getting old and my body is falling apart' feeling as well as having been through getting used to wearing glasses as an adult.

Basically, somewhere around the age of 40 everyone has to start wearing glasses, at least for reading, but I think those of us who wear glasses all the time have a huge advantage: we don't have to keep taking them on and off. I never lose or mis-place my glasses, because they are either on my face, or on the bedside table.. They very rarely get damaged in any way, because humans are naturally protective of our faces, so its one of the things we injure least. I would definitely recommend a glasses strap for active sports though & paying a little extra for high index lenses with anti-reflective & anti-scratch coatings. I'm guessing that you are in the US, so don't know what exact buying options there are, but in the UK I use a UK based mail order service & get glasses that I'm very happy with, for about half what they would cost in an actual shop. They will even post me several frames for me to try on, for free, before I place my order.

I have a fairly long, oval face & think I look much better with glasses than without, as they add some definition to my face, so I have no interest in going through the hassle of wearing contact lenses.

Wearing them will be weird at first, but within a few weeks you will become totally unaware of them. I actually tend to touch the bridge of nose to check if I've put them on yet in the morning.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 3:25 AM on June 9, 2015

My rimless glasses never last as long as my full frame ones do. For an active lifestyle, you'll want rims. Cotton Dress Sock has some good suggestions for shapes that will work with your needs.
posted by carrioncomfort at 5:57 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I used SportRX to get a prescription pair of sports sunglasses. I spend a fair amount of time cycling and a proper polarized wraparound lens is pretty essential. You'll need your eye width measurement in addition to your prescription, but the ordering process is pretty straightforward and delivery was about 12 days.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:54 AM on June 9, 2015

I wouldn't worry about gettting especially durable glasses. I do lots of sporty activities including kayaking in glasses (only exceptions have been taking them off in a jiu jitsu class and while sparring with my boxing trainer - but I honestly didn't always take them off for that either!) Just avoid the kind that's held together with mono-filament.
posted by latkes at 7:19 AM on June 9, 2015

Hi, I'm a nearsighted, astigmatic, cross-eyed road cyclist with a tiny tiny bit of kayaking experience, and I can't do anything except cough and browse AskMe. Isn't the internet marvelous?

How many frames am I going to need to accommodate my lifestyle?

I would get a pair for everyday wear and a pair for cycling and kayaking.

For the latter, you can get a single frame with interchangeable non-prescription lenses and an insert that holds your prescription lenses. I have these from Tifosi although I make no claim they're better than any other.

I wouldn't bother with the sports strap unless you expect to roll your kayak. Retaining prescription sunglasses is no harder than retaining your regular cycling glasses.

I'll need prescription sunglasses, but I don't need progressive ones, right

If you ride with a bike computer or GPS on your handlebars, you might need progressive lenses to read its display. You can probably test that with your street lenses before you spring for progressive lenses in your sunglasses.

Finally, any tips and tricks I should know, having not worn eyeglasses regularly since childhood?

The only safe places for your glasses are in a case or on your nose. Do not perch them on your forehead, fold them in your shirt pocket, hang down the front of your collar, clench them between your teeth, or drape them around the back of your neck, because they will fall. Do not hang them down the back of your collar, fold them in your pants pocket, or thrust one ear piece into your belt, because they will be squashed. Not the first time, nor possible even the hundredth time, but they will!
posted by d. z. wang at 7:22 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm going to answer this one in a separate comment in case it turns out to be something I wouldn't post if I were thinking more clearly. But I'm pretty foggy right now, so it sounds just fine to me:

How does one deal with the realization that your body is starting to betray you and you are sliding into frailty?

Dude, you're forty. How are you only figuring this out now? Did you not know your grandparents, any of your friends' grandparents, or the little old men who sun themselves outside the VFW hall in their dress uniforms and their medals like sparkly badass sometimes incomplete raisins? I mean, at your age, did you not know your parents?

You're going to die. Possibly alone, probably incontinent. Depending on your beliefs, you may continue to suffer afterward. Regardless of how good (or exceptionally, memorably bad) a parent you were, it's highly likely that all memory of you will be lost within the century.

On the bright side, my grandfather outlived his wife, met another woman in his seventies, and continued to go dancing with her three or four times a week well into his eighties, so you might not be even halfway done yet.

And think of all you've done in the last forty years, despite spending the first fifteen or so basically not running on production hardware.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:31 AM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Considering you will want progressives and people who actually help you with the snowflakery then Costco. I am familiar with the online options but really having a live person do your measurements, adjustments and other assorted details is GOLD with progressives. I have no hesitation with online sources if you are doing single vision but progressives or bifocals are trickier and I simply do not wish to do my troubleshooting by mail/postage.

I just got the full kit for progressive lenses, frames, all the coatings and the thinnest lenses for $250. You do not want to know what my optometry office was going to charge me. Also, you can ask the optometrist to give you a computer prescription for lenses at no extra charge. If you work on computers, monitors and electronic screens then you should get glasses dedicated to that particular area so much less eye strain and other related issues.

The only drawback with Costco is that their frame selection is conservative and limited but hey, you can bring frames you like and just have them do the lenses which saves you money.
posted by jadepearl at 7:40 AM on June 9, 2015

I will chime in with my experience - I am nearsighted and I just don't wear glasses while cycling or doing water sports at all unless it is nighttime. It has not been a problem to date.

I monkeyed around with styles (and contacts) and found the clarity of sight benefit to be outweighed by the hassle of doing it - particularly due to sweat and steam. I don't know how nearsighted you are (for me, it's slight with an astigmatism), but if it's about cloudiness rather than actually missing objects, then you may at least in the short-term be able to get by if cost is an issue.

I did get a pair for driving and work that are from Zenni online, and at $30 a pair, they're pretty great and if I am cycling somewhere that I don't know and need to read street signs, I don't mind throwing them on and dealing with them if they break.
posted by buoys in the hood at 8:01 AM on June 9, 2015

I wear glasses full-time and do some road cycling (I am only nearsighted, with mild astigmatism). For everyday wear, I usually wear rimless frames with slightly thinned lenses, and they are not obvious to the point where a co-worker I see every day didn't realise I wore glasses until I came in one day wearing a different pair. So I would recommend rimless frames, but I also bought a more robust and cheaper second pair with big chunky frames that I wear if I think there's any danger of my glasses being knocked off.

For cycling, I would second the recommendation to get good wraparound sunglasses - I have prescription sunglasses in standard frames and it's nowhere near as good as having full wraparound coverage when you're riding in the summer. I wear contacts for cycling with non-prescription sunglasses on top which is another option, and I have daily disposable lenses just for this.
posted by penguinliz at 8:09 AM on June 9, 2015

For boating (mostly sailing and some kayaking), I use croakies.

For glasses that you will only use now and then, consider CostCo's optical dept. I got my prescription, poloroid, sunglasses from there, and they are fine, though the Kirkland frames are not as nice as my regular glasses.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:21 AM on June 9, 2015

Go try on some pairs, because (as others have said) there's really no good way of doing this that isn't in person. Maybe try a few pairs that have a heavy top bar and no frame at the bottom of the lens (this general style) so your eye isn't fully framed. A partial frame gives people a good point to focus on. I have a big clunky scar running up one eyelid and over the eyebrow, so I'm familiar with trying to mask it with big clunky frames--it does not work, trust me, just worry about finding frames that fit you well and that you like.

My other suggestion: have two pairs of glasses, one of which should be a pair of prescription sunglasses. If you can afford it, or if your eye doctor has a special running, grab a cheap back-up pair of regular prescription glasses. If you're like me and your insurance will replace your lenses/frames every one to two years, you'll eventually have a couple spare pairs lying around.

Last suggestion: avoid giving in to special lens coatings. These will peel, bubble, crackle, split, tear, and otherwise wear out long before your actual lenses do. They surely have niche markets for whom they work great, but in my 20+ years of wearing glasses they've seemed exclusively to serve as marketing gimmicks that make your lenses useless long before that should otherwise happen.

Welcome to glasses!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:25 AM on June 9, 2015

My experience contradicts late afternoon dreaming hotel's re: lens coatings--I have a bad enough prescription that I ALWAYS get high-index lenses with anti-reflective coating, and for the past ~6 years I've also gotten Transitions lenses which turn my regular glasses into sunglasses when under direct UV light. I usually only have 1 pair of glasses that I wear full-time, from when I get up to when I go to bed, and many of them were purchased cheaply from places like Sears Optical. I've never experienced any issues with my lens coatings--which is to say, I completely forget that they exist until I go to buy new glasses again, or until I pop in contacts for a special activity. I find myself squinting at both sunlight and evening streetlights in my contacts, because I don't have the benefit of lens coatings to help my eyes out.
posted by serelliya at 9:02 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you've never worn glasses till now, I don't see why you can't kayak without glasses. It's not like you need to see very close or far while kayaking.

Why would the doctor suggest you should always wear your glasses? Not wearing them for some activities should be fine.
posted by Coffeetyme at 9:11 AM on June 9, 2015

I have a pair of Swissflex glasses that I love. THey are spendy and you need to call around for a store that carries them, but they are amazingly lightweight and super durable. Most comfortable glasses I've ever had in 23 years of glasses.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:43 PM on June 9, 2015

Progressives aren't always that easy to get used to. Maybe it would be easier if you've never worn glasses before, but it might well be harder. I'd suggest getting one pair and seeing how you like them before even thinking about anything like sunglasses or a second pair. For the short-term, you can get something like fitovers that you wear over your other glasses. Which not only means you don't need 2 pairs, it also protects the glasses from things hitting them on a bike, and keeps them from falling off when you fall out of a kayak. (You can get less expensive ones at Walgreens.)

I would definitely recommend not getting your first pair online. There are a lot of picky little adjustments with progressives and a good optician will make the whole process a lot easier and better.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:44 PM on June 9, 2015

All of the advice above is good, so I don't know that I'm adding anything new, just N'thing what has already been said. I'm an active 48 year old dude who has been wearing glasses for 40+ years. You mentioned cycling and kayaking, I've got many, many hundreds of river days and many, many thousands of road miles and trail miles while wearing glasses. If you are going to be wearing eyeglasses full time, you are going to want three pairs: a nice looking pair for everyday wear, a pair for cycling/kayaking and other physical stuff where you will get sweaty, and a pair of sunglasses. The concept here for the two pairs of glasses is that you might want to spend more money and/or get a more "delicate" pair of glasses for everyday wear. You also won't have to worry about the ear pieces getting bleached out from sweat. For my "fitness" pair of glasses, I'm currently using titanium frames that are very flexible. The earpieces bend down at a steep angle around the ears. I use croakies, mentioned above, for anything around water. With croakies on, you can paddle heavy whitewater no problem. Don't skimp on cases for your glasses; you'll either be (for example) taking your sunglasses off or maybe switching sunglasses for eye glasses. When you buy a nice pair of frames, they usually come with a case, but it won't necessarily be crush proof or water resistant. REI has some aftermarket cases and I've also got a Pelican box that is eyeglass sized.
posted by kovacs at 8:07 PM on June 9, 2015

You might want to consider a cheap internet pair of glasses to throw in your glove compartment in case of glasses-loss emergencies. I always keep my previous pair around when I get new ones, so that I don't get stranded.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:29 PM on June 9, 2015

I think prescription sunglasses are only helpful if the size of the lenses are pretty big. Fit over sunglasses are a thing (example). I can usually find them at CVS/ Walgreens.
posted by oceano at 1:14 PM on June 10, 2015

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