Tell me about Reading Glasses & Computer Glasses
September 7, 2019 1:11 PM   Subscribe

I've had great nearsighted vision since I was a teenager. Lately, sadly, my nearsighted vision is going wonky and I think I need reading glasses. I also feel like I need computer glasses but the last time I went to the optometrist, she convinced me that I didn't. So there I am, daily, leaning forward over my keyboard to read things. Tell me how to try on, find, buy and use reading glasses and/or computer glasses.

Do I need to go back to the optometrist before I head to the drugstore? How do you start with drugstore glasses? I tried on one pair, couldn't see much and then got confused. I see people just trying on one after the other but I don't seem to know how to do it. Do you bring a magazine to look at while you try them on?

And would reading glasses be right for computer work? I spontaneously bought some glasses last year that are supposed to block blue light while at the computer to reduce eye strain but I have a hard time figuring out of they help. I see that there are some that say "boost reading enhancement" but I don't know what that means.

Introduce me to the world of reading glasses, please!
posted by amanda to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I have reading glasses and computer glasses and otherwise don't wear glasses. I tested out what strength I might need in the drug store, and yeah just got a magazine and pulled up a chair in the pharmacy section and tested how it worked. Basically they're all just magnifiers at different strengths with a higher number being more magnification. If you know what strength you need, you can also go online and get decent frames at Zenni Optical if you want something a little more fashion-forward than the drugstore. (you'll need your pupillary distance which you can measure using a lot of online tools. I find that I use about 1.75x for reading but I only need something less for the computer (.5x maybe, barely glasses) because they are slightly different distances away.
posted by jessamyn at 1:24 PM on September 7, 2019

I did the computer glasses thing many years ago. In short, it was a complete PITA to have to switch from my regular glasses to computer glasses to regular glasses to computer glasses etc. The prescriptions were different enough that there was a very perceptual difference between the two. YMMV, of course.

You probably need to consider bifocals. Or even, like me, trifocals.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:25 PM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Normally you’d hold a book or newspaper at a distance from your eyes that is different from the distance between you and a computer screen so you may have two different needs. This is why they invented bifocals and varifocals. How long ago did you see the optician who dismissed your concerns? Did you just talk about computer use or also reading?

It may be worth seeking out a different optician, especially if your last visit was more than a year ago. Discuss all your concerns. Even if you want to go with drugstore glasses it would help you to understand your prescription. You may need two pairs. Wearing glasses that are the wrong strength is just as tiring for your eyes as no glasses.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:26 PM on September 7, 2019

I think the "blocks blue light" thing and "boost reading enhancement" are both just marketing gas. I would ignore both and look for cheap readers. "Readers" are single-vision non-prescription glasses available in a small variety of powers, usually half-steps starting with 1.0. Higher numbers will move the distance at which your vision is clear nearer to your eye. They do not have any correction for astigmatism (which you probably don't need if you never needed glasses).

Since they are so cheap, it may be reasonable to buy three pair--maybe 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0, and take them to work and try them out. You will find it easy to tell which one works.

If you want to be more scientific (and cheaper) about it, measure how far your screen is from your eyes if you're not leaning forward, and try on successive pairs at the store in front of something that far away from your eyes with writing on it. Something like the display of reading glasses. If it is easy to read at that distance, buy that pair and take them to work. Basically, flip between pairs noting the difference until you find the power you like the best.

I am never going to say "don't go to an eye doctor" because it's always a good idea to have someone look at your eyes, but you certainly don't have to in order to try reading glasses. If you can't find a pair that work for you, you may require something more than a simple correction and you need to see someone. But likely you're just getting older and losing the ability to focus close-up. This happens to pretty much everyone as they age. Good luck.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 1:37 PM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

If by "great nearsighted vision" you mean you're very nearsighted, drugstore reading glasses won't work for you. They're plus lenses (for example, +1.0, +1.5); you need just weaker minus than you have for distance. My distance RXs start with -7.0, my reading RXs are about -5.5. My computer RXs are between them: -6.5.

Drugstore reading glasses are not going to help you at all. I'd agree with the above recommendation for a better optometrist.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:39 PM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I’m testing readers in a drug store I use the IMDb app on my phone. If I can read the tiny medium-gray names of the actors’ roles under the actors’ tiny headshots, I can read anything.
posted by ejs at 1:57 PM on September 7, 2019

They sell minus lenses at the drug store too.
For me, 1.5x (plus) works for most things. At night I use a pair of 2x to read in bed before sleep. I buy mine at dollar stores, online, whatever; since they run €3-€10 a pair I have a bunch of them everywhere (in the car, at the office, in the beach bag, in my briefcase, on the bedside table... &c)
posted by chavenet at 1:58 PM on September 7, 2019

Weird, my optometrist encouraged me to get computer glasses, and a separate pair for long distance (such as for driving). I use my computer glasses for everything! I can chop onions, I can read the computer (17-18" away, sometimes a bit closer, but not much beyond 22" without some discomfort), walking around the house, etc.

I only use the long distance glasses for watching TV or driving.

I got the prescriptions at an optometrist, then took them to Lenscrafters, who made both pair in about 2 hours or less. One pair is dark pinkish, the other is coppery bronze, so I can tell them apart (same frames). I've had them for 3+ years, and should probably go back, but they seem to be holding up and working fine.

My husband got his at a different place, and got his frames and lenses there also. They called them "Office glasses" and then he has the 2nd pair for TV & driving. He keeps them folded up and on his shirt when at home, so he can switch from his laptop to the TV if needed. He carries the computer glasses in a hard case to work with him, and has only forgotten them once. Before that, he had a series of progressive lenses that went "bad" within 3 months. These have lasted him a while, and no complaints.

I can read a book or magazine in bed (5-6", maybe?) without glasses, which is fine by me. I do tend to look over my computer glasses when looking at my phone sometimes.

I have tried reading glasses, but since my close vision is A-okay, they are useless for me. I really need the mid-range/office/computer glasses to function properly. I love them!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:32 PM on September 7, 2019

Did your optometrist test you with lenses for computer distances, or just talk at you? If the lenses make it easier to see, get them!

I have computer glasses and I use them all over— they're also perfect for cooking, cleaning, walking, etc. I take them off for reading paper. And I keep the distance glasses by the door, for driving.
posted by zompist at 2:52 PM on September 7, 2019

As I've gotten older my eyesight has deteriorated enough at all distances that I started needing bifocals, then trifocals. When I was getting my first pair of trifocals, since my job requires staring at a computer screen all day I asked for a second pair that was all just the "middle" strength (otherwise I would have been bobbing my head up and down all day to keep different parts of the screen within focus through the narrow middle band). I quickly found that that second pair is perfect for both computer work and reading since the range of depth that's still in focus covers both typical distances.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:34 PM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

The eye doc said my drugstore readers are fine and an appropriate strength, and to carry on buying them that way. I buy cheap ones online in bulk because they get lost.
posted by theora55 at 5:00 PM on September 7, 2019

What Greg_Ace is decribing is what my Optometrist also prescribed for me as an addition pair - they were called "office strength" and both optometry shops I went to (including Costso0 recognized that table. They are great for Computer/reading but blurry otherwise, although I have driven with them on and can function as I am used to reduced vision anyway.
posted by saucysault at 5:05 PM on September 7, 2019

Yeah, I went to the eye doctor last week and covered this:
(a) Bifocals/"progressives" will do long distance on top, close distance at the bottom, but they don't handle reading/middle/computer text very well.
(b) Hence why they recommend "computer glasses" only to cover that middle distance. However, "if you have to get up and walk around a lot, then they're not good for that." They are ONLY good for computer reading.

In my case, I decided that literally taking off my glasses while on the computer/reading is a cheaper solution than to have multiple glasses for this crap.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:21 PM on September 7, 2019

I am nearsighted. I can get by without reading glasses but when I needed something for working on my computer* I couldn't find minus lenses at the drugstore. I did find cheap ones when I was traveling overseas and gauged the strength by holding a newspaper the same distance away as working on a laptop. I actually had a measuring tape with me to judge the distance more accurately. Eventually I ordered a sturdier pair with better quality lenses online from Firmoo to keep at my desk.

*And as I discovered, for watching movies on airplanes when the screen is embedded in the seatback in front of me.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:37 PM on September 7, 2019

Once you get the plus/minus sorted out... I switched to some half-height Benjamin Franklin type readers riding low on the nose. Makes it easy to just look over the top. It cuts down on the taking on/off all the time. Either way you could also wear them high and look below them.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:32 PM on September 7, 2019

fwiw drugstore glasses don't help me. I have progressives and also got a pair of "near range" glasses from Zenni. This page has a good explanation of their difference between "near" and "mid" range. I'm guessing "near" range is what people call generally "reading glasses" or readers. I use them on the computer all the time, with both desktop and (sometimes) laptop computers, and I love them. I thought I would find changing back and forth between those and my regular glasses all the time to be annoying but it turns out it rather amuses me. The description says they are good out to 3 feet but I find it is a bit longer - I am fine wearing them to talk to someone in my cubicle and if I accidentally walk to the break room with them on it's not too bad, though I prefer to wear my regular glasses. I would not wear them to presentation or meeting, or to drive.

It sounds like you don't currently have any glasses so this may not really be relevant to you, but I thought the explanation of the range might be helpful.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 11:21 PM on September 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

I tried bifocals and progressives and just found it way more easy to get a computer, reading and distance pairs of lenses. I use distance glasses for performances or driving but the other two are fan-damn-tastic in any other situation. Be super honest to your optometrist or whoever is doing the examination about the distance of your computer and also reading.

My prescription is insane and no drugstore lenses would work. Just be sure that you can easily differentiate which pair is which.
posted by jadepearl at 1:45 AM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am very short sighted and have astigmatism. Drugstore glasses are pointless for me. I have progressive trifocals, and they work really well. You need a new eye doctor, the one you have is not listening to you. The wrong glasses will give you eye strain and headaches, so get a proper exam. Ask friends who wear glasses to recommend an optometrist.
posted by Enid Lareg at 7:27 AM on September 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you are currently wearing glasses corrected for nearsightedness, you can buy these clip-on magnifiers that flip up. (In this case, you want the + magnification to wear with your corrective lenses.) I've had a couple pair. Although lightweight, they do tend to cause my eyeglasses to slide down my nose; also they get smudged from flipping up and down. The ones I have sit lower on the eyeglass frame so I can look through the center of my glasses to see distance and then look down to see the laptop screen through the magnifiers.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:41 AM on September 8, 2019

Computer vision glasses aren't really necessary if you don't also need bifocals or progressive lenses. If you look at your prescription the reading/progressive part will be noted as "add" (mine, for instance, has an add value of 1.5). If you don't already have an add value on your regular prescription, it would be strange for you to require one just for computer use.

Where computer vision glasses come most in handy for me is that my progressive lenses have sort a small reading zone in the lower part of the lens, but my computer screen is large. Rather than having to tilt my head to see the top of the screen, I can swap out my glasses and see everything properly, all at once. Most of the time I wear my progressives. When I know I'm going to be sitting at a desk I'll switch.
posted by fedward at 12:57 PM on September 8, 2019

I realized I was wrong; I said above that I thought the "near range" glasses = "readers." But (drugstore) readers are only one magnification across the whole lens while the Zenni near range glasses have a combination of near (reading) and mid-range.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 5:45 AM on September 9, 2019

My eyesight had deteriorated to the point that my glasses don't work for my right eye, so i went to the optometrist, then an ophthalmologist, and discovered that i have cataracts in both eyes. i'm only 65, so I was surprised to discover that several people I went to school with have already had the surgery. I'm scheduled to go under the knife in November. You might want to check that out.
posted by caryatid at 10:43 AM on September 11, 2019

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