Do I need glasses?
September 22, 2006 5:58 PM   Subscribe

Am I farsighted, or Should I Visit the Optometrist?

I read a lot (old-fashioned paper codex, plus computer) and for about three years I've felt a strain when I read for more than twenty minutes or so, which becomes a crippling headache if I don't take frequent breaks. I've found through trial and error that if I close either eye the feeling of strain diminishes significantly. I've considered visiting an optometrist, but I don't have any kind of health insurance and I'm hesitant to spend money I don't have for someone to tell me my vision is fine.

I don't know much about farsightedness, but I hadn't given much thought to the possibility since my vision seems equally crisp and clear no matter how close or far away the viewed object is.

I haven't seen the eye doctor in about 7 years (I'm 23), but back then my vision was 20/20. Would mefites recommend I open my wallet and make an appointment, or is it more likely that my headaches are just the effect of normal reading-strain?
posted by scarylarry to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Sounds like you need glasses, my friend. Normal reading-strain doesn't cause crippling headaches, or start in 20 minutes.

Lots of places that sell eyewear will test you and get you a prescription for free or for a reduced cost. May be sufficient if all you need is some reading glasses.

Or just buy some over the counter and see if they work first.
posted by qwip at 6:07 PM on September 22, 2006

But--and here I admit near-total ignorance--would reading glasses still help if there is no blurriness whatsoever? Probably a stupid question, but this is from a lifetime naked-eye guy.
posted by scarylarry at 6:13 PM on September 22, 2006

Make an eye appointment.
Also be sure you have sufficient light to read by.
posted by sailormouth at 6:23 PM on September 22, 2006

As someone who's had glasses since third grade, it's very possible to not notice a slight blurriness. You really don't see what you've been missing until you get glasses with a proper prescription.
posted by utsutsu at 6:28 PM on September 22, 2006

You may be able to see well, but the headaches seem to indicate that you have some eye-strain going on. This could be due to near/farsightedness or could be due to things like poor lighting.
posted by chrisamiller at 6:41 PM on September 22, 2006

would reading glasses still help if there is no blurriness whatsoever?

Blurriness compared to what?

"Not blurry" means the most clarity that your eyes are capable of producing.

Your point of reference for what is and isn't blurry might be different once you've visited the optometrist.
posted by winston at 7:03 PM on September 22, 2006

Neither farsightedness or nearsightedness should cause crippling headaches. The fact that closing one eye diminishes the problem, suggests to me that the problem may be difficulty in the two eyes focusing together, causing strain in the muscles that control that.
posted by Chessbum at 7:53 PM on September 22, 2006

Go to the eye doctor; it won't be that much money and it might make a huge difference. As qwip said, go to a glasses place that has an optometrist who does exams. After the exam, doc will tell you if glasses will help and what kind; if it's a more serious problem doc will refer you to an ophthalmologist. Or it could be less serious (lighting) or a different issue (neck strain from sitting in really bad position while reading; pre-migraine); you won't know without going to the eye doctor.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:39 PM on September 22, 2006

Before you go blaming your eyes for this, make sure your workstation's ergonomics are OK. I suffer terrible headaches if I work for any length of time at a computer screen that I have to dip or twist my head to look at.
posted by flabdablet at 10:28 PM on September 22, 2006

Oh, and the first thing the optometrist did when I finally ended up going to one is give me a page with some six-point type on it, and ask me to move it as close to my face as I could before it struck me as blurry. I was quite shocked to find that I couldn't see it properly at closer than about 30cm.

But I'm 44, so I guess that's about par for the course.

I haven't gone the reading glasses route yet, but I may well do in not too many years. The difference that an 0.5 diopter corrective lens made to that 6-point type at 30cm was nothing short of astounding.
posted by flabdablet at 10:34 PM on September 22, 2006

My optometrist always told me "if your vision ever bothers you, come see me." And it's not like I have any particular risk-factors or whatnot, just a little garden variety myopia.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 12:19 AM on September 23, 2006

Ergonomics do make a big difference in comfortable reading. One common problem is to place reading material on a flat surface like a table in front of you, causing the top of the page to focus at a far different distance than the bottom of the page. Angling the material with use of a book stand can vastly improve reading comfort.
posted by paulsc at 1:45 AM on September 23, 2006

Personally, I recommend that everyone see an ophthalmologist for a quick health checkup at minimum every two years, and more frequently (say, every year) if they can afford it. It's as important as having regular trips to the dentist.

I don't know if an appointment is any more expensive than an optometrist where you are, but it's worth it because an opth will dialate your pupils and look inside to make sure everything is healthy, instead of just taking your spectacle measurements (which they also do).

You're young now, but later in life (say, late 30s or 40s) everyone's eyes accumulate a greater tendency for astigmatism, hyperopia or presbyopia. It's a normal part of the aging process for the human eye.

You didn't mention whether your parents need glasses or not; if they do then just get yourself checked regularly so that you aren't left wondering why you keep getting headaches. These things can be fixed; you don't have to put up with that.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:28 AM on September 23, 2006

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