please help the bespectacled leprechaun!
June 10, 2008 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Is it normal for eyeglasses to make one feel much, much shorter?

I just got my first pair of eyeglasses at 34 years old. About a year ago I tried on a pair of my friend's glasses and had a "wow" moment -- everything looked much clearer, and more visually arresting. In the meantime I'd noticed some deterioration in my distance vision, so I decided to have an eye exam. So, yadda yadda yadda, now I have glasses. Fairly weak prescription (-.25, -.50 if I remember correctly.) They do in fact help me read things at long distances, and things mostly look sharper (at ~8+ feet), but I am definitely not having that "wow" feeling. Most importantly, though, they make me feel like I am about a foot shorter. Or more precisely, like the ground is about a foot closer to my eyes. It's like I'm wading in sidewalk up to my shins. Very, very disconcerting.

Is this normal? I just tried on my friend's glasses again and his don't have that effect. Very similar lens/frame shape. A few people have tried mine and reported the same sensation.

Do I just suck it up and try to "adjust?" Or does the lack of "wow" and this weird dwarfing effect (that has tripped me up a few times already) add up to some sort of shenanigans that I should get straightened out?
posted by TonyRobots to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
Yes, it's normal. It's because the ground is so much sharper and clearer, that it appears to be nearer. Your eyes will adjust in a week or so.
posted by Koko at 1:03 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Opticians can make mistakes. Take your glasses back where they were made and have things checked out.
posted by Carol Anne at 1:04 PM on June 10, 2008

Yes, this is normal with new glasses. I've experienced something like this with every new pair. I find the effect disappears quickly as my brain adjusts to its new world view.
posted by SPrintF at 1:05 PM on June 10, 2008

I just re-read your question, and I'd revise -- if it doesn't correct itself in a couple days, go see your optometrist. But I do remember having that sensation with my first pair, and it did eventually go away.
posted by Koko at 1:05 PM on June 10, 2008

Best answer: I had this effect for the first time with my second prescription. My 2nd prescription was the first with astigmatism correction. I'm not if they're related but there you go.
posted by mkb at 1:21 PM on June 10, 2008

It takes a week or so. I've worn glasses for 20 years, but whenever I have a major Rx change, I go through the same thing.
posted by acoutu at 1:34 PM on June 10, 2008

Depending on the details of your prescription, it is likely to either magnify or compress things by some amount. Mine compress so I guess that makes me feel taller--like a giant, woo-hoo.

As others have mentioned, this is disconcerting for a day or two but you quickly adjust.

Can't find the reference, but I remember reading about an experiment where they fitted people out with prism glasses that actually turned their visual field upside down. After a period of adjustment the people were able to function as normal, even doing things like riding motorbikes. The human brain is amazingly adaptable.

BTW one useful trick takes advantage of the fact that your glasses + your eyes are now a two-lens system like a telescope. Slide your glasses up & down your nose to adjust both their magnification and the focus, just like focusing a telescope or binoculars. With the right prescription (fairly strong nearsighted) you can take your focus down from infinity to about 6 inches just by sliding your glasses. This is a very useful trick for when you hit your mid-40s and your eyes start to lose their ability to focus. Instead of putting on your reading glasses, just slide your regular glasses down your nose a bit.
posted by flug at 1:51 PM on June 10, 2008

Also I suspect if your Rx is like mine, the glass is thicker at the edges, leading to more distortion when peering directly through that part of the lens.
posted by toastchee at 2:13 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yep, happened to me too!
posted by IndigoRain at 2:35 PM on June 10, 2008

This happens to me as well. It goes away.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 2:42 PM on June 10, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks all...But why would it not happen with the two other pairs of glasses I tried on? (Both of which seem pretty close to my prescription, and lens shape.)
posted by TonyRobots at 2:56 PM on June 10, 2008

Best answer: Do you have astigmatism? Because that is related. I wore glasses for myopia for about 12 years before I then had to add astigmatism correction. My optometrist told me that people often have trouble adjusting to the new glasses and it can feel like the ground is in weird places or things are moving oddly, and that most people adjust pretty quickly but some never do. Same goes for contact lenses, some people find it hard to go from glasses to contacts and back because your eyes work together differently with each and while most people adjust not everyone does. If you have astigmatism and your friend doesn't that would explain what's going on, same goes for any small difference in where the lenses sit on your nose or how close together the lenses are or the refractive index of the lens or all kinds of small changes between the two.

After being given glasses for the first time you should be getting a check up pretty soon after anyway, generally after a week (two at the max). This is to give you time to get used to them then sort out any problems. Glasses don't always work perfectly the first time and it could be that the issue you're having is something to do with the shape or prescription of what you've been given and the glasses need to be tweaked to make it go away. So give it a few days to see if you get used to it and make a follow up appointment with the optometrist if you don't already have one. Do this second part even if they feel better, it's standard practise where I live and they can improve all kinds of things that you might not notice.
posted by shelleycat at 3:26 PM on June 10, 2008

Yeah, I agree with shelleycat -- changes in correction for astigmatism can have weird effects (much more so than other changes), since you may have already been automatically doing some correction for it and your eye now has to re-adjust. Your prescription was probably otherwise similar to your friend's.
posted by advil at 5:05 PM on June 10, 2008

I'm surprised you notice it as such a small correction. But it definitely happens. When you put a concave lens in front of your eyes, you in effect give yourself a sort of fish eye lens effect. Things directly in line look ok, but peripheral vision can change significantly. (If you look straight ahead and then draw an imaginary line from your eyeball, through the lens, toward the floor, you'll see that your line of sight goes through a significant amount of glass. And because of the shape of the glass and the refraction level of the specific glass in your lenses, you get a prismatic effect.)

When I remove my contacts and put my glasses on, I notice that I immediately adjust for this effect by moving my head a lot more when I'm looking at things. Like someone else mentioned, you can move your glasses around on your face and change what you see. Well, this happens every time you move your eyeball too.

It's not that it goes away, it's that you eventually get used to it. Assuming you got the right prescription/diagnosis from the doc. Assuming that's right, there are a number of solutions:

- maybe the prescription is right, but not what you'd prefer? Discuss with the doc. Some people prefer different levels of correction. I personally prefer a very strong correction in my glasses, because I can take them off if I need to. And it drives me nuts to not see clearly as far away as possible. But others might prefer a weaker correction.

- Maybe there is a lens material (specifically the refractory index of the material) that you prefer? Different materials have different rates of refraction, which may or may not be to your liking.

- are the glasses you liked a different shape?

- try soft contact lenses. Makes a HUGE difference, at least for me. There is way less lens material to distort your vision, and the lens moves with your eye. Eliminating all those changes in refraction every time you move your eyes.

Check this out- even if you just look at the pictures, it will illuminate (sorry) what I'm talking about. And this.
posted by gjc at 5:49 PM on June 10, 2008

Response by poster: Hmmm. Again, thanks for all the thoughtful replies. Here is my Rx in full:

O.D.: Spherical -0.50 Cylindrical: -0.25 Axis: 163
O.S.: Spherical -0.50 Cylindrical: -0.50 Axis: 035

Does that mean I have astigmatism? If so, is it a bad sign that the optometrist didn't mention it?
posted by TonyRobots at 6:20 PM on June 10, 2008

I wear glasses 98% of the time. When I wear contacts, I feel like the ground is further away. My prescriptions are fine (stronger than yours, though). It only last 10 - 15 minutes. I do find it a little distracting, though.
posted by jdfan at 10:51 AM on June 11, 2008

It's normal. Has happened to me every time I have a new pair of glasses (for a day or two), as well as when I switch from glasses to contacts or vice versa (for about 15 minutes).

I've got severe myopia, moderate convergence, and mild astigmatism. My lenses only correct for myopia at present.
posted by ysabet at 9:45 PM on June 17, 2008

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