Why are my new glasses disorienting me?
August 8, 2008 6:48 AM   Subscribe

GlassesFilter: Is this disorientation from my new glasses going to go away?

YANAOptometrist, YANMOptometrist.

I last had an eye appointment during the summer of 2006. The glasses I had made after that appointment were eaten (not literally) by my girlfriend's dog two months ago. After wearing glasses daily, I stopped wearing them for two months straight. Last week I took another eye test, found out that my eyes got worse, and just yesterday I got my new glasses.

Everything seems a little strange now and I can't put my finger on it. My brain trained itself to determine distances by relative blurriness and now I feel a lot shorter when I walk with my glasses on because the ground is clearer that it should be at the distance from it I am when I walk (although these new glasses have thick rims, and I can't see my feet kick up in my peripheral lower vision when I walk, so I think that might be doing it.) My depth perception is totally off as everything is in deep focus: stepping off curbs has been a particularly annoying.

Now, I measured things, and the relative size of them with my glasses on and my glasses off is the same; it's only my perception that is doing this. I've also been getting mild headaches.

Is my prescription too strong? Am I just adjusting from noglasses->strongerthaneverglasses? Will this go away?
posted by griphus to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is there cylindrical component to your prescription? If so, your glasses may be compressing your vision along a particular axis (a bit like looking through a glass of water). I noticed when I first wore glasses that the ground seemed closer than it used to. I found I occasionally caught my feet on kerbs or stepped down too far; it wore off after a few days.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:56 AM on August 8, 2008

The depth perception thing is common, and you will likely adjust in a few days.

But I would still recommend that you have your prescription double checked, just in case. I was prescribed a pair of glasses a couple years ago that made me terribly disoriented, the optometrist told me I'd adjust but another optometrist checked the glasses and found out that they'd read the prescription wrong and made one of the lenses incorrectly. Once fixed, the glasses didn't bother me at all.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 6:57 AM on August 8, 2008

It should go away. The same thing happens to me when I switch between glasses and contact lenses. Not too long ago, I fell down a (short) flight of stairs because my depth perception was off after switching to glasses.

I still remember the first time I put on glasses when I was 7 years old, and the floor looked all tilt-y.

I wouldn't worry. If you don't adjust by tomorrow, go back to your eye doctor.
posted by amro at 6:57 AM on August 8, 2008

Give it a couple weeks. There's definitely an adjustment period, and the last pair of glasses I got (a little over a month ago now) gave me that same weird feeling for about a week annahalf, and I don't even wear my glasses most of the time.
posted by that girl at 6:58 AM on August 8, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, if it helps: one of my eyes (the one that sees better, hilariously enough) is astigmatic.
posted by griphus at 6:58 AM on August 8, 2008

I got a new Rx recently, too, and the feeling of being shorter really threw me for a loop. I didn't remember that the first time around.

Anyway, the first day with them, I felt terrible. Completely disoriented, slight nausea, stepping up and down onto stairs or anything was impossible without either tripping or clunking down further than I expected. It was awful. The next day, a little better. The next day, a little better. I'd say it took 3-4 days to feel normal. But now I do. (Though it still suprises me to look out a window and see other buildings clear and sharp--things far away are supposed to be blurry, right?)

I'd say if it's still bad after a few days, go back to the doc.
posted by lampoil at 6:59 AM on August 8, 2008

If you haven't been wearing glasses for months, this could very well be an adjustment period. I'm too blind to go without corrective lenses of some kind, but I often find myself disoriented when transitioning from glasses to contact lenses, usually in terms of misjudging heights.

However, this usually only lasts a few days. You might want to return to your optometrist and ask to have them adjusted. I once had a pair that were giving me terrible headaches, and it turned out that the nose rests were at a strange angle, which was throwing my whole plane of vision off. A quick adjustment corrected it.

You also might want to try contacts. They tend to be a more natural-feeling vision experience--you'll be able to see in the periphery without a problem, for example.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:00 AM on August 8, 2008

(Yeah, I'm also slightly astigmatic. We're twins!)
posted by lampoil at 7:00 AM on August 8, 2008

You could just need some adjustment time -- but it's also possible that the glasses were made badly. When I switch out my contacts and wear glasses for a day, it's a bit disorienting at first, but I acclimate to it quickly. On the other hand I've had glasses in the past that I could never get used to, and actually made me queasy. It had to do with the angle of the lens in the frame. The prescription from your doctor can be fine, but if the kids at LensCrafters put the lenses in cockeyed, it'll make your brain hurt.
posted by Tubes at 7:05 AM on August 8, 2008

In my experience, yes, it will go away in a few days. I'm also astigmatic.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:05 AM on August 8, 2008

I would suggest fiddling around with your glasses a little bit as well. Try adjusting the angles very slightly without bending the frame too much, see if there's a clear point where distortion is less.

This is because minute adjustment of the nosepads and rest of the frame can have major impacts on perceptual distortion. I've had glasses since I was about ten years old, and some of those glasses-people (I'm sure they have an official name) don't quite adjust them to your face just right, despite how you might communicate with them. For two new pairs of glasses, I remember one lady adjusted one for me spot on--no disorienting distortion at all, while someone else on the other pair had no such luck.

But usually, there will be an adjustment time just because of the prescription difference. If it lasts longer than a few days, I also suggest trying to get them readjusted.
posted by Ky at 7:23 AM on August 8, 2008

i worry about this every time i get a new script. it will go away after a few days. if, in addition to being a new script, your frames are much smaller than in the past, it may take a little bit longer, because you have more periphery that your lens isn't covering.

just be careful crossing the street: those curbs jump at you out of nowhere!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:36 AM on August 8, 2008

Yes, it goes away in 2-3 days. I change frames and prescriptions regularly and always have two days of slight vertigo where I might stumble on a step or get a little eye strain. Light is just being bent and compressed in a new way and your brain needs to get used to the pattern.

But, like everyone's said, if it lasts more than a few days, or headaches persist, go back to the optometrist. There's lots of things to consider beyond the prescription, such as pupil distances.
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:40 AM on August 8, 2008

I have astigmatism and the ground always seems much closer when I get a new prescription. My computer monitor also seems to angle in towards the bottom. Within a week, these illusions disappear and everything looks normal again.
posted by Heretic at 7:42 AM on August 8, 2008

Yep, exact same thing happened to me last time I got new glasses. I have astigmatism too. I went back to the eye doctor in tears after a few weeks of wearing them because it was so bad. But eventually, I did adjust. I'd never noticed this with other glasses, but my new ones were a lot narrower in height than my old ones.
posted by pyjammy at 8:01 AM on August 8, 2008

+1 Give it two days or so. Almost every pair of glasses I've had in my life, when i picked them up, I was sure they were too strong. For a day. I've had glasses for at least 20 years, and I go through it each time, personally.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:18 AM on August 8, 2008

Nth it should go away in a few days. If it doesn't, go check to make sure the glasses were made properly.

My dad was once so disoriented after merely changing prescription that he walked into a sales rack in Eaton's. I find it incredibly difficult to get on an escalator after getting new glasses; the steps seem to swerve. And I've been wearing glasses daily since I was 5.

The joys of glasses!
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:42 AM on August 8, 2008

I had a problem similar to this one time that I changed my prescription. My problem was that squares looked like trapezoids. It went away in a couple of days.

The problem is that your brain, during visual processing, has adapted itself to correcting what actually comes out through your optic nerve using what you know about the world. What hits your retina is different now, but it's still doing the same corrective processing as before. This means you get images that don't make perfect sense until your brain can catch up.
posted by demiurge at 8:43 AM on August 8, 2008

I once had a new pair of glasses that created the illusion that my head was right above the ground, and generally made me feel like I was either drunk or stoned. It turned out that a mistake had been made with the correction of the astigmatism for one eye, and after that had been fixed I no longer had the problem.

How I figured out that the problem was probably the glasses: I had a poster on my wall with fairly large letters on it. I stood a couple of feet away from it, wearing my glasses, and first shut one eye and then the other. The vision in one eye was considerably blurrier than in the other. With a pair of glasses that is made correctly, I can see equally well with both eyes.
posted by rjs at 9:39 AM on August 8, 2008

Nthing it will go away. I just recently got glasses for the first time, and decided I'd wear them walking out of the Dr's office. I almost fell when I stepped off a curb, and started to get sick from looking down. I definitely got the "I feel really short" feelings.

I haven't started wearing them full time yet, as it's not a super strong prescription, but I've mostly gotten used to them. I still have trouble wearing them while riding a bike.
posted by BryanPayne at 10:03 AM on August 8, 2008

It'll go away. Your brain compensated for the last prescription, and now it needs time to learn to compensate for the new one.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:54 AM on August 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! It totally went away!
posted by griphus at 10:34 AM on August 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

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