Forty and four eyes-getting to grips with wearing glasses


Convinced that the journal has made its print size smaller, can’t read the text messages on your phone, or having to hold things up to the light to read ?

If you are in your forties you may well have noticed that reading is becoming more difficult.  After a spell of time screwing our eyes up and holding things further away you will eventually have to face up to the fact you may need reading glasses.

We call this condition presbyopia.

It is caused by the lens inside the eye becoming more rigid.  When we look from distance to near our eyes change shape from an oval shape (flatter) to a more spherical (rounder) shape. As we get older, because the lens in the eye becomes more rigid , this becomes harder to do.  As we get older the lens inside the eye continues to become more rigid and the glasses prescription needs to be strengthened, usually every 1-3 years.

So what are the options?

Prescription glasses.  First of all you need to get your eyes examined by an optometrist. During the eye examination they will check the health of your eyes and determine the correct prescription of glasses for you. There are lots of different options for you when you choose your glasses . Most people choose full frame reading glasses.  Another option is half eye glasses which are shallower and sit lower down on the nose so that you can look over the top of them into the distance.

Glasses that allow you to see both in the distance and for near are called  bifocals or varifocals.  Bifocals are glasses where the distance portion of the lens is towards the top and there is a reading area in the lower half of the lens separated by a line. Varifocals are an advance on bifocals in that there is no line present, they work in a similar way in that as you look downwards through the lens you are able to read.

Contact lenses are an option for if you have problems with your reading. When they are prescribed primarily for reading they can be a visual compromise and you may have to adjust your expectations of what vision to expect.  The main ways that your vision can be corrected is with varifocal contact lenses or monovision where one eye is corrected for distance and the other for near.

Ready made reading glasses.  These are essentially “one size fits all items” with the same prescription in both lenses.  Most people do not have exactly the same prescription in both eyes and almost everybody has at least a small amount of astigmatism which cannot be corrected by these glasses.  Headache and eyestrain can result from wearing reading glasses that are the wrong prescription or where the optical centration of the lenses is too far away from the centre of your pupils. There can also be a problem with the quality of the glasses. In an investigation by Which, the quality of glasses was checked from 7 high street stores and problems were found with the lenses in half of those checked.

What concerns optometrists most is that a significant number of people who opt for wearing readymade glasses, just buy them over the counter and thus never  have their eyes examined. This can lead to potential eye diseases such as glaucoma ( where in its early stages there are no symptoms) going undetected.

Laser eye surgery. New techniques of eye surgery for near vision are being developed . However they often have the same drawbacks as contact lenses in that a visual compromise is required and whereas with contact lenses you can try them and throw them away if they do not work , eye surgery is usually permanent.


1)  Will wearing glasses makes my eyes worse?

Over the years, numerous patients have been seen, who have put up with headaches and eyestrain because they think that wearing reading glasses will make their eyes worse.  This myth has come about because the process of presbyopia ,where the lens becomes less flexible, is continuous . So somebody getting their first pair of glasses, returns a year or two later for their routine eye examination and finds that they need stronger glasses. They become convinced that their eyes have been made worse by wearing them in the first place.

2)   Do I need to wear reading glasses because my eye muscles are weaker?

Some people put off wearing reading glasses because they feel that it will make the muscles of their eyes weaker.  The truth is that it does not matter how strong the muscles in the eye are , because the lens inside the eye has got stiffer, you cannot focus from distance to near as well.

3) Why can I see to read without my glasses when I am on holiday and then need to wear them again when I return home?

Illumination makes a big difference to what you can see and the best form of lighting is natural daylight. Combine the two together in a bright overseas holiday and it is far easier to read for some people.