Are Drug Store Reading Glasses Right for You?

September 30, 2013

Display of Drug Store Reading Glasses

Over-the-counter or “dime store” reading glasses, so called because they were first sold in 5-and-10-cent stores, are inexpensive eyeglasses that can be purchased in variety, drug, and discount stores without a prescription.  They are not an ideal substitute for prescription bifocals and trifocals, which you will discover as soon as you try them.  (They are simply magnifying glasses mounted in frames).  Still, they can come in handy if you like to have several pairs of reading glasses lying around in different places or if you tend to misplace or lose a lot of reading glasses.

If you are wondering if you can use them instead of prescription reading glasses or bifocals, the following questions and answers may help you decide what to do.

Q:  How do “dime store” glasses differ from prescription reading glasses?

A:  Prescription glasses are custom ground to your exact vision needs.  The critical positions on your face are measured by a skilled optical dispenser, who adjusts a durable frame to fit your face, taking into account such factors as face width and asymmetry, size of your nose, and distance between your eyes.  The lenses of dime store glasses are not usually up to the quality of those ground in a prescription laboratory.  The optical centers of the lenses are not likely to be in the precise position that gives you the best and most comfortable reading vision.  The frames are likely to be “one size fits all”.

Q:  Can they hurt your eyes?

A: No.  Even if they are not particularly comfortable to wear, they cannot ever damage or ruin your eyes.

Q: Can everyone wear them?

A: In general, to wear glasses that have not been ground especially for you, you need to have perfect or nearly-perfect distance vision (without glasses), equal optical power in both eyes, and little or no astigmatism.  Most people who need reading glasses do not fit these criteria closely enough to be fully comfortable wearing over-the-counter glasses.

Q:  Do you need to have an eye exam before buying them?

A:  No, not necessarily.  When you try on the glasses, you can be the judge as to whether you see well enough with them to buy them.  However, since you are in the age group (over 40) that needs reading glasses, you also should have a complete eye examination to check for such sight-threatening conditions as glaucoma and cataract.  Do not postpone or forego regular eye examinations simply because you can buy and use reading glasses from the “dime store”.

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