Prescription Reading Glasses vs. OTC Reading Glasses

The price of OTC reading glasses may make them seem like a good deal. But, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Here’s what you need to know.

Person with prescription glasses smiling

Around the time you hit 40, it’s common to start needing reading glasses. People who do a lot of fine detailed work or work with numbers, like seamstresses and accountants, may notice the change a bit earlier. But sooner or later, it happens to everyone.

It’s due to a condition called presbyopia. The lens of your eye becomes harder and less flexible as you get older. And the less flexible your eye is, the tougher it is to focus on close-up objects. So even if you never had vision problems before, your world may start to get blurry.

You wouldn’t buy shampoo at the eye doctor’s office. So why would you buy reading lenses at a drugstore? The price may make it seem like a good option. But, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

Here’s how prescription reading glasses compare to over-the-counter (OTC) reading glasses. Read on before you buy to protect your eyes.

Have questions about your eye health or vision? Your America’s Best optometrist is here to help! Find an exam time that fits your schedule.

What are prescription reading glasses?

Prescription reading glasses are tailored to your specific vision needs. Your eye doctor will test your vision and measure your eyes during an eye exam. This will help them figure out your prescription.

Then, they will fit you for eyeglasses that will make it easier to see close-up objects — like your phone screen, your car’s dashboard, or anything else within arm’s length.

What are non-prescription, or over-the-counter, reading glasses?

OTC reading glasses don’t require a prescription from your optometrist. Instead, they have different levels of magnification. Most are between +0.50 and +5.00. The higher the magnification, the higher the strength of the reading glasses.

You can find OTC reading glasses at most discount stores and pharmacies. They’re cheaper than their prescription counterparts you’d get from an eye doctor.

What are the main differences between prescription and OTC reading glasses?

Both types of reading glasses claim to help treat presbyopia and improve your near vision. But there are major differences between prescription and non-prescription reading glasses.

Lens Quality

The lenses of OTC reading glasses will likely have some quality issues.

When you buy a pair of reading glasses from your eye doctor, they’re made of high-quality materials, such as polycarbonate. These prescription lenses are free of defects. That means you’ll see your best while wearing them.

A pair of non-prescription readers, on the other hand, doesn’t undergo the same quality control process. Tiny bubbles or imperfections in the lenses of these OTC readers might not be something you notice — but your eyes do. These imperfections can make it harder to see.

Prescription Strength

Choosing the right pair of OTC readers can be confusing. Do you need plus ones or plus twos? What if you are somewhere in between?

Buying OTC reading glasses can mean spending an hour or more in the store trying to find the right strength. Many people err on the side of buying lenses that are too strong, hoping it will help them see more clearly. But that can hurt your eyes or cause headaches or dizziness.

Your optometrist removes the guesswork from this process. They will determine your exact prescription, so you don’t have to stand around the drugstore feeling stressed.

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Same Prescription in Both Lenses

OTC reading glasses offer the same magnification power in both lenses. But most people have one eye that is stronger than the other. Eyeglasses purchased through your eye doctor will be customized to fit the corrective power each individual eye needs.

OTC reading glasses also cannot correct vision problems such as near-sightedness or astigmatism. And they don’t come in multifocal options for people who need both near and far vision assistance.

More Than Just Vision Correction

Optometrists do far more than just determine your prescription and fit you for eyeglasses or contact lenses. During an eye exam, your eye doctor will also check the overall health of your eyes. They can spot signs of other conditions that might be affecting your vision.

Cataracts, for example, can account for some declining vision. And glaucoma can slowly rob you of your sight — without any warning signs.

The more advanced these conditions become, the harder they are to treat or slow the progression. That means skipping your eye exam and buying OTC readers can delay the diagnosis of potential underlying conditions.

At America’s Best, we want your eyes to be at their healthiest. That’s why we’ve partnered with independent doctors of optometry nationwide to provide one-stop eye care.

And don’t forget that if you need glasses, we offer an amazing deal: buy two pairs of glasses and get your eye exam for FREE*!

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