Reading glasses: Discover the best vision at close range

Reviewed by Dr. Justin Asgarpour

Reading glasses offer sharp vision at a typical reading distance (approximately 45cm to 55cm). They can work wonders when presbyopia sets in around age 40. If you hold your phone farther away to see it properly, or if you have “add powers” on your prescription, you may benefit from having a dedicated pair of reading glasses.

Why do people need reading glasses?

Presbyopia normally sets in at around age 40. The internal lenses in your eyes become less elastic, making it harder for the muscles in your eyes to pull on these stiffer lenses to focus on nearby things like fine print. This causes images to appear out of focus. Hence, your eyes need help in the form of reading glasses. Whenever you read your favourite novels, magazines, or browse the internet, you’ll find it easier to focus.

Find out what strength
you need for your readers

The “add power” on your prescription indicates the amount of extra magnification that you need to focus on any objects within 45cm to 55cm. Add your “add power” to your “distance power” to determine your “reading power”. Your distance correction is expressed in the sphere, cylinder and axis area of your multifocal prescription. Our system will automatically do the math to calculate your reading power when you enter your multifocal prescription on our site.

Note that your “reading power” and the “add power” on your prescription are two different things. The “add power” is the amount of magnification that is added to your distance correction that’s needed for reading up close. The “reading power” is the total corrective strength needed for you to see something clearly at 45 to 55cm. Ask your eye doctor about it on your next visit.

Reading glasses are not suitable for viewing in the distance. Looking across the room through them will be blurry. You’ll need to remove your readers to see with your natural vision or switch to your prescription distance pair. If you have an add power and want to see far away and up close without switching glasses, a pair of progressive lenses or bifocals will provide vision at both working distances for your convenience.

A tutor for the emperor in ancient Rome claimed that he read the entire books in the city through a glass bowl filled with water to magnify the print.

Reading glasses for those over age 40 became more and more popular when they arrived in England. They were so valuable that a company, the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, called them “A blessing to the aged.”


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Top 3 FAQs about reading glasses

If you notice your vision gets blurry when you focus on near objects and you can’t see the small print clearly without squinting or enlarging the text, you may need reading glasses.

This is very common for those aged 40+, when you may develop a common condition called presbyopia. You can easily improve your vision with a pair of reading glasses that look stylish and allow you to indulge in your favourite activities with clear, comfortable vision.

⛔ If you have astigmatism, which is in your cylinder (CYL) power and axis value, a pair of drugstore readers may not be ideal. You may see a “drop shadow” effect when reading the fine print and your eyes may struggle while attempting to focus on letters

✅ Prescription readers correct astigmatism, making the edges of letters look crisper, so you can read better and faster without having to strain your eyes.

⛔ A pair of drugstore cheaters contains the same magnifying power in both the left and right lenses. They won’t take into account any power difference between your eyes (if you have one), which can cause one eye working harder than the other.

✅ Prescription readers ensure you’ll get the exact correction that both your eyes need, allowing your eyes to look through the lens at ease and your brain to feel comfortable adapting to the different powers in each eye.

⛔ Over-the-counter reading glasses use a “standard” pupillary distance (PD) for a one-size-fits-all solution, without aligning the optical centres of the lenses, which could cause headaches and eye strain when reading.

✅ Prescription reading glasses include your customized PD to ensure the optical centres of your lenses are directly in front of your pupils. Now you can enjoy reading again and get the most out of your near vision.

Single vision “reading” glasses are designed not specifically for reading, but more with a specific focal length and working distance in mind.

Most people “read” at anywhere between 45-55 cm from their eyes, whether they’re reading a novel, working on a tablet, or focusing on other on-hand activities. Reading glasses contain a lens power that is optimized for that range. They provide that power across the entire surface of the lens to give you the widest field of view.



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