Over-the-counter glasses, often referred to as readers or reading glasses, are an affordable and convenient alternative to prescription glasses. Most people start using readers to address symptoms such as eye strain or not being able to read small print without holding the material at arm’s length.

Non-Rx glasses are great if you want a quick and affordable solution for your vision problems. Keep in mind that you will need to select the right magnification to get the best results.

Where Do OTC Glasses Come From?

Historians have traced the first lenses to 750 B.C. These lenses had an ornamental purpose and didn’t correct any vision problems. The first lenses used to magnify documents date back to the 11th century.

Eyeglasses as we know them today originated during the late 13th century. Benjamin Franklin, who suffered from presbyopia and myopia, invented bifocal lenses in the late 18th century.

Designs greatly evolved over time, and it wasn’t until the 18th century that designs with branches looping behind the ears appeared.

Prescription eyeglasses did not appear until the 20th century as new technologies became available and allowed manufacturers to create lenses tailored to the needs of each patient. The idea of glasses as a fashion accessory is very recent since it isn’t until the 1970s that more styles became available.

How Do OTC Glasses Work?

OTC glasses help your eyes focus when you hold reading material at a reasonable distance. This is something a lot of people experience difficulties with since presbyopia is a normal effect of aging.

As you get older, the crystalline lens inside your eyes becomes less supple. This makes focusing on nearby objects more difficult.

This is why a lot of individuals need readers once they reach the age of 40. You should consider getting a pair of reading glasses if you have a hard time reading books, magazines, restaurant menus or experience eye strains when using your computer.

Keep in mind that readers are not corrective glasses. If you suffer from astigmatism, nearsightedness or shortsightedness, you will need to get an eye exam and a pair of Rx glasses.

And because Non-Rx glasses have the same magnification on both sides, you might need some Rx glasses with different lenses. However, readers work well in most cases as long as you do not have another eye condition.

The Advantages of OTC Glasses

There are several benefits associated with OTC glasses:

  • They are a lot more affordable compared to Rx eyewear – which can cost a few hundreds of dollars while OTC eyewear typically costs a few dollars.
  • Readers are easy to replace if you lose or break them.
  • You can own different styles to match your outfits and mood.
  • This is a quick fix if you recently started developing presbyopia.
  • You won’t need to take an eye exam.
  • Easily shop for OTC glasses online or at local drugstores.

How to Choose the Right Magnification

If you are just starting to notice that you experience eye strain when reading or have recently got into the habit of holding your reading material further away, you will probably need a pair of reading glasses with 1 or 1.15 diopters.

People typically add half a diopter every ten years, but it is possible for presbyopia to progress at a faster rate. Adopt good posture and make sure there is sufficient lighting when reading or using your computer to reduce eye strain and prevent further damages.

You can easily determine what magnification you need while shopping at a drugstore:

  • Try a pair of readers with a magnification of 1 or 1.25.
  • Pick up a book or a magazine and see if you can read it comfortably.
  • If you need to hold the book or magazine at arm’s length, try the next magnification.

Magnification typically goes up to 3 or 3.5. If you need something stronger, you will have to go in for an eye exam and get some Rx eyewear.

If you want to shop for OTC glasses online, there are several websites and apps that you can use to do a quick vision test and determine which magnification is right for you.

Some people own several pairs of readers. You might need a different magnification when reading a book and when using your phone or computer since the distance between the reading material and your eyes might be different.

How to Choose the Right Pair of OTC Glasses

There are a few other factors you should consider once you have determined which magnification you need to read comfortably.

Take these things into consideration when shopping for OTC glasses:

  • Will the glasses be easy to store and carry with you? Think about getting a carrying case so you can bring your readers when you dine out.
  • Is the style appropriate for a professional setting? A lot of people own several pairs of readers to accessorize.
  • Does the frame look sturdy? This isn’t a major concern if you want affordable glasses that you will replace regularly, but you might want to spend a little more for OTC eyewear that you will use for a while.
  • Do the glasses fit comfortably and is the center of the lenses aligned with your pupils? Manufacturers customize Rx lenses so that the center perfectly aligns with the patient’s pupils. You might have to try a few pairs of glasses to find one with lenses that align with your eyes, or you might experience eye strain.
  • Do you need any additional features? You can shop for reading glasses that double as sunglasses or choose readers with a special coating to protect your eyes from the glare computer screens emit.

Reading glasses are the solution to eye strain, headaches and other symptoms associated with presbyopia. They are considerably more affordable than Rx glasses and are a good alternative as long as you do not have any other vision issues.

Take the time to do an online vision test or to try on a few pairs so you can choose the right magnification and don’t hesitate to get a couple of backup pairs in case you lose one!

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