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    Tips for Choosing the Right Reading Glasses

    Reviewed By William Barry Lee, MD
    Published Oct. 30, 2017

    Selecting glasses to correct reading vision can feel like an overwhelming experience. There are so many choices of frames, lenses and coatings. Here are the top things to consider as you pick out your readers.

    Decide between custom and ready-made glasses.

    • Ready-made glasses can be purchased at a drugstore or pharmacy. They are one-size-fits-all and less expensive than custom glasses. These off-the-shelf readers typically don’t come in multi-focal or progressive options.
    • Custom glasses. If you have a different prescription in each eye, myopia or astigmatism, ready-made glasses may not meet your needs. With custom glasses, an optician will make lenses based on your prescription, including the distance between your pupils. Your pupils must be aligned to the optical center of the lenses to get your best vision correction.

    Select the right lens design.

    Reading glass lenses come in a few categories; your choice depends on the vision correction you need.

    • Single vision lenses are designed to correct distance vision. They can be set to any focus, including near or intermediate vision.
    • Bi-focal lenses have a correction for reading on the bottom half of the lens and another for distance on the top.
    • Tri-focal lenses have three sections: distance vision, intermediate vision and near vision.
    • Progressive lenses have a smooth transition between distance and near focal areas without visible dividing lines. They can be more effective in correcting intermediate vision than bi- or tri-focals.

    Your ophthalmologist should help guide you to the best lens design for your vision.

    Choose your lens shape and size based on your prescription.

    Lenses come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Smaller, more narrow lenses may work well for weaker prescriptions. But for stronger prescriptions or multi-focal lenses, larger lens shapes are a better option to allow enough room for the entire prescription. If the lens is too small, you may experience distortion or a prism effect.

    Metal frames are more durable than plastic.

    Plastic frames come in a large range of colors, styles and prices. Metal, titanium or alloy frames stand up better to wear-and-tear. Titanium is the lightest and most flexible metal frame material. When choosing frames, make sure they fit your face, nasal bridge and ears comfortably.

    Polycarbonate and Trivex lenses are light and impact-resistant.

    If you spend a lot of time outdoors or want lenses that are resistant to breaking, polycarbonate is a safe, lightweight choice. Trivex is another impact-resistant lens material that is lighter weight and may be less distorting than polycarbonate. If you have a stronger prescription, high-index plastic lenses are a thinner, lightweight option.

    Protective coatings may make your glasses last longer.

    • Anti-scratch coatings are a good investment to improve the durability of your glasses. Most plastic lenses (including polycarbonate and Trivex) scratch easily.
    • Anti-reflective coatings reduce glare and distracting reflections on the surface of your glasses. If you are very nearsighted and require high-index lenses, which are more likely to have glare problems, this coating is helpful.
    • Photochromic lenses (or transitional lenses) protect your eyes from UV light. They darken automatically in sunlight, which is convenient if you are light-sensitive or plan to use the glasses outdoors. They are not recommended for use in cars.

    These coatings can quickly add to the cost of your glasses. If you choose custom glasses, your optician should help you make selections that fit your needs—and your budget.