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Are my reading glasses making my eyes worse?

presbyopia2

Are my reading glasses making my eyes worse?



Short answer- No

Although we don’t know the exact mechanism by which humans have a decreased ability to focus up close as we get older (a process called presbyopia), the fact remains that it will happen to all of us.

The leading theory of how this occurs is that the lenses in our eyes get stiffer and thicker as we age such that one of the muscles in the eye that contracts to change the shape of the lens does so less and less effectively because the lens itself gets less pliable.

The process of changing the focus of the lens from far away objects to up close objects is called accommodation.  If you have normal distance vision without glasses, then your eyes natural focus spot is far off in the distance.  In order to focus on an object close to you, the lens in your eye has to alter its shape. The ability of your lens to do that is at its best when you are born and slowly gets less and less pliable as the years go on.  You have such a tremendous ability to accommodate when you are young that the slow loss of this ability is not perceptible.  That is until you reach around the age of 45.

At around 45 years of age the lens has lost so much accommodative ability that you start to have difficulty focusing on near objects.  The impact usually starts when you notice that in order to look at anything small up close, you start holding it further away.  Even though this decreasing ability to focus up close has been slowly getting worse since the day you were born many people feel like the problem has occurred very suddenly.  We have many people who come into the office at age 45 telling us “all of a sudden” they can’t read.  What has probably been happening is they have just very slowly been adapting by holding things further away until one day “their arms are too short” and then they can’t read.

That is where reading glasses come in.  Some people just pick up over the counter readers which can work fine for them but if you haven’t had an exam in some time it is much wiser to get your eyes examined first to make sure the normal aging process is the only problem.  Once it is confirmed through a medical eye exam that there are no other issues, a reading glass is usually prescribed.  Contact lenses are also an option at this point.  See our blog Over 40 and can't read with my contacts for more information on your contact lens choices.

At the beginning a low powered reading glass is used.  As time goes on the lens in your eye continues to stiffen and your ability to focus up close continues to get worse.  The result of that is that your reading glass prescription needs to get stronger usually at a clip of about one step every 2-3 years.  IT IS NOT USING THE READING GLASSES THAT IS MAKING YOU WORSE, TIME IS MAKING YOU WORSE.  The decrease in reading ability without using glasses is going to continue to get worse as you get older whether you wear the reading glasses or not.  Trying not to wear the glasses and struggle along without them is not going to stop the march of time.  You really can’t preserve your reading ability by not wearing them; you are just struggling needlessly.

Watch our video on Presbyopia below.


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Comments 8

 
Guest - Paul Roddick on Friday, 29 March 2019 11:36
I see worse after, fact.

I strongly disagree with this conclusion.
I recently started wearing reading glasses. I sit here using my computer at a reading distance of about 1m & its reasonably clear, I can read & use the computer, but its not completely sharp. I can also look down at the keyboard & type & see all the keys, they are a bit blurry, but its not impossible.

Then I do some task using my glasses. After a few minutes I take them off & my eyesight is clearly much worse.
Now I cannot see any of the keyboard letters, at all. They are completely blurred & I can barely guess what they are, often i guess wrong. 5 mins ago it was not like that. The computer screen & text is now much harder to read. My close up vision has moved from about 1m to 2m. Now I have to wear the glasses to function.
This is not a perception effect, its a physical one. I realise that all eye professionals will disagree, but I think they are wrong frankly.

I strongly disagree with this conclusion. I recently started wearing reading glasses. I sit here using my computer at a reading distance of about 1m & its reasonably clear, I can read & use the computer, but its not completely sharp. I can also look down at the keyboard & type & see all the keys, they are a bit blurry, but its not impossible. Then I do some task using my glasses. After a few minutes I take them off & my eyesight is clearly much worse. Now I cannot see any of the keyboard letters, at all. They are completely blurred & I can barely guess what they are, often i guess wrong. 5 mins ago it was not like that. The computer screen & text is now much harder to read. My close up vision has moved from about 1m to 2m. Now I have to wear the glasses to function. This is not a perception effect, its a physical one. I realise that all eye professionals will disagree, but I think they are wrong frankly.
Dr. Wnorowski on Friday, 29 March 2019 12:26
worse after wearing

An important thing you didn't mention, your age. From your description of your problem I'm going to guess somewhere between 45 and 55.

The lens in your eye has capacity to change it's focus to near tasks, a process called accommodation.

As you get older your eye's ability to do that diminishes and starts to effect your ability to see at near for most people in their mid forties.

You still have the capacity to maximally focus up close at 45 years old for short periods of time. So in your mid 40's to early 50's you can, for a while, get your near tasks in focus but you can''t sustain that effort. Our eyes are only comfortable using between 50 and 75% of our maximum capacity to accommodate for any length of time. So there will definitely be fluctuations in your ability to see near objects. When you are well rested, your lighting is good you can use max capacity of accommodation for several minutes but then you will blur.

In your case my guess is that you started to blur with your reading glasses off which is what motivated you to put them on in the first place and then without a doubt the near vision is going to be worse when you take them off because now you are too fatigued to force your eye to maximally accommodate.

It's not the glasses that did it it's your fatigue.

Take a break for an hour not doing any near tasks only distance and you will go back to being able to see your tasks again just like you did at the start but you will fatigue again and usually quicker then the first time because you are not as well rested.

This WILL continue to get worse as you get older whether you wear those reading glasses or not.

Can't get around father time. sorry.

An important thing you didn't mention, your age. From your description of your problem I'm going to guess somewhere between 45 and 55. The lens in your eye has capacity to change it's focus to near tasks, a process called accommodation. As you get older your eye's ability to do that diminishes and starts to effect your ability to see at near for most people in their mid forties. You still have the capacity to maximally focus up close at 45 years old for short periods of time. So in your mid 40's to early 50's you can, for a while, get your near tasks in focus but you can''t sustain that effort. Our eyes are only comfortable using between 50 and 75% of our maximum capacity to accommodate for any length of time. So there will definitely be fluctuations in your ability to see near objects. When you are well rested, your lighting is good you can use max capacity of accommodation for several minutes but then you will blur. In your case my guess is that you started to blur with your reading glasses off which is what motivated you to put them on in the first place and then without a doubt the near vision is going to be worse when you take them off because now you are too fatigued to force your eye to maximally accommodate. It's not the glasses that did it it's your fatigue. Take a break for an hour not doing any near tasks only distance and you will go back to being able to see your tasks again just like you did at the start but you will fatigue again and usually quicker then the first time because you are not as well rested. This WILL continue to get worse as you get older whether you wear those reading glasses or not. Can't get around father time. sorry.
Guest - G. R. on Tuesday, 17 March 2020 12:00
Wearing corrective lenses and Readers

First off, I'm 41. I experience the exact same thing Mr. Roddick above said when sitting at a computer. I wear glasses or contacts (My contact strength is -3.25 in both eyes- very nearsighted) And without glasses or contacts, I can see up close just fine, no problems. When I wear corrective lenses, I can see far, but cannot see super up close anymore. So when I use contacts, I wear readers. Usually 1.25-1.50 work best. Working at my PC with readers feels like having a brand new set of eyes! Everything is sharp as a tack and I don't feel strained due to the blue filter. But after I take them off- I feel blind. Everything close seems 10x fuzzier than before. Everything is so fuzzy its like I'm not wearing contacts at all. Why is that? And is it harmful to wear readers for prolonged parts of every day while wearing contacts?

First off, I'm 41. I experience the exact same thing Mr. Roddick above said when sitting at a computer. I wear glasses or contacts (My contact strength is -3.25 in both eyes- very nearsighted) And without glasses or contacts, I can see up close just fine, no problems. When I wear corrective lenses, I can see far, but cannot see super up close anymore. So when I use contacts, I wear readers. Usually 1.25-1.50 work best. Working at my PC with readers feels like having a brand new set of eyes! Everything is sharp as a tack and I don't feel strained due to the blue filter. But after I take them off- I feel blind. Everything close seems 10x fuzzier than before. Everything is so fuzzy its like I'm not wearing contacts at all. Why is that? And is it harmful to wear readers for prolonged parts of every day while wearing contacts?
Dr. Wnorowski on Tuesday, 17 March 2020 12:12
Readers over contacts

Wearing reader over your contacts is perfectly fine to do once you start having near problems at 40 or so. Your up close seems fuzzier up close after you take them off because you get used to haw sharp everything is with them on and don't like it when it returns to be being fuzzy when they are off. In addition you just need a little time for your eyes to adjust to the fact that they need to re-engage your eyes accommodation because the glasses were doing it for you.

Wearing reader over your contacts is perfectly fine to do once you start having near problems at 40 or so. Your up close seems fuzzier up close after you take them off because you get used to haw sharp everything is with them on and don't like it when it returns to be being fuzzy when they are off. In addition you just need a little time for your eyes to adjust to the fact that they need to re-engage your eyes accommodation because the glasses were doing it for you.
Guest - Sarah on Saturday, 06 June 2020 20:19
It’s not a perception issue...

I have the same issue as Paul and I am 36. I started wearing contacts at a degree or so higher than they would have prescribed to see if I would be able to tolerate LASIK. (My prescription is +5.5 on the right and +1.5 on the left and I’d been wearing no corrective lenses/glasses at all for the most part, but was starting to get eye headaches during the work day and thought surgery might be an option. They wanted to test whether my brain could take the adjustment given the differential.) After 2 months wearing contacts I cannot read without them, whereas previously I could read for most of the day but my eyes would lose the ability to focus toward the evening. It wasn’t blurry for that first part of the day, at all. Now I literally can’t read without my contacts. I don’t really care if it’s my brain getting used to the lenses - that’s part of what vision is, and my contacts have made my uncorrected vision worse. My eyes still get tired by the end of the day and some days I will eventually have trouble reading even with the contacts in. I don’t believe my eyes would have declined so fast if I hadn’t started wearing the contacts all the time. I keep reading that glasses can’t make your eyes worse but this is not a coincidence.

The flip side is that I don’t get eye headaches so overall you might say it’s a positive, but it’s obnoxious to have no choice but to wear contacts all the time because (a) I have punctal plugs that poke my eyeball if they’re not protected by the lens, and (b) because of the difference in my eyes I would have to get one fat lens (and have one magnified eye) if I got glasses. I did have glasses that I wore occasionally that were closer to +1/+3 and those were ok but I’m not sure if that would work for me now. I don’t know if lowering my prescription or not wearing contacts anymore would return me to where I was a few months ago or if I have premature presbyopia now.

I have the same issue as Paul and I am 36. I started wearing contacts at a degree or so higher than they would have prescribed to see if I would be able to tolerate LASIK. (My prescription is +5.5 on the right and +1.5 on the left and I’d been wearing no corrective lenses/glasses at all for the most part, but was starting to get eye headaches during the work day and thought surgery might be an option. They wanted to test whether my brain could take the adjustment given the differential.) After 2 months wearing contacts I cannot read without them, whereas previously I could read for most of the day but my eyes would lose the ability to focus toward the evening. It wasn’t blurry for that first part of the day, at all. Now I literally can’t read without my contacts. I don’t really care if it’s my brain getting used to the lenses - that’s part of what vision is, and my contacts have made my uncorrected vision worse. My eyes still get tired by the end of the day and some days I will eventually have trouble reading even with the contacts in. I don’t believe my eyes would have declined so fast if I hadn’t started wearing the contacts all the time. I keep reading that glasses can’t make your eyes worse but this is not a coincidence. The flip side is that I don’t get eye headaches so overall you might say it’s a positive, but it’s obnoxious to have no choice but to wear contacts all the time because (a) I have punctal plugs that poke my eyeball if they’re not protected by the lens, and (b) because of the difference in my eyes I would have to get one fat lens (and have one magnified eye) if I got glasses. I did have glasses that I wore occasionally that were closer to +1/+3 and those were ok but I’m not sure if that would work for me now. I don’t know if lowering my prescription or not wearing contacts anymore would return me to where I was a few months ago or if I have premature presbyopia now.
Dr. Wnorowski on Monday, 08 June 2020 14:32
issue

It sounds like you were having "eye headaches" BEFORE the contacts. At your prescription +1.50 and +5.5 it is USUAL to start having trouble reading by the end of the day at your age. You don't have premature presbyopia. You have hyperopia (you have a + prescription) Hyperopes start having reading trouble early than non-hyperopes. You can force your eye to focus through the hyperopia for a little while but you cannot sustain that maximum effort for very long. The average 36 year old has about 7 diopters of maximum accommodative amplitude. You need about 2.75 to 3 diopters of accommodative amplitude to view things at near like reading. BUT if you are a hyperbole you are already using some of that accommodation just to see in the distance. For your "better" eye that means you are using +1.50 of your accommodative amplitude to see in the distance. Uncorrected that means you need to use about 4.5 diopters to see at near. You have about 7 diopters so you can read without contacts or glasses if you push hard but you can sustain maximum effort for very long. We are only comfortable using about 50% of our maximum amplitude for any extended time. So for you 50% is about 3.5 diopters but you need 4.5 to see clearly at near for any length of time. That is why you were getting "eye headaches" because without the contacts you are using more than half of your accommodative amplitude and you can't sustain that for very long. My guess is that before the contacts you probably got used to holding what you were reading a little further away from you without even realizing that. Now with the contacts you can hold things closer again but can't without them. If you try to look at things without the contacts (and this needs to be early in the day before you are tired) and hold them a little further out you will be able to read them you just can't read in as close as you do with the contacts in. All normal aging. Almost everyone who starts to have presbyopic symptoms feels like the "suddenly fell off a cliff" and could read absolutely fine 3 weeks ago and now can't do it.

It sounds like you were having "eye headaches" BEFORE the contacts. At your prescription +1.50 and +5.5 it is USUAL to start having trouble reading by the end of the day at your age. You don't have premature presbyopia. You have hyperopia (you have a + prescription) Hyperopes start having reading trouble early than non-hyperopes. You can force your eye to focus through the hyperopia for a little while but you cannot sustain that maximum effort for very long. The average 36 year old has about 7 diopters of maximum accommodative amplitude. You need about 2.75 to 3 diopters of accommodative amplitude to view things at near like reading. BUT if you are a hyperbole you are already using some of that accommodation just to see in the distance. For your "better" eye that means you are using +1.50 of your accommodative amplitude to see in the distance. Uncorrected that means you need to use about 4.5 diopters to see at near. You have about 7 diopters so you can read without contacts or glasses if you push hard but you can sustain maximum effort for very long. We are only comfortable using about 50% of our maximum amplitude for any extended time. So for you 50% is about 3.5 diopters but you need 4.5 to see clearly at near for any length of time. That is why you were getting "eye headaches" because without the contacts you are using more than half of your accommodative amplitude and you can't sustain that for very long. My guess is that before the contacts you probably got used to holding what you were reading a little further away from you without even realizing that. Now with the contacts you can hold things closer again but can't without them. If you try to look at things without the contacts (and this needs to be early in the day before you are tired) and hold them a little further out you will be able to read them you just can't read in as close as you do with the contacts in. All normal aging. Almost everyone who starts to have presbyopic symptoms feels like the "suddenly fell off a cliff" and could read absolutely fine 3 weeks ago and now can't do it.
Guest - Elizabeth Bona on Sunday, 09 May 2021 17:09
I disagree.

I woke up one day and my reading vision was blurred. It happened,literally overnight. There was no previous holding things slightly further back at all. None at all. It wasn't too bad and I managed without reading glasses. After 2.5 years I decided to give reading glasses a try and as soon as I started using them my eyes became 10 x worse. I can hardly see my phone. I don't care what you say I know it's true. It is actually logical. I'm going to stop using my glasses for a while and see if they improve.

I woke up one day and my reading vision was blurred. It happened,literally overnight. There was no previous holding things slightly further back at all. None at all. It wasn't too bad and I managed without reading glasses. After 2.5 years I decided to give reading glasses a try and as soon as I started using them my eyes became 10 x worse. I can hardly see my phone. I don't care what you say I know it's true. It is actually logical. I'm going to stop using my glasses for a while and see if they improve.
Dr. Wnorowski on Sunday, 09 May 2021 18:46
Disagree

Sorry you are frustrated with the way we are built but those are the facts. Take as much time as you want trying to not use your glasses but unfortunately it won't do you any good. You will need them and you will need them about .25 diopters stronger every 2-3 years until you top out at around age 65.

Sorry you are frustrated with the way we are built but those are the facts. Take as much time as you want trying to not use your glasses but unfortunately it won't do you any good. You will need them and you will need them about .25 diopters stronger every 2-3 years until you top out at around age 65.
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