Ready Readers vs Prescription Readers

Sumayya Vanker - B.Optom (UDW)

Just as our body loses elasticity and flexibility with age, so do our eyes and this ageing process is called ‘Presbyopia’. It typically starts around the age of forty and results in a reduced ability to focus on near objects which progressively deteriorates as we age.

There are various types of spectacle lenses to overcome this, but reading glasses are most commonly preferred.  There are two types of reading glasses, ready readers and custom prescription readers.

Ready readers or Over-the-Counter (OTC) readers: 

  • Mass-produced - available in a wide range of colours and styles that are easily obtainable at most retail stores, pharmacies and even online.

  • Inexpensive to purchase and replace.

  • They are ‘magnifiers’ over your uncorrected vision i.e. they only enlarge print. They don’t correct and sharpen your vision.

  • Range from +1.00D to +4.00D in strength.

  • Only for close up work and NOT distance viewing.

  • Safe to use for short intervals and emergencies ONLY!

  • Poor quality due to cheap materials used for lenses and frames - break easily and poor clarity of lenses.

  • One size fits all’ - both lenses are the same strength and location of optical centres are not the same for each wearer - can result in blurry vision, headaches, eyestrain and even double vision if used for long periods of time.

  • Most serious drawback - people do not have regular eye exams if they feel their vision is adequately corrected and have no symptoms of eyestrain with ready readers - they fail to realise that visual acuity is separate from eye health, but poor eye health affects visual acuity. Also, many serious sight-threatening eye conditions do not have symptoms but there are signs visible to an optometrist for early diagnosis and treatment.

Prescription readers:

  • Custom-made for each individual to fit the prescription your eyes truly need and for the distance needed; ex: Desktop computer, laptop, tablet, reading etc.

  • For most people - vision is different for each eye hence and prescriptions are not the same for both eyes.

  • Prescription readers correct your vision (short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism or distorted vision) first, then a magnifying lens is added to that prescription for the reading distance that you need - hence vision is sharp and clear so no headaches or eye strain with prolonged use.

  • Optical centres of each lens (where a lens will optically perform the best) are aligned with the centre of each eye’s pupil - very little possibility of double vision or headaches.

  • Less affordable BUT frame and lens quality much higher, resulting in clearer vision without eye strain - frames do not break easily and can last up to 2 years if used responsibly.

  • Can be customised with good quality anti-glare coatings and blue block filters for screens and even photochromic tints for reading outdoors.

  • Biggest benefit - require an annual/bi-annual comprehensive eye exam to make prescription readers as well as having healthy, balanced vision and happy eyes whilst working on screens or reading printed material.

It is clear from the above that prescription readers have more benefits than ready readers, but if your eyes are not very different, you can have the best of both worlds; ex: ready readers for short quick reads and prescription readers with required coatings for long periods of reading or screen use.