Readymade Readers vs. Custom Prescription Spectacles

by Suzanne van Zyl - B.Optom (RAU)

Years ago, before modern refraction methods were available, reading glasses were prescribed by trial and error.

Disadvantages of Readymade readers:

  • Both lenses are of the same power, not allowing for the possibility of two eyes needing different corrections to see clearly.

  • The optical centres of the lenses are not measured to match the individual’s eyes and may cause prismatic effects which lead to eye strain

  • The shop assistant or chemist may be able to assist with a cosmetic choice but is not trained to give advice concerning spectacle correction.

Advantages of Readymade readers:

  • They are cheaper

  • They are immediately available, while spectacles made to your individual prescription may require between an hour and a week to be manufactured.

Your eye care practitioner stocks readymade readers:

After your examination enquire if this is a cheaper alternative suitable for you. If not, remember that your frame and lens choice is a major factor in the final cost of your glasses.

Whether you receive readymade readers of reading glasses tailor-made to your specific prescription, it is most important that an examination to rule out sight threatening conditions has been done by your Optometrist. 

Varifocal or multifocal lenses:

I addition to seeing clearly at all distances (near, far and in-between) you have immediate access to a different part of the lens with minimal head and eye movement. 

With the latest generation of lenses, you will also benefit from a wider reading area than in previous generation lenses.

There are 3 main reasons for wearing multifocal lenses rather than single vision lenses or bifocals:


Cosmetic appeal

Intermediate vision

The prescription in a multifocal lens changes gradually from distance vision, through intermediate vision for closer objects to near vision at the bottom of the lens. As there is no middle distance “gap” and no irritating, ageing line across the lens, multifocal lenses are more efficient and attractive than bifocals. The multifocal can replace several pairs of spectacles i.e. distance, reading and even mid-distance, all in a single pair of spectacles.

Variable focus reading lenses:

It is possible to extend the width of the reading areas further by excluding the distance vision portion of the lens. This lens is excellent for use in the office as it can focus as far as 3 meters while still allowing perfect reading vision at 40cm. This is the lens of choice for those who work on computers most of the time. 

Multifocal contact lenses provide yet another all-in-all solution to your visual needs.

Ask your Optometrist which solution is recommended for your individual needs!