Wearing over-the-counter (OTC) reading eyeglasses, which are available at pharmacies and other retailers, won't hurt your eyes. The same as with prescription eyeglasses that an optician dispenses, over-the counter reading glasses can't make your eyes stronger, but they can make your vision clearer. While OTC reading glasses are less expensive than those you buy from an eye doctor or vision center, you get the best vision with the lens strength or prescription that is correct for your eyes.
Get the Right Prescription
The frames of OTC reading glasses are fitted with different levels of magnifying lenses to help correct close-range vision problems, such as presbyopia -- a condition that occurs when the lens of the eye loses its flexibility, making it difficult to read fine print or focus on objects close at hand. Nonprescription reading glasses won't correct vision impairments related to astigmatism (blurred vision), nearsightedness (myopia), or farsightedness (hyperopia).
If you choose a pair of eyeglasses with a magnifying level that is too weak or too strong for your eyes, wearing the glasses won't weaken your eyesight or cause lasting vision problems. Age, not the wrong prescription for eyeglasses, normally is responsible when your close-up vision begins to deteriorate. But if you wear OTC eyeglasses that have the same focusing power in both lenses when the prescription for one eye differs from that for your other eye, you could end up with eyestrain after using the glasses for a time.
Choose a Magnification Level
Over-the-counter reading glasses are available in set levels of magnification (enlargement) starting at a power of +0.25 magnification and increasing to a power of +3.50 or more. Some retailers offer readers with magnification strengths up to +6.00.
It may be necessary to try on glasses with different lens powers if you don't know what strength you need. If you narrow the power ratings down to two but can't tell which which level of magnification gives you the best reading vision, choose the pair with the weaker power. For instance, if you need to choose between a pair of +2.50 and +2.75 reading glasses, go with the +2.50 readers.
Save With OTC Readers
If you are looking to save money, you can go to your optometrist or ophthalmologist first for an eye exam and to get a prescription, but then buy over-the-counter reading glasses. Although you don't have to buy your glasses from your eye doctor, if you are nearsighted rather than farsighted and have difficulty focusing on distant objects, you may need lenses stronger than the magnifying levels available over the counter.
If you need a different lens prescription for each eye or bifocals or trifocals, OTC eyeglass lenses won't work. In that case, you can still buy a pair of over-the-counter glasses to save money on the frames and then take them to an optician or eye doctor, such as Eye Tech Optical, to have the magnifying lenses replaced with prescription lenses. Although OTC reading glasses vary in the quality of the frames and lenses, many brands offer comparable durability and features as high-quality prescription eyeglasses, but at lower cost.