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Over-The-Counter Cheaters/Readers: Are these reading glasses helpful or harmful?

Updated on October 5, 2015

Helpful or Harmful?

Over-the-counter readers are abundant. They are sold at just about every drugstore, retail chain, department store, and boutiques. You can even purchase them at Home Depot! You can find any color, any size, and any power in the range of +1.00 to +3.50. These glasses can be purchased without a doctor's prescription.

Is this safe? Is it safe to purchase glasses off a rack without your doctor's approval? Will they harm your eyes? These are questions that I will address in this hub.

Natural Aging Eyes

After the age of 40, the natural eye loses the ability to read up-close. The muscles within the eye lose the ability to accommodate and therefore small print is no longer in focus. This is called Presbyopia. Anything within arm's reach will be blurry, especially if it is tiny print and the lighting is poor.

Getting old is a bummer! But thankfully we can be stylish about it now with reading glasses that don't look like your old grannie's!

Can you read this?

Are you having trouble reading this website? You just might need to purchase some of these readers!

One Size Fits ALL

The downside to over-the-counter reading glasses is that they are not custom made for your eyes and prescription. If you have astigmatism or if you have a naturally large head (or small head), you will have difficulty finding a pair that suits you well. If you have unequal prescriptions between the two eyes, that will also be a problem when choosing over-the-counter readers because all drugstore readers assume you need the same prescription in both eyes.


1. Over-the-counter readers are one size fits all

2. May cause headaches

3. May cause eyestrain

4. May cause double vision

5. They are made of standard plastic lenses

** Please see your eye care specialist if you are experiencing headaches/eye strain/double vision


1. They are cheap

2. They are stylish

3. They are easily accessible

4. Great for short-term use

How to Choose The Correct Pair of Readers

Taking a look at the broad power range of readers offered over-the-counter can be overwhelming. What power do you need? Read below to find tips on selecting the correct power for your eyes.

See Your Eye Care Professional

It is important to have annual eye examinations not only to check your vision but also to check the health of your eyes. Many eye diseases are silent diseases that can only be detected by you eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist). In addition, many uncontrolled systemic diseases can be detected and initially diagnosed by a simple eye exam. Examples are not limited to, but include: diabetes, multiple sclerosis, hypertension and rheumatoid arthritis.

Eye Doctor Approves

It is okay to ask your eye doctor if he/she recommends drugstore readers for you. Don't be embarrassed to ask (they get this question all the time and know that patients are purchasing whatever is more affordable). The eye care professional will be able to assess best if you will do more harm than good by purchasing cheap readers.


Readers are called "cheaters" for a reason. They are designed to assist your vision and not to replace your prescription glasses. Cheaters are one size fit all solutions to help aid your blurry upclose vision.

What is a PD?

A PD measurement is the distance between your pupils and varies from one individual to another so these standard readers will not have your appropriate measurements. You will not be looking through the optical centers to achieve the best vision if your true PD measurement is larger or smaller than the standard provided by over-the-counter readers.

© 2013 harmony155


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    • harmony155 profile image

      harmony155 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Lol! At least he's protecting his eyes in bed from projectile objects!!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      This was helpful, harmony155. My husband and I are both "better than 40" and he has resisted going to the eye doc for a prescription. The other night I caught him reading a book using "cheater" industrial safety glasses from work (the ones with the built in side shields). Oh, for heaven's sake. I'll send him to the drugstore then make him call the eye doc. Thanks for answering this important question.

    • harmony155 profile image

      harmony155 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      teaches12345: Glasses are the new fashion accessory for sure!

    • harmony155 profile image

      harmony155 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      fpherj48: You always find a way to make me laugh! But yes, cheap readers allow you to keep them in every nook and cranny of the house! Good thing they sell them at the dollar store :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      My sister has an assortment of these reading glasses. They do help, but mostly she loves to be stylish and the glasses make her feel chic. Good article on this topic. You made it sound so interesting!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Glad you asked. I actually did speak to my eye Dr. about these "Readers".....he said that since they're used as they are, FOR reading only, for shorter periods of time.....they are just fine. If I'm reading for hours...or like now, in front of the screen, I use only my prescription lenses........

      But, I have to be realistic, harmony......cannot read a THING without. OK? Well.....I finally realized I needed a pair or 2 of glasses in every room of the house, plus my car.....I certainly can't afford to buy a dozen pair of prescription lenses!...So...I have "readers' EVERYWHERE! 2 in the kitchen (recipes), a pr. in each bathroom(medication directions)....bedroom (reading)....TV room..(TV Guide)......get the picture??!! I got ANGRY after chasing down my glasses every 10 minutes, all over the house. BTW....I have every color of the rainbow!......Need a pair?? LOL.....Great info here! UP+++ Forget the "thingies" that hang around our neck! I hate those!! lol