If you are over about 40 and need reading glasses you can buy ready-made reading glasses (‘readymades’) off-the-shelf from many different shops.

For many people they are not as effective as custom-made glasses but you may find them suitable as a spare pair.

However,  whether or not use ready-made reading glasses, if you are over 40 (which is usually when people start to find they need reading glasses) you still need regular eye examinations to make sure that your eyes are healthy. As you get older, you are more likely to develop eye conditions that do not have symptoms, which are much easier to treat if they are caught early, so we recommend you have an eye check at least every two years after you turn 40.

Why do people need reading glasses?

As you get older the lens inside your eye gets stiffer.  This means that it is more difficult for you to focus on things that are close to you and you have to hold things further away to see them clearly.  This is called presbyopia.  People normally notice this when they are over 40.  When that happens you need reading glasses to bring things back into focus again.

Who is suitable for wearing readymades?

The glasses are designed to correct presbyopia only, so they should be worn if you need glasses only for reading.  They should not be worn for driving or watching television.

Readymades are a ‘one size fits all’, and so the frame may not fit you and you may not be looking through the centre of the lenses, which can cause headaches or eyestrain.  They are also made so that the lenses in both eyes are the same, and so they are not ideal for people who have one eye that is different from the other.  They also do not correct astigmatism (where the eye is shaped more like a rugby ball than a football).

Do you recommend that people wear readymades?

Readymades – for some people – can be useful as spare glasses for doing things like shopping, or keeping a pair in the car for reading maps.  Because they are inexpensive, it is less important if you lose them whilst you are out.  We recommend that – if you need glasses – you have at least one ‘proper’ custom-made pair which you use for most reading, with readymades (if you wish) as additional pairs.  Your custom-made pair will be made to your exact prescription, with the lenses sitting correctly in front of your eyes (so you look through the centre of them), and the frame fitting you comfortably, which will make your vision more comfortable.

Will readymades do me any harm?

The glasses themselves are unlikely to do you any harm, although a recent study by Which? (2010) found that they may not be made accurately.  What is very important is that you do not put off having regular eye examinations – particularly when you are over the age of 40, as some eye diseases such as glaucoma can affect your sight so slowly that you do not notice it in time.  Risk factors for developing glaucoma include being of African or Caribbean descent, over 40 or having a family history of the condition.

Where can I go to get more information?

We recommend that all adults have regular eye examinations, particularly if you are in one of the risk groups for developing glaucoma.  Your optometrist will be able to give you more information about which types of spectacles are most suitable for you, and how often you should have an eye examination.

More information

Download the College of Optometrists information sheet on ready made reading glasses ‘readymades’

The video below should be viewed in conjunction with the text beneath it and preferably watched while your optometrist discusses it with you.

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  • You can buy ‘ready-made’ reading glasses in many shops.
  • However, the frames are mass produced and so may not fit you very well.
  • They assume that the distance between the eyes is the same for everyone …
  • … so the lenses may not be correctly aligned with your eyes.
  • They contain a ‘simple’ prescription …
  • … which is unlikely to be exactly right for your eyes.
  • They have the same lens for each eye …
  • … but many people require a slightly different lens for each eye.
  • Glasses made specifically for you will be more comfortable and give you better vision.