When you start to struggle to see the words on a page or menu, it’s time to buy reading glasses.
This usually happens in your 40s as a result of the age-related condition presbyopia, caused by the lens in the eye losing its flexibility and becoming stiff.
As a result, the eye finds it harder to switch from focusing on things at a distance to small close-up images, such as print.
Thankfully, most people can get away with glasses bought from the High Street or supermarket. Some of these ‘ready readers’ cost as little as £1, but are they any good?
We asked Brendan O’Brien, an optician from Vision Direct (visiondirect.co.uk), to test and review a selection. Based on his assessment, we then rated them. The lens strength refers to the magnification of the glasses.
£3.49, lens strength: +2
Although the strength of these was correct, there was a major problem with the optical centre of each lens — the area you are meant to look through and which should be level with your pupils.
Age: Most people need glasses in their 40s as a result of the age-related condition presbyopia, caused by the lens in the eye losing its flexibility and becoming stiff
In this pair, the distance was 66 mm from each side of the lens, which is 4mm too wide (it should be 62mm). It means your eyes would tire quickly while wearing them.
This blue pair of unisex specs has a small frame, so would pinch the bridge of the nose in people with larger features. It’s generally worth trying on a few pairs before buying to see if you can read in them and whether they feel right. 4/10
POUNDLAND EASY READER SUNNIES
£1, lens strength: +3.5
For just £1, these sunglasses with reading lenses are a good choice. The power in the right eye lens was slightly out, at +3.62, but that’s not enough to cause any issues to the wearer. The optical centres in the lenses were spot on.
You want the wearer to look through the very centre of each lens to obtain the best vision possible. That’s because the magnification varies slightly moving away from the centre of the lens and can cause distorted vision.
The frame is small, so may feel uncomfortably tight across the temples and ears for someone with a larger head, but overall these are sturdy.
The darkened lenses lessen the brightness and make it easier to read outside on a sunny day, but I’m not sure whether they offer any protection from the sun’s rays. 7/10
Range: Most people can get away with glasses bought from the High Street or supermarket
£4, lens strength: +2.50
One of the arms on this ‘Harry Potter-style’ frame was very wobbly, which wasn’t a great start. The lens strength was slightly out — +2.62 in the right eye — and the optical centres were out by a country mile — 6 mm from the side of each lens and by 2 mm from the top, too.
If you wore them you’d get sore eyes and probably a headache after a while. That’s because your eyes would not be aligned as they should be and would have to work harder to focus.
These frames were designed for a fashionable look rather than functionality — and given they arrived wonky, wouldn’t last long. 1/10
£3.99, lens strength: +2
There’s a small sticker on the lens which says ‘tech’, but I have no idea what these green plastic glasses offer that’s unique. The strength of the right eye was +2.37, a lot higher than the left lens strength, +2 as stated. This significant imbalance means wearers would suffer tired and uncomfortable eyes if worn for prolonged periods.
The optical centre was out by 2mm, which is not ideal. Though this would satisfy standard regulations, in sensitive people it may cause eye strain, headaches or a feeling that the eyes are pulling.
They are quite well-made and have nose pads for added comfort. 4/10
SIGHTSTATION AT BOOTS
£20, lens strength: +2
These were the most expensive pair we tested, but you get what you pay for.
The strength of the lenses was as stated and the optical centres line up with the eyes. Like all ready readers, they shouldn’t be used for long periods as they probably don’t fit your prescription exactly.
Using ready readers long-term causes eye strain, so do get yourself tested by an optician for an accurate assessment of the lens strength you need.
Would you wear them? Designer glasses can be expensive, but supermarkets sell them for £1
The arms join at sturdy spring joints which may feel tight at first but it means they are more secure on the face and shouldn’t slip down your nose. If they did slide down, the lens would be closer to what you are reading than it should be, which effectively increases the lens strength. This would put strain on the eyes and cause headaches. 9/10
£2, lens strength: +2
These flimsy plastic frames were no good at all. Although the power of the lenses was as stated, the centre was out by 3mm from the side and by 1mm from the top — this means the wearer would not be looking through the correct part of the lens and the eyes would suffer.
The quality is poor and these probably wouldn’t last long if left in a handbag without a hard case.
They also didn’t come with any instructions, which are necessary as many people think they can wear ready readers for driving or watching TV — but they are only suitable for reading, nothing else. 3/10
EYELEVEL AT TK MAXX
£7.99, lens strength: +3
Both lenses in these red frames were of a higher strength than they should be — the right was +3.12, while the left was a +3.5.
Having reading glasses that were too powerful would make it even more difficult for the eyes to focus. The imbalance could also cause dizziness and the eyes will feel sore after wearing them.
The optical centres were out by 2mm from the side, which could cause discomfort. I also found the lenses were heavy and not securely fitted, so may fall out or make them slide down the user’s nose.
If you need higher-strength, thicker lenses, go for a sturdier frame with spring sides rather than a hinge with a screw. 4/10
£7.50, lens strength: +2.50
The centres in these glasses were out by 2mm, but this isn’t too concerning and the lens strength was correct.
Good buy! These spectacles from Sainsbury’s were rated one of the better options
Most people have a different prescription for each eye — ready readers assume both eyes have the same needs — so I always recommend that patients see an optician before buying any reading glasses.
Saying that, having the incorrect strength glasses would not cause any major issue, but would be uncomfortable. For the price, these were a good buy.8/10
POUNDLAND EASY READER
£1, lens strength: +1.5
These lenses were actually +1 in each eye, not the stated strength. The optical centres were out by 6mm, too. Together these would cause lots of discomfort and eye strain for the user.
The nose pads were also at different heights, meaning these black nickel glasses would sit crookedly, and the metal used could cause skin irritation — if you have sensitive skin opt for a frame made from titan- ium instead.
The frames were quite a small fit, too, so they might not work for everyone. 2/10
READYSPEX AT LLOYDSPHARMACY
£4.99, lens strength: +2
This tortoiseshell frame is probably more suited to a female than male user as the lenses are quite small and would fit a smaller face; but they are well-built with sturdy, spring joints. The lens power in both lenses was accurate but the optical centre was out by 2mm, so they may cause some eye strain if used over a sustained period. 8/10
FOSTER GRANT AT SUPERDRUG
£12.50, lens strength: +3
The prescription and optical centres were all bang on in this stylish rimless pair.
These are near enough perfect ready readers. Rimless frames can sometimes feel flimsy but these seemed professionally put together and with decent spring-loaded hinges, so would stay in place better and keep their shape for longer. 9/10
YAKIRA EYEWEAR AT ASDA
£2, lens strength: +2.5
The prescription for the right lens was +2.62 when it should have been +2.5 (as it was in the left). This is within the accepted level for ready readers sold in Britain, but it would mean the glasses are slightly too strong.
The optical centre is also out by 2mm from the side.
Together, these inaccuracies could lead to eye strain as they make your eyes work harder to focus in the centre of the lens that offers the best vision. They have a screw-type fitted hinge, which is not very resilient. 5/10