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What are over-the-counter spectacles?

Over- the-counter spectacles are those that you can purchase over the counter, and are commonly called hobby glasses. They all have one feature in common: the same power of spherical lens for each eye. If your eyes see best with a +2.00 spherical lens in front of each eye then hobby glasses of +2.00 DS will give you good vision in each eye. However if your eyes require a different lens for each eye, e.g. +2.00 DS for the right eye and +1.00 DS for the left eye then these spectacles will give an imbalance in the focusing between the two eyes. If your eyes have astigmatism that requires a cylindrical component to the spectacle lens then hobby glasses cannot correct that refractive error for you. Your vision will not be in perfect focus. Astigmatism comes not only in different powers but also with different axes or direction of the cylinder. This all makes for many combinations.

Are over-the-counter spectacles harmful?

There is no evidence that wearing incorrect spectacles will permanently harm an adult’s eyes. Incorrect spectacle prescription for one or both eyes may lead to eye discomfort and even headaches because of the inappropriate focusing adjustments and eye movements that may occur. You can be sure that if you are happy with the sight through hobby spectacles and you do not develop eye strain symptoms or headaches then they are okay for you.

So why is Glaucoma NZ concerned about hobby spectacles?

Reliance on hobby glasses for many years may lead to many people not having an eye examination before they are well into their 60s or 70s. When you present for an eye examination for reading glasses, the routine eye check should also address your risk factors for glaucoma and whether you have early or advanced glaucoma. This of course will not occur if you always purchase over-the-counter spectacles. Glaucoma NZ would like a warning label attached to over-the-counter spectacles emphasising the need for an eye examination to assess the risk for glaucoma, so that its early detection will prevent serious visual disability in the later years.


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