/ Health, Home & Energy

Ready-made glasses can be a real headache

Glasses on news papers

It might not just be the small print that’s giving you a headache – it could be your ready-made reading glasses. Should it be so easy to buy something that could give you headaches and make you see double?

Like me, you might have thought that cheap off-the-peg glasses were a useful boost for a short read.

But now that we’ve investigated these glasses I’m much more concerned about relying on a more powerful ready-made pair.

Our expert said higher prescription ‘ready-readers’ aren’t suitable to wear when moving about, so buying them to save getting paint splashes on expensive eye-wear might not be money so well spent. Well, they are reading glasses after all.

Off-the-peg glasses are inexpensive and a tempting way to save cash. I can understand why spending less than a fiver is far more appealing than the cost of an eye test and a trip to the optician, especially when you only need glasses at odd times of the day.

After seeing the Which? expert’s findings, I’m still happy to use lower prescription ready-readers now and then. But the results on some of the higher prescription glasses (+3.50 or +4.00) made me worry that I might strain my eyes if I started to use them.

I’d hate to think of people getting into the habit of using powerful ready-made reading glasses all the time – half the 14 pairs we bought had problems.

These glasses are easy to pick up on the high street while you’re out doing your day-to-day shopping, so any of us could take home a headache with our new cheap ready-readers. But I don’t think you should risk picking up eye strain, blurred vision, or double vision along with your shampoo or socks.


I agree – Both my eyes are different – but a few years ago I bought a pair of reading glasses “off the peg” – they were a disaster.

I bought a pair of vari-focal specs which were fine. Now I have one long and one short sighted specs – as I rarely need reading specs any more..

John J. Jones says:
6 February 2015

I have bought prescription glasses from Spec Savers and Tescos with top of the range lens, and they are a real pain. They are Variofocal, and for distance they are a pain in the butt. At Spec Savers I got my money back. At Tescos they replaced them with the same poor results. So, so much for Prescription Glasses ! I have given up and just put up with the discomfort.


I want to keep this important product.

20 years ago, following headaches after becoming a mature student (lots of reading) I was prescribed weak glasses (1.5 dioptres) just for reading.

I got a job computer programming, sitting at a screen for 10 hours a day. On retest, my optician upped the reading prescription to 2.5, and prescribed 2.5 dioptre long range glasses. She persuaded me to buy expensive bifocals, the magnifying part of which did not cover my full reading field. The glasses were soft plastic (presumably so they can be “ground” at the opticians), and after 18 months were covered in scratches.

On the web I found the Better Vision website in the USA, and bought their very reasonable on-line book based on the Bates Method (developed in the last war to improve the vision of sailors etc., I believe). Two exercises worked well for me: Near-Far focussing, and eyeball-rolling using a clock-shaped imaginary chart. Initially eyeball-rolling was very painful and my eyes watered, so I used the weaker exercise on the chart where you fixate on numbers around the clock. My extra-ocular muscles had clearly wasted away. After a month I could roll my eyes properly, and I experienced a new “panavision” effect where details in the corners were brightly coloured and sharply in focus.

How can extra-ocular muscles affect visual accuity? The answer seems to lie in micro-saccades, which have only recently been researched. I threw away my long-range glasses, and could now read road signs and car number plates without them.

I bought the Better Vision exercise aimed at reading without glasses, but could never quite manage that, butI did go down to a 1.0 dioptre for reading, switching to 1.5 dioptre at the end of the day, when tired and in poor light.

Work pressures since have had me on 1.5 dioptres all day, but I never need long-range glasses. Road maps and telephone directories in bad light do demand 2.5 dioptres, but that need is infrequent.

I think it is important to exercise and challenge your eyes, not just to take on prescriptions for
increasingly stronger glasses (some recent research suggests that stiffening of the joint at the base of the ciliary muscle where it is fixed to the eyeball, is what causes presbyopia with age).

I can do all this only because I can buy cheap reading glasses. I found that Foster Grants at £15 were the best, but recently market stalls sell quite good ones at £5 for 3. These are either glass or harder plastic, and do not scratch easily. After 9 months the frame hinges break and I throw them away. There are a lot of poor specs on sale, and you have to choose carefully. This has been my habit now for over 6 years, and I must have saved £400 or more. I am 60 years old.


what a load of rubbish.Hope youget your eyes tested otherwise you may havesaved money but be lind by time you are 68


I reply to the reply to me, by nsp.
If you think I am talking rubbish, please follow my ongoing conversation with HiDEye.
I provide references to refereed, published books and papers. Nobody else has bothered to do this.That is part of the scientific method by which truth is arrived at.
Please provide references to prove your claim that my posting is “what a load of rubbish”.
I suspect that you have been brainwashed by the publicity of chain opticians who just want to sell you expensive glasses.

Graham says:
17 September 2011

Anybody reading this post should ignore it completely. I have a degree in optometry and can confirm that it is riddled with inaccuracies and (quite frankly) total garbage. And I would implore the author to ensure that he/she is having regular eye exams to rule out the possibility of eye disease.

suki lyonson says:
26 October 2010

I am 83, I am still working in a profession which requires reading and long distance vision, I drive every day in London, day and night. The last time I had optician prescription glasses was 27 years ago. All I got for my vast expenditure was a bad headache. Since then I buy off the peg for £5-£6 a pair. Why should I pay up to £250 for a piece of bent wire? It’s high time this rip off was under the supervision of a statutory body to protect the public from this overpricing. I recently saw an advert on a London red bus, take your prescription to these people and pay £15 to have the specs made up and framed.


lets hope you are not using off the shelf ones for driving as that is dangerous you could run over a child because you cant see properly. Your insurance is void if you have an accident wearing them just to save a few pennies you put other road users and pedestrians at risk. Sounds like you are the selfish one.
Lets hope the peole you see in your profession do not take the same attitude as you

HiDEye says: