Prescriptions for some eye glasses but not others?

Why can far-sighted people buy reading glasses at the corner store without a prescription, but near-sighted folks have to pony up for a prescription if they want to buy glasses?

If it is just a racket to protect eye doctors, why did the reading glass crowd get and exception?

I don’t think you need a doctor’s prescription to buy eyeglasses (like for drugs) but you have to at least know what the prescription is, and most people don’t.

Also, there is a difference between the need for reading glasses, which are generally designed for presbyopia, and farsightedness. I think for presbyopia, reading glasses are basically magnifying glasses (that’s what mine seem like). For farsightedness I think they are tuned differently and I don’t think cheap reading glasses would be best for that.

All that being said, I still don’t know why glasses for near-sightedness are very expensive whereas I can get a 3-pack of readers at Costco for $15.

“Reading glasses” are just generic magnifying lenses. They don’t correct vision, but they can make it easier to read for some people.

Farsighted people who need glasses to see properly require a prescription for corrective eyewear, same as anybody else. The racket is not there to protect eye doctors, it’s because every pair of eyes requires a unique index of refraction, and frequently a slightly different one for each eye.

Nearsighted prescriptions provide three numbers: spherical, cylindral, and axis measurements. The latter two correct for astigmatism. Reading glasses only provide the equivalent of spherical. Many people can get away with fudging these numbers with reading glasses.

You can go to an online eyeglass store and put in fake numbers and they will send you glasses, you dont need an actual prescription. By US law, you need a prescription to buy contact lenses, however.

And eye doctors (optometrists) don’t just give you a prescription. They also diagnose potentially dangerous vision problems.

I think you have the terminology wrong. Nearsighted people need glasses that make things further away bigger. Far sighted people need glasses that make things close up smaller so they can see them.

All glasses ‘‘correct’’ vision. It could be a marketing thing. I think there are more near sighted people than far sighted people. Many people need about the same positive correction in both eyes. Thus they can go to WalMart and buy some +1.00, +2.75, +3.00, etc. cheap and they have close to what they need. Why WalMart doesn’t stock -1.00, etc., I can’t say. If it is a legal thing, it likely varies from state to state.

I wonder if you can buy negative readers in Japan where farsightedness is more common?

There is always a conflict between good and excellent. Some people may be able to get close to what they need with the cheap readers. It may not be quite right, but they can see much better with them.

Now there are all sorts other corrections besides the plus and minus. There is cylinder. It changes the height or the width. Astigimatism causes a distortion in one area.

It would be Ideal if everybody had their prescription read and the exact prescription dispensed. With modern equipment, a lightly trained person can read prescriptions in seconds. I do it all the time. The computer determines how bad the problem is and if the person need to see a doctor. I pass on its recommendation.

Related curiosity:

I had a pair of glasses some years ago with the astigmatism correction 180 degrees off.

Biggest problem with them was the colored halos around lights, (Florescent lights would have a yellow glow on one side of the fixture, and a blue glow on the other. And also, items on a shelf that really were level, if they were different colors, would not look level to me.

Weird glasses, and surprisingly difficult for everyone involved to figure out what was wrong with them.

Not true. I am nearsighted. I don’t wear glasses (contacts actually) to make things look bigger. I wear them to make things look sharper. Things don’t look any bigger with glasses on than without.
Far sighted people also wear glasses to make things sharper, not smaller. How would making things appear smaller help?

When I am picking through a pile of old glasses, I try to find a reliable way to sort out the readers and prescription. Never mind why I am doing that. If you look at the writing on a box a few feet away through a pair of readers, if through both lenses the writing is larger, undistorted, and both are about the same, they may be readers. If unalike, smaller or distorted, they are prescription.

Yes. It’s a very confusing terminology that used to include ‘long sighted’ for people who can see things a long way away, but not up close.

I’ve often wondered the same as the OP. It’s nothing to do with how complex the prescription is, because + vision people have multiple spectacle needs just as often as - vision people do. Not that many + spectacle wearers need astigmatism corrected, but, equally, not that many - spectacle wearers need bifocals.

Yet I have to take my daughter to the optician to get her simple -3 glasses (that the dog keeps eating, costing her days of school every time) while walking past +3 glasses for a couple of quid at the chemist’s.

Even with a plus, children’s readers are rare.

It’s not just about the lens power. Lenses have an optical center that needs to be properly placed, usually directly in front of the pupils when looking straight forward. It’s been a few years since I worked in optical so I don’t have access to tolerance charts anymore, but if I remember correctly at -3 diopters there’s only about 3-4mm of tolerance horizontally.

OTC readers are given a pass because they’re not meant to be worn constantly, but incorrectly fitted lenses worn continually can cause problems ranging from eyestrain to headaches to double vision.

This is why, IMHO it’s a really bad idea to buy eyeglasses online. You have to have the patient’s smiling face right in front of you to make sure they’re properly fit.

Just recently I had cataract surgery and had my prescription filled at Wal-Mart. The prescription is for bifocals and astigmatism correction. The cost, including a new frame, was $65. So, how is that “very expensive”? I checked with the optician in my optometrist facility as to the price of glasses there. She said they start out at $185. Adding items, such as shatter-resistance and progressive lenses (no-line bifocals) would add to the price, but not all that much. I don’t know why there’s such a marked difference between what the optician in an optometrist’s place or an optician at Wal-Mart (or equivalent place, such as Costco) charge. I do know the frame accounts for some of the difference. The last pair of glasses I bought (before the cataract surgery) cost me $600 from my optometrist’s office. At that time, he did not have an optician on hand, but had to send out to have the glasses made; however, the frames were titanium. The shatter-proof glasses came in handy several times, once when my frame was bent, but the lenses did not shatter. Wal-Mart can add shatter-proof and progressive and the price for these added features are not that much.

I do, having some experience in the field, but was refused by two shops in 2 states long ago when I wrote out what I wanted. I had to go to an optician and pay him to write down what I wanted. If that isn’t a racket, I don’t know what is.

They certainly do correct (or alter) vision; all lenses do. Plus lenses are used to correct for farsightedness (too short an eyeball), minus lenses, nearsightedness (too long an eyeball). If a lens didn’t correct vision, it wouldn’t be of any use.

Why reading glasses get a free pass, I don’t know.

I think you meant that you had to go to an optometrist. The optician is the one that makes the glasses.

To add to my prior post, Wal-Mart charged $10 for the frame and sells single vision glasses for $39. In addition, I’ve seen ads for a second pair of glasses free, with the initial pair costing about $39. from various places.

I had my 2nd cataract surgery 2 weeks ago and went from that-eye-blind to 20/10. The surgeon said I would need only readers. The optometrist though is going to write an Rx so I can buy glasses (other eye has an astigmatism) assumedly at their shop. he Rx glasses with bells & whistles after last surgery cost $800 (I had discounts and insurance for most of it). One more optometrist exam and then I plan to get readers.

Once you have a prescription, you can buy proper prescription glasses online, from quite a few sites, very much cheaper than you can get them from a brick and mortar optician (in the U.S.A. anyway), who charge you exorbitant prices, ostensibly for the frames. (Yes, Wal-Mart is cheaper than most, but online is considerably cheaper still.)

By law (again, in the U.S.), the optometrist has to give you a copy of the prescription if you ask. However, the prescription does not include one important bit of information, the distance between your pupils (usually measured by the salesperson, rather than the actual optometrist), and they will generally refuse to give you this information. This is what Doug K. is referring to, and the information is withheld quite simply so that they can extort their high prices from you. Once you have this measurement, and the prescription proper, it is perfectly fine, and very much cheaper, to buy online (as I have successfully done on a couple of occasions now).

Measuring your interpupillary distance, however, does not require special equipment or any very great skill. All you need is a ruler marked in millimeters (indeed, that is all the optician generally uses), and there are several webpages that provide instructions as to how to do it, although, in my experience, the methods suggested for doing it yourself are very tricky and probably unreliable. If you have someone to help, however, it is very easy, and the method you are using (a ruler held to the bridge of the nose, and squinted at appropriately) is just the same as that used by the “professionals”. My teenage daughter did it for me.

This blog site, incidentally, is full of information about buying glasses online, and even provides coupons that can save you even more money at several of the actual sites where glasses are actually sold. (Yeah, very likely it is not a real blog, but just a marketing exercise, but the savings you get at any of the sites it recommends, and others, are very real.)

I have a regular optometrist who, at one time, stocked frames and sent them out to have the prescription filled. As I said, he charged $600 once. The lady who is his office person is a lady I used to run with. She said that he had a very high mark-up on the frames. She had urged him to lower the prices because people were going elsewhere where they could buy them cheaper and get BOGO, but he wouldn’t do it. This optometrist finally got his own optician in the facility (and, moreover, he sold it to a new optometrist).

They were very good in getting adjustments to my glasses over the years, including replacing nose pieces, screws, etc. without charge. I’ve found that glasses get loose because they need new nose pieces. If you buy on line, you cannot get that service. I don’t know how good Wal-Mart will be with their service, but they probably would adjust them, replace a lost screw, etc. with no charge either.

I’m now on my second pair of glasses since the cataract surgery. I will see my opthalmologist in May for another check-up and, probably, a new prescription. This opthalmologist told me that he would put in lenses that would correct my astigmatism and correct one eye only to around 20/60 so that I could read without glasses. He said if that didn’t work out, he would re-do it. I’m quite disappointed that it hasn’t worked out as he said and he’s not going to re-do it. He blames it on my previous radial keratotomy I had in 1991, which, he said, is the cause of my astigmatism (2.25 diopters) and that it cannot be corrected. Medicare covered the basic cost, but I had to pay an additional $500 an eye for “the orange light” he had to use because of the RK, and I thought that would take care of the astigmatism. Anyway, what’s done is done, and I can see well now with my glasses. Glasses were not able to correct me to 20/20 due to the cataracts.

Medicare will pay for one pair of glasses within one year of the cataract surgery. After my check-up in May, if that’s the final check-up, I will get a pair from my optometrist, with all the bells and whistles, because Medicare will cover it.

Anyway, you cannot get service from an online place. Wal-Mart and several others offer glasses quite cheaply, often with the second pair free, and you will get them serviced when you need it, which you will.

As far as needing a prescription is concerned, I don’t know. I’ve had glasses made from a shard of glass after I broke my glasses when I was young. The prescription can be taken from any shard of glass. In any event, as previously noted, the eye doctor must, by law, give you the prescription for eyeglasses, but does not have to for contacts.

I wonder if another related factor is that people wear magnifying glasses for reading and other up-close work but they wear distance-correction for driving and similar activities. If you screw up your selection of magnifying glasses you might give yourself a headache and add an extra element of challenge to cross-stitching, but if you screw up the correction of your distance vision you could cause serious injury to yourself and others. Also, I know the lenses of my glasses are different strengths, and that’s not something I could get from an off-the-shelf pair of glasses. Again, probably not a problem if I needed them for reading, but potentially disastrous when driving.

Or it can be read off of an existing pair of glasses by an optical shop. They find the center of each lens (with an optical reader), mark it with a spot of water-soluble ink, then use the same ruler to measure the distance between dots. At least that’s the way we used to do it.

It’s because they are, as friedo pointed out, just magnifying lenses that you wear on your nose instead of holding in your hand.