Starting to get eye strain while on the computer or reading up close with contacts? One option is to put non-prescription reading glasses over your contacts. It’s not the most convenient option to correct presbyopia with contacts (more on other options later in the article), but it can be a great option for some people.

Can you wear reading glasses over contacts?

Yes, reading glasses over contacts is a great option for people who need contacts to see better far away, but need an extra “boost” up close.

Our eye’s natural vision is to look far away. There’s a lens inside the eye that changes shape to focus when you look at something up close–like a computer screen, phone, or book. As we get older, the lens loses its ability to change shape and focus up close. That’s where reading glasses can come in.

Does wearing glasses over my contacts hurt my eyes?

The short answer is no. When you wear contacts, it’s typically to make your distance vision better. Adding reading glasses will just relax your eyes when you look up close.

Over-the-counter or non-prescription reading glasses are perfect for this. In some cases, glasses over contacts can strain your eyes. The biggest mistake I’d say I see people make is putting prescription glasses over contacts thinking they need something stronger. In many cases, this actually makes the eyes strain more. In other cases, it’s just the wrong prescription and will make your blurry.

What strength reading glasses do I need with contacts?

You probably know that there are thousands of customized prescriptions for contact lenses, but what reading glasses power you need over contacts is much simpler. The reason is your contacts already correct your prescription. The reading glasses just help give you the focusing power needed to see up close.

So what power do you need? Most people do great with somewhere between a +1.00 to +2.50 reading glasses. The exact power is mostly dependent on your age, the distance you work at, and any special medical conditions or medications that might impact your reading glasses.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll leave out special medical conditions (this would be good to discuss with your eye doctor). Here is a table that gives you a reasonable starting point on what reading power to use over contacts:

AgeReading Power at ComputerReading Power Close Reading
Under 40none or +1.00none or +1.00
Note: these are starting points. Some factors may require a lowered or higher powered reader.

Why do I need reading glasses with contacts?

I touched on this above, but the primary goal of contacts is to make your distance vision as clear as possible. In people without presbyopia (typically people under 40), there is a lens inside the eye that automatically changes the focus of the eye from far away to up close, but the lens slowly loses this ability with time. That’s where reading glasses come in.

Do I have options other than wearing Readers to help my reading?

Yes, there are other options that can help you read without the inconvenience of putting on reading glasses. The newest technology contacts called multifocal contact lenses are my go-to option. These help you focus far and up close, but there are pros and cons (discussed in the article).

Monovision contacts are another option. This is where you have your normal contact lens in one eye to see at distance, but the other eye you put in a contact that is blurry far away but has good vision up close.

The newest option is to wear contacts and use an eye drop that helps temporarily improve you reading or up-close focus.

Are distance contacts with readers worth it?

Contacts with readers is the best option for presbyopia patients who want the clearest possible vision. Unlike multifocal contacts and monovision contacts, there isn’t a compromise in vision with this option.

But while there isn’t a compromise in vision, there is a compromise in convenience. So much of our life now is back and forth between reading up close and looking far away. Taking reading glasses on and off all the time can be annoying. For people that do one thing for a while–like at a stadium watching a game but want to occasionally glance at the phone or on the computer all day but then drive home, they may not mind.

If you want to explore other options, check out our presbyopia contact lens page.

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