Eyeglasses are the safest and simplest way to correct refractive errors.

What are the different types of eyeglasses?

People with different refractive errors need different types of eyeglass lenses to see clearly.

Reading glasses can help people with presbyopia read or see things up close. You can buy reading glasses at drug stores and convenience stores. Even though you can get reading glasses without a prescription, it’s important to get regular eye exams to make sure you’re seeing as clearly as possible.

Single vision prescription lenses correct near vision or distance vision, but not both. If you have nearsightedness, single vision lenses can help you see things far away. If you have farsightedness, they can help you see things up close.

Multifocal prescription lenses correct both near and distance vision. They can help people who have trouble seeing things up close and far away. For example, people who have both presbyopia and nearsightedness can use multifocal lenses for reading and driving.

  • Bifocals correct near vision on the bottom and distance vision on the top
  • Trifocals correct middle-distance vision in between the near and distance vision areas
  • Progressive lenses are multifocal lenses that don’t have a visible line between the near and distance vision areas

How do eyeglasses work?

Eyeglass lenses work by bending light — just like the lens and cornea in your eye. The eyeglass lens bends light to make it focus correctly on your retina (the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye). Different eyeglass lenses can correct different errors caused by problems with the cornea, lens, or shape of the eye.

Glasses make your vision clearer while you’re wearing them — but they don’t change your eyes at all. Wearing glasses doesn’t make your eyes weaker or your vision worse.

How do I get eyeglasses?

If you think you may need glasses, the first step is to see an eye doctor.

Eye doctors can prescribe eyeglasses as part of a regular eye exam. The vision test is simple and painless. Your doctor will ask you to read letters that are up close and far away. Then they may give you some eye drops to dilate (widen) your pupil and check the health of your eyes.

After your eye doctor gives you a written prescription for eyeglass lenses, go to an optician to pick out frames and buy your glasses. Your eye doctor may have an optician working in their office. You can also find opticians in stores that sell glasses and contacts.

If you wear eyeglasses, get an eye exam regularly — as often as your eye doctor recommends. That way, your doctor can make sure you’re still seeing clearly.

Last updated: July 8, 2019