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Seeing Clearly Now, With Two Pairs of Specs

As I type this blog I am wearing new glasses designed to help me see when I am reading a book, papers at my desk or items on my computer screen. (Important business -- not just Facebook!)

Jennifer wearing her new distance glasses. (Photo by Jennifer Huget)
I got them on Saturday, the same day I got another new pair of glasses that I'm to use while driving or watching movies.

I can't tell you how pleased I am.

My eyes have felt tired pretty much all the time for several years. I figured I was just squinting at the computer too many hours, maybe not getting quite enough sleep.

So just about a year ago, when I was 47, I got my eyes checked. My eye doctor checked me and listened to my complaints. Then he enthusiastically prescribed a pair of what he called "office" lenses. (I've since learned they're also called "computer glasses.") The top half of the bifocal lens would help me see the computer screen, while the bottom would allow me to shift my focus to papers on my desk. That sounded terrific!

But when I went in to pick up the glasses, I was shocked when I put them on. Okay, I could focus on something a foot in front of me. And I could glance down at the table where I was sitting. But when I turned my head to look at the technician who was helping me, she was a blur. Worse, looking at her for more than a moment gave me a headache.

This wasn't going to work. When I'm working at my desk, I have to look up dozens of times -- to greet, for instance, one of my kids when they come into the room. I couldn't envision ever adjusting, and I sure didn't want a headache every time I looked at my kids. (Well, not because of my glasses, anyway.)

Insurance concerns and scheduling got in the way of my seeking a second opinion right away. I finally saw a different doctor last Friday. He told me that my eyes were changing not because of my staring at the computer all day but simply because I am 48. His solution: One pair of glasses for reading, another for seeing distances.

I spent just a bit more on the two pairs than I had on the "office" glasses. The moment I tried on the distance pair, the world became a different place. I could read signs I hadn't even known were there. Black lettering looked actually black, not a hazy grey. My surroundings looked more three-dimensional than I'd ever remembered their looking.

The new doctor warned me to go easy and not try to walk around in the distance glasses too much at first. I soon understood why: The optics foreshorten close-up items and make the ground to appear to rise up to meet me.

As for my reading glasses, I'm just besotted. Last night I effortlessly read 10 pages before turning off my light to go to sleep. In recent months my bedtime eyes have generally been too tired for more than a page or two.

The lesson learned? I'm not sure. I wish I had pressed the first doctor a bit harder instead of getting caught up in the idea of those fancy "office" glasses -- which, for the record, apparently work well for lots of people.

Any thoughts? Please share your optical adventures!

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  March 25, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  General Health  
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I had bi-focals in second grade and absolutely hated them. Now in my 50s, I refused to get them again because of neck problems that would only be aggravated by using that type of correction. I got distance glasses, which function very well either watching TV or driving. I use an old pair just for doing housework and the computer because they correct for medium distances. And I have a pair of reading glasses (need to get another so I have one on each floor) which invariably put me to sleep after several pages, day or night. The doc tried several corrections and they all make me tired. But I vastly prefer switching glasses to having bi- or tri-focals. If I need to read while wearing the other, non-reading glasses I just shove them down on my nose a tad. Fingers crossed I can continue to get away with this. But what I really want are lenses like a camera has that will auto-focus seamlessly and soundlessly on whatever I am viewing. Is anybody working on such lenses for the aging population?

Posted by: Woodwose | March 25, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I'm 62, and I started developing problems reading things about 10 years ago. My optometrist at the time tried adjusting my contact lenses as best he could, but I constantly needed reading glasses.

Then about 2 years ago I went to the optometrist at the Fairfax Costco. She fitted me with Bausch & Lomb Multi-Focal contacts. It was a miracle. I haven't needed reading glasses since -- not for reading labels, computer work, anything.

If you can wear contacts, these lenses are terrific.

Posted by: Rocketman1 | March 25, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I can appreciate the joy at being able to see clearly. I too visited the opthalmologist two weeks ago to learn that my sight had changed slightly - new glasses in order. Computer glasses, yes. And distance progressive lenses. And at 50, signs of borderline glaucoma. I am concerned enough about the threat of glaucoma to commit to visit the doctor each year as scheduled, which in the past had not been the case. I encourage everyone over 50 to make the trek to an opthalmologist, just for the security of knowing that all is well with eye health. And if by chance you learn that you may benefit from a pair of bifocals, don't be too glum. There are lots of funky frames out this year. Mine are pink.

Posted by: Bennington2004 | March 25, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I have glasses for my PC. The top portion is set for a distance of about 18 inches while the bottom is for reading. They work well for me.

My distance vision isn't that bad,maybe that's why the difference when I look up doesn't bother me very much.

It sounds like an alternative to your two pairs of glasses would be to have trifocals where the topmost part was your long distance correction, the middle the 18 inch correction and the bottom for reading. It can make a person end up looking like their Granny!

Posted by: RedBird27 | March 25, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

You are very lucky! I have visited three eye doctors, and their treatments haven't fixed the eye pain I experience staring at my computer for 8 hours a day at my job. I have purchased 2 pairs of glasses (one for distance, one for my computer) and my insurance didn't cover it. However, I'm still left with my severe eye pain after a day at work. One doctor was quite irresponsible and refused to pay for readjusting my prescription (he even refused to return my calls about the pain his prescription was causing me).

You need to publish an article on the best eye doctors in Washington! Because so far, I'm fed up with optometrists' costly and ineffective solutions.

Posted by: Scully127 | March 25, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Seriously? You're finding it newsworthy that correcting distance vision makes you able to see things far away?

Posted by: ABHFGTY | March 25, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

My 34th birthday present was a prescription for bifocals. I've worn glasses to correct nearsightedness since I was 7, but I wasn't ready to feel as "old" as the idea of bifocals was making me feel, so I got a pair of readers and a pair for distance. I'm 36 now and just got a pair of bifocals because I was tired of having to constantly switch glasses. I still wear the readers for long computer or reading sessions, but the bifocals are a great compromise for me for most situations: I can read if I need to, or I can make eye contact with the world around me.

Posted by: northgs | March 27, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I've been nearsighted most of my life, though the first time I got my eyes examined in childhood the doctor told me my vision was fine. A year later I was really struggling in school, couldn't recognize people from 20 ft. away, and convinced my mother to let me get re-tested, and the new doc said it was clear I needed glasses, and he didn't think there was any way my eyes had deteriorated that much in a year and the first guy had screwed up. I remember well the first time I put on my new glasses at the store -- I freaked! I couldn't believe what I hadn't been seeing for so long.

All was fine for a long time, though I've needed occasional strengthening of my prescription. But as I moved through my 40's, I started having trouble accomodating between near and far. At my job I needed to be able to switch quickly between looking at papers on the desk in front of me, a computer screen a little farther away, and monitors across the room. I could take my glasses off and do the reading and writing on the desk, but then I couldn't read what was on the computer screen or see the monitors at all. It was a real nuisance to constantly be taking my glasses off and putting them back on.

So, after one opthamologist blew me off, I found another who prescribed progressive lenses. They are a god-send! I can see distance out of the top, the middle range out of the center, and I can read out of the lower part of the lens. No switching back and forth.

They are more expensive than regular bi- or tri-focals, but totally worth it to me. I tried one pair of standard bi-focals for a while to save money, but the stark line drove me crazy and I couldn't see the middle distance at all, which messed up computer vision (or reading labels at the grocery store without having to pick up every can or package to move it closer). I really needed tri-focals, but decided to go with the progressive lenses because I didn't have to deal with the lines, plus, since I have to wear them all the time, I think the progressives are more attractive. The only down-side, other than cost, is that to fit the full range of distances onto a lens, it's necessary to have a slightly larger frame than for single-distance lenses. That eliminates some of today's trendy frames, but not all -- I'm pleased with my current ones.

Posted by: sally1860 | March 29, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

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