Over the years, I have experimented with various configurations of glasses for low vision, including different frame styles, lenses, and other styles. Choosing glasses with low vision is a bit different than normal glasses shopping, because I have to factor in things that aren’t necessarily related to my prescription, including eye strain, how easy/quickly I can get glasses repaired or replaced, and similar details. Here are my favorite tips for choosing glasses with low vision, and a more in-depth look at what my glasses for low vision look like.
Low vision does not necessarily mean high prescription
My glasses prescription has changed multiple times over the years as my vision has fluctuated and progressed, but something that often surprises people is that my glasses prescription/power is not a very high number, or as high as they were expecting. That’s because a lot of elements of my vision loss/low vision involve things that are not corrected by glasses or cannot be fully corrected by glasses. I still find it extremely beneficial to wear prescription glasses as they significantly improve my usable vision, but don’t necessarily correct it to 20/20.
- Learning To Explain Usable Vision
- Two of Everything: Living With Double Vision
- How I Respond To Questions/Comments About My Eyes
Where I buy glasses
Since I often need glasses to be repaired or replaced in a short period of time, I’ve been getting my glasses from LensCrafters for over 15 years now. I prefer to use LensCrafters because they can make select glasses prescriptions in an hour and also have on-site lens tinting and repairs. When I broke my glasses while on vacation and another time while at a college event, I was able to get to the nearest LensCrafters easily and have my glasses repaired or replaced for free or at a discounted cost since I had purchased a protection plan- I recommend that everyone with low vision purchase a protection plan since replacing glasses with low vision can get expensive, and it can also be difficult to do repairs independently.
Choosing frames with low vision
When I was in middle school, one of my best friends talked me into this super cool pair of glasses that had bright turquoise accents and were much more fashionable than my previous glasses. While these frames were definitely very cool, they did not work well with my lenses at all and the frames kept breaking- I had to go in for repairs ten different times before accepting that I needed to find a different frame.
I have had great success with Coach prescription glasses frames, as they have held up to high prescription lenses and do not break easily, which makes them worth the higher price tag. Frames can be purchased online and brought to the optician, or purchased directly from the optician.
My current frames are the Coach HC6065 in purple confetti tortoise. I love that I have a pair of glasses in my favorite color!
Lined vs no-line bifocals
I wear lined bifocals for reading, meaning that my lenses are split in half lengthwise- the top half is for seeing things that are far away, while the bottom half is for reading/seeing items up close. These are two different prescriptions, and I find it more comfortable to use lined bifocals over progressive/no-line bifocals that split the lens into three different viewing areas. Personally, I found no-line bifocals to be very disorienting and trigger vertigo, though I am not sure if that is specifically linked to my eye condition or not.
I experience photophobia, also known as sensitivity to bright lights, and find it difficult to focus my eyes when there is a lot of bright lights or glare. I started wearing tinted non-polarized lenses in late middle school/early high school that make it easier for me to handle bright lights and doesn’t impact my ability to use screens like polarized lenses do. Tinted lenses come in a variety of colors and range from a light tint to something that is opaque. Tinted lenses are different than transition lenses, as they do not change color, and are typically available at no additional cost.
To figure out what tint works well for me, I met with a low vision ophthalmologist and an optician to determine what color and tint strength would work best for my eye condition. According to my optician, the lenses I have right now are a level 2 gray tint- my eyes are partially obscured by the tint but are still visible. Since my eyes are not fully visible, I often have to get disability accommodations or approval to wear my tinted prescription glasses in exams or for ID photos.
- How Tinted Glasses Help My Light Sensitivity
- Seven Unexpected Disability Accommodations For Virtual Learning
- Getting a Reduced Fare SmarTrip Card With Low Vision
A note on automatic fitting technology
Some opticians and eyeglass shops use automated fitting technology that involves taking a flash picture or looking at flashing lights, which is disorienting for me as I have a neurological condition triggered by flashing lights. For this reason, I ask that the optician manually take measurements when doing fittings for my glasses instead of relying on technology.
Spare pairs and sunglasses
When getting a new prescription, I don’t purchase spare pairs or sunglasses until I know the prescription will work well for me, since I don’t want to have to get new lenses for multiple frames. I currently use a pair of prescription sunglasses as a spare pair, and I also used this pair when playing in my college pep band so I could block out even more bright lights. Also, if I had my glasses broken at pep band, I would still have my “main” pair of glasses.
After I had eye surgery and needed to wear a different prescription for a few weeks, my ophthalmologist recommended I purchase non-polarized tinted reading glasses and told me which power to order. I wasn’t able to see very far, but this worked well for basic reading tasks in the weeks after my surgery until I got my new prescription.
- My Experience With Decompensated Strabismus Eye Surgery
- Adapting Band Uniforms For Photosensitivity and Sensory Overload
More about my glasses for low vision
- When storing spare pairs or previous pairs, it helps to add a note with the prescription inside the glasses case, as well as the year/date they were prescribed
- Back when I had a prism in my glasses for double vision, my opthalmologist prescribed a removable prism that attached to my glasses lens, which could be used in addition to the permanent prism in my glasses.
- I no longer wear prisms in my glasses following eye surgery. My double vision has not gone away, but the heavy prisms were triggering large amounts of vertigo and eye strain.
- Want to learn how I answer common questions about my glasses? Check out How I Respond To Questions/Comments About My Glasses
- For those visiting my blog for the first time that are confused by the name of this post- Four eyes is an informal term for someone that wears glasses, which is unfortunately often used in the context of teasing. I decided to reclaim the term for my low vision and assistive technology blog, and spell my name with three additional I’s, making myself Veronica with four I’s (eyes)