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Ready-Made Reading Eyeglasses vs. Custom-Made Glasses

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedFebruary 29, 2024

As we age, many find that tasks like reading and using screens become more challenging as our near vision declines. This condition, known as presbyopia, is a natural part of the aging process. It's estimated that around 1.8 billion people globally had presbyopia in 2015, and this number is expected to increase with the aging population. To regain clear close-up vision, eyeglasses provide a simple and effective solution.

When considering eyeglasses to address presbyopia or other vision needs, you have two options: ready-made reading glasses and custom prescription glasses. Both offer vision correction, but critical differences impact cost, convenience, comfort, and suitability for specific vision issues.

This article explores the characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages of ready-made and custom vision correction solutions. It provides insight into key considerations around vision requirements, budget, lifestyle needs, comfort and fit, eye health, personal style, and product quality and durability.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Ready-made reading glasses are convenient, affordable options for simple presbyopia, while custom-made glasses are tailored to individual prescriptions and can accommodate more complex vision issues.
  • Ready-made glasses come in limited strengths and often don't account for differences in head size or pupillary distance, while custom-made glasses are specifically fitted for better comfort.
  • Ready-made glasses may not meet vision quality standards, especially at higher powers, while custom-made glasses use higher quality materials for better durability.
  • Ready-made glasses can lead to eye strain or headaches if the fit or power is incorrect, whereas custom-made glasses are tailored to avoid such issues.
  • Ready-made glasses provide instant, affordable vision correction that may suit occasional use, while custom-made glasses are a better long-term investment for those needing glasses daily.

1. Description and Characteristics

Ready-made reading eyeglasses and custom-made glasses are choices when enhancing your near vision. Each type has unique features and benefits tailored to different needs and preferences.

Ready-Made Reading Eyeglasses

Ready-made reading glasses, or over-the-counter reading glasses, are designed to improve near vision, particularly for tasks like reading or looking at a computer screen. These glasses typically address presbyopia, an age-related condition where close-up vision becomes blurry.

Types of Lenses

  • Single Vision Lenses: These have a uniform magnification across the entire lens and are the most common and easiest to use. Magnification typically ranges from +0.50 to +3.50 diopters.
  • Bifocal Lenses: Bifocal reading glasses have a half-circle magnified lens at the bottom for reading, with the upper part of the lens being non-magnified for normal vision.
  • Progressive Lenses: These provide a smoother transition from non-magnified to magnified vision without a distinct line, offering a more discrete look.
  • Computer (Blue Light Blocking) Glasses: These are designed for screen use, with a focal point adjusted for the typical distance of computer screens, and they often include a blue light filter.

👍 Recommendation

The Blue Cut Blue Light Blocking Glasses offer a comfortable solution for those frequently facing screens, helping to alleviate eye strain and headaches. However, their durability might be a concern due to their somewhat fragile frame and only moderate filtering capability. Nevertheless, they are a solid choice for protection against blue light, combining ease of wear with additional features. For more information on top blue light blocking glasses, check out our Top 8 Best Blue Light Blocking Glasses list.


  • Ready-made reading glasses are convenient and widely available in drugstores and other general retailers.
  • They are typically one-size-fits-all and come with limited strengths.
  • They are an affordable option for those with good distance vision but who need help with close-up tasks​​​​.

Custom-Made Glasses

Custom-made glasses, also known as prescription glasses, are individually tailored to meet the specific vision needs of the wearer. They are particularly beneficial for those with more complex vision issues or different prescription strengths in each eye.


  • Custom-made glasses are tailored to each prescription, ensuring precise vision correction.
  • They can accommodate a variety of vision problems, including astigmatism, myopia, and different levels of presbyopia.
  • These glasses are made with high-quality materials and can include specific features like anti-glare or anti-reflective coatings.
  • They are available in a wide range of styles and designs, offering more options for personalization.

Custom-made glasses are particularly important for those needing more than just simple magnification for reading and correction for multiple vision issues. They are prescribed after a comprehensive eye examination, ensuring that the prescription and the fit are ideal for the wearer's eyes.​

2. Advantages

Choosing between ready-made and custom-made glasses is not just about vision correction; it's also about balancing cost, convenience, and personal style. Here's how each type stands out in terms of advantages.

Ready-Made Reading Glasses

  • Ready-made reading glasses are significantly less expensive than custom-made glasses. This affordability allows users to purchase multiple pairs, which is practical for keeping a pair in different locations like home, office, or car.
  • They are readily available at various retail outlets, including supermarkets and drugstores, providing instant access without needing a prescription or an eye exam.
  • Ready-made glasses are suitable for people who require reading assistance only occasionally. They offer a quick and convenient solution for those who do not have significant vision problems apart from age-related presbyopia.
  • Although the range is more limited than custom-made glasses, ready-made reading glasses come in various styles and designs, providing some degree of choice for the user.

Custom-Made Glasses

  • Custom-made glasses are tailored to the individual’s specific vision needs, providing precise vision correction, which is especially important for those with different prescriptions in each eye or with additional refractive errors like astigmatism.
  • These glasses are specifically fitted to the wearer's facial structure, which ensures a better fit, greater comfort, and reduced risk of slipping, which is particularly important for those who wear glasses for extended periods.
  • Custom-made glasses are typically made with higher-quality materials, producing more durable and long-lasting eyewear.
  • They offer a broader selection of frame styles, lens types, and additional features like anti-glare, UV protection, or scratch-resistant coatings, allowing users to choose glasses that best fit their lifestyle and needs.

3. Disadvantages

While both ready-made and custom-made glasses have advantages, they also have drawbacks. Understanding these can help you make a more informed decision.

Ready-Made Reading Glasses

  • Ready-made glasses generally do not account for individual differences in head size, pupillary distance, or specific lens requirements. This can result in a less-than-optimal fit, leading to discomfort or ineffective vision correction.
  • The range of diopter strengths in ready-made glasses is limited, which may not suit all users. Some studies have found that the optical quality of ready-made glasses, especially those with higher powers, may not meet the required standards. This limitation can affect visual comfort and clarity.
  • Ready-made glasses are not suitable for individuals with specific vision needs, such as astigmatism or different prescription strengths in each eye. They are designed primarily for presbyopia and may not correct other refractive errors adequately.
  • Improper fit or incorrect diopter strength can lead to eye strain, headaches, or blurred vision, mainly if used for extended periods or tasks other than reading.

Custom-Made Glasses

  • Custom-made glasses are generally more expensive than ready-made glasses, which can be a significant factor for budget-conscious individuals.
  • Obtaining custom-made glasses requires an eye examination, selection of frames and lenses, and waiting for the glasses to be manufactured, which can be time-consuming compared to the instant availability of ready-made glasses.
  • The higher cost of custom-made glasses also means that losing or damaging them can be more consequential and costly to replace.
  • Prescription glasses may need to be updated regularly, especially if the wearer's vision changes, leading to additional expenses and visits to the eye care professional.

4. Considerations for Making a Choice

When deciding between ready-made and custom-made glasses, several factors should be considered to ensure you choose the option that best suits your needs:

  1. Vision Requirements: Evaluate your specific vision needs. Ready-made glasses might suffice if you have simple presbyopia and your eyes require the same diopter strength. However, custom-made glasses would be better if you have a more complex vision issue, like astigmatism, different strengths in each eye, or a significant prescription change.
  2. Budget and Cost: Consider your budget. Ready-made glasses are more affordable and might be suitable if cost is a major concern. While more expensive, custom-made glasses offer better quality, durability, and precise vision correction.
  3. Lifestyle and Frequency of Use: Assess how often you use your glasses. Custom-made glasses are a better investment if you need glasses for prolonged periods or activities beyond reading. For occasional or emergency use, ready-made glasses might be sufficient.
  4. Comfort and Fit: Comfort is crucial, especially if you wear glasses for long hours. Custom-made glasses are tailored to your facial measurements, offering better comfort and fit.
  5. Long-Term Eye Health: Consider the long-term health of your eyes. Regular eye exams for custom-made glasses can help detect eye health issues early. Ready-made glasses do not require such exams, which could lead to neglect of underlying eye conditions.
  6. Personal Style Preferences: If personal style and aesthetics are important, custom-made glasses offer a wider variety of frames and lens options to match your style.
  7. Durability and Quality: Consider the quality and lifespan of the glasses. Custom-made glasses usually offer higher quality materials and craftsmanship, which can be more cost-effective in the long run.

Final Words

When choosing between ready-made reading glasses and custom prescription eyewear, there are tradeoffs around cost, convenience, vision correction needs, comfort, and personal preferences. Ready-made glasses provide an affordable, convenient option for occasional reading assistance, while custom glasses offer precise vision correction tailored to each person's eyes and facial measurements.

For those with complex prescriptions or vision issues like astigmatism, custom glasses are often the best way to achieve crisp, comfortable vision. However, ready-made glasses can meet basic magnifying needs at a fraction of the price. Assessing your specific circumstances around budget, eye health, eyewear usage, fit, and style preferences helps determine if off-the-shelf or customized eyewear is the smartest solution.

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FAQs on Ready-Made Reading Eyeglasses vs. Custom-Made Glasses

Can I buy ready-made reading glasses without visiting an eye care professional?

Yes, ready-made reading glasses are available over the counter at various retail outlets, and you do not need a prescription or an eye exam to purchase them.

How can I determine the strength of ready-made reading glasses I need?

You can determine the strength by trying different pairs and selecting the one that provides the clearest near vision without straining your eyes. It's advisable to consult an eye care professional for a precise prescription.

Do I need regular eye exams if I wear ready-made reading glasses?

While regular eye exams are essential for overall eye health, they are not required for purchasing ready-made reading glasses. However, eye exams can detect underlying issues that may require custom-made glasses.

Are custom-made glasses more comfortable to wear for extended periods?

Yes, custom-made glasses are specifically fitted to your facial structure, reducing the risk of discomfort and slipping during prolonged wear.

Which glasses are better for occasional use, like reading a book?

For occasional use like reading, ready-made reading glasses can be a practical choice due to their affordability and accessibility. However, custom-made glasses may be a better option if you have specific vision needs or discomfort.