Ready-made spectacles

Ready-made spectacles can be useful as a spare pair of reading glasses. Because they are inexpensive, it is possible to have several pairs and it matters less if they are lost. However, there is a risk of error in the lenses, especially at higher powers, and their ‘one size fits all nature’ can mean that lenses and frames do not always fit correctly. 

In 2010, a Which? report, and a subsequent trial in 2011 conducted for the Daily Mail, indicated there was a cause for concern about the quality of ready-made spectacles. We felt that the survey on which the Which? report was based was too limited to provide any solid conclusions, and commissioned a team at the University of Bradford, led by Professor David Elliott, to carry out some additional research, which found that:  

  • Only just over half of all the ready-made spectacles studied met the relevant optical quality required by British and European Standards.
  • More powerful ready-made spectacles (those powered +3.50 and above) were more likely to have errors.
  • Many of the spectacles would have been improved if the lenses had been fitted into the frames, so that the centre of the lenses fitted the average UK person.

Ready-made spectacles are a ‘one size fits all’ product.  The patient may find that the frame does not fit particularly well, and so they are not looking through the centre of the lenses, which may cause headaches or eyestrain.  

Ready-made reading spectacles always have the same power in both eyes. This means that unless both eyes need exactly the same prescription, and there is no astigmatism in either eye, ready-made reading spectacles will not be perfect.  However, wearing them will not do the patient any harm, and so they may be fine as a spare or additional pair. 

The College recommends that: 

Patients needing reading glasses should have at least one custom-made pair, which is made up to their exact prescription and facial measurements. The patient can then use ready-made spectacles as spare or additional pairs if they wish. 

Optometrists tell patients that ready-made spectacles are designed to correct presbyopia, and so they should be worn only as reading glasses. They should not be worn for driving or watching television. 

The College has published a patient factsheet on ready-made spectacles that can be downloaded and used by our members.