Ready-made spectacles

The College's position on ready-made spectacles

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The College’s position

For some patients, ready-made spectacles can be useful as a spare pair of reading glasses. As 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. For this reason, if a patient needs reading glasses, we recommend that they should have at least one custom-made pair, which is made up to their exact prescription and facial measurements.

How we arrived at this position

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.

When we were asked to comment on the Which? report findings, we felt that although the report did highlight an important issue, the survey on which it was based was too limited to provide any solid conclusions. Therefore, we commissioned a team at the University of Bradford, led by Professor David Elliott, to carry out some additional research

Professor Elliott’s team 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.

Impact on patients and practitioners

Patients should be told that ready-made spectacles are designed to correct presbyopia, so they should be worn only as reading glasses. They should not be worn for driving or watching television. Ready-made spectacles are a ‘one size fits all’ product; as a result, the patient may find that the frame does not fit particularly well, and the patient may not be looking through the centre of the lenses, which may cause headaches or eyestrain.

Ready-made reading spectacles do not correct astigmatism and 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, although they may well be fine as a spare or additional pair. Wearing them will not do the patient any harm.

We would therefore recommend that if a patient needs reading glasses, they should have at least one custom-made pair, which is made up to their exact prescription and facial measurements. This can then be used for most reading. The patient can then use ready-made spectacles as spare or additional pairs if they wish.

The College has published a patient factsheet on ready-made spectacles that can be downloaded and used by our members. Patients can also be referred to our Look After Your Eyes website.

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