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Over-the-Counter vs. Prescription Reading Glasses

Are over-the-counter, or non-prescription reading glasses better or worse than the ones you buy at your eye doctor? They’re less expensive, but are they worth it? We tackle the great debate below.

Non-Rx vs. Rx Reading Glasses


  • inexpensive but high quality
  • greater variety of styles & colors
  • quicker & more convenient
  • no appointments or pick-up
  • more specialty items like computer readers & reading sunglasses
  • offer bifocal, aspheric, & high-powered options
  • perfect for those who break or lose glasses easily


  • high quality but expensive
  • selection of designer & brand names
  • customizable to special vision needs
  • can use insurance to purchase
  • no guessing on reading strength
  • offer special lens coatings
  • frame is fitted by professionals

What does “non-prescription” actually mean?

You’ll find over-the-counter (OTC) reading glasses at most pharmacies and online retailers. These are readers that do not require a verified prescription from your eye doctor. However, they still have a specific magnification–typically ranging from +0.25 to +6.00–in each lens, which is called a “power” or “strength”.

Simply put, non-prescription reading glasses do not require a trip to the optometrist. They’re typically much less expensive than readers you’d find at your eye doctor’s office, and they work just as well if you choose the correct magnification. For help finding your reading strength, click here. If you still have questions about whether or not pharmacy, online, or Rx reading glasses are the right choice for you, you can read this guide.

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Disclaimer: All references to “bifocals” herein refer to readers having unmagnified lenses containing a “bifocal style” single powered reading glass insert located in the lower portion of the lenses.


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