Computer Glasses vs. Reading Glasses

man wearing computer glasses in front of laptop

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Are Computer Glasses and Reading Glasses Different?

Although there is some overlap in their use, computer glasses are not the same as reading glasses. Computer glasses are meant to protect your eyes from excessive blue light emanating from digital screens. They’re often paired with readers or prescription lenses, but you can also get blue-light blocking plano lenses with no magnification or prescription.

Reading glasses don’t normally come with a blue light blocker since they’re meant for reading non-digital surfaces or doing up-close activity. They provide predetermined magnification to assist with your near vision when focusing becomes difficult.

Computer Glasses

computer screen light reflecting off glasses

Computer glasses are quite helpful if you spend a ton of time staring at a computer screen. If you’ve ever experienced tired eyes, headaches, or have trouble sleeping at night, you might benefit from wearing a pair of computer or blue light blocking glasses.

You’ve probably heard that excessive blue light is harmful to your eyes. While the majority of blue light you’re exposed to comes from the sun, the fact that most of us use digital devices in our daily lives adds even more exposure to our retinas.

Some computer glasses come with a slight power magnification to prevent your eyes from tiring and help you focus in the intermediate range.

Most computer glasses work best for viewing from 20-26 inches away. Reading glasses can be used to view screens, but they are made for up-close (15 inches and less) viewing.

Computer Vision Syndrome

Electronic devices have made our lives easier in many ways, but they can also strain your eyes when staring at them for long periods of time.

Computer vision syndrome is a catch-all phrase for describing various ill-effects you can experience after viewing your computer, tablet, or smartphone screen.

The most common symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Permanent vision degradation (in advanced cases)

Blue Light

blue light

Blue light is one of the detectable colors to the human eye in the visible light spectrum.

It’s a short-wavelength light that gets scattered in the earth’s atmosphere and is one of the reasons the sky appears blue.

Up until the digital age, the only source of blue light was from the sun.

Now, with LED screens on everything from laptop screens and TVs to smartphones and tablets, our eyes are exposed to additional blue light through these devices.

While the jury is out about whether blue light from digital devices contributes to macular degeneration, it’s pretty widely accepted that viewing digital screens of any sort can disrupt your sleep schedule.

Blue light isn’t all bad, of course. During the day, blue light helps your body know that it should be awake. You’ll still get the majority of blue light exposure through the sun, but the cumulative effects of additional exposure through digital devices may cause eyestrain and sleeplessness in the short run and possible vision problems in the long run.

Besides wearing blue light filtering glasses, most phones and computers today have a “Night Mode” setting to dial back the amount of bright light emitting from the screen. If you activate it, you can use warmer yellows and reds that reduce the amount of brightness and blue light.

Best Reading Glasses

Reading Glasses

As the name suggests, reading glasses are designed for use at a comfortable reading distance. In general, you tend to hold books, magazines, and newspapers around 15 inches or so from your face.

Reading glasses come in a couple different flavors. The full lens reader has magnification across the entire lens. This gives you a larger area of focus, but if you like to watch tv or enjoy the sunset while reading, you might find yourself taking your readers off to view distance.

Bifocal reading glasses only provide reading magnification at the bottom of the lens, allowing you to view distance without magnification if you peer through the middle or top area.

While most reading glasses do not have a protective coating for blue light, you can order a pair that does.

Presbyopia (Aging Eyes)

man in glasses holding smartphone at arm's length

Getting older ain’t easy, and one of the reasons is the inability to focus close up sometime after you hit 40.

As you age, the lens in your eyes loses some of its elasticity and clarity. It hardens, making it more difficult to curve and focus on nearby objects.

Presbyopia is different from regular near or far-sightedness that requires a corrective prescription. It’s easy enough to remedy with off-the-shelf or prescription reading glasses.

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Can I use computer glasses for reading?

You can, but it might not be as comfortable reading at arm’s length. Computer glasses are generally meant for focusing at a longer distance away than reading glasses.

Using computer glasses for reading or other activities can lead to eye strain or worse in some cases.

What magnification should I get for computer glasses?

The best way to determine the power you need is to have your eye doctor evaluate your vision. Alternatively, you can do a DIY eye test by printing out an eye chart and placing it at the monitor level to gauge the level of magnification you need.

If you currently own reading glasses, getting a pair of computer glasses at 60% of your reading power is a good rule of thumb.

Are computer glasses worth it?

For sure, they can help ease eye strain, blurry vision, and tension headaches caused by overworking your eyes.

Even if your job doesn’t require you to work with screens, many people spend a lot of their free time online. If you find it hard to fall asleep at night, a pair of blue light glasses can help keep your circadian rhythm in sync.

Eye strain from computers is like smoking or obesity: it affects most areas of your life, not just one. Given this fact, computer glasses are certainly worth considering if you spend a substantial amount of time in front of a computer screen.

Do I need both computer glasses and reading glasses?

It’s possible to have one set of computer/reading glasses that do the job for both functions. It’s a personal choice depending on how comfortable you feel viewing intermediate and near vision with the same power.

However, given how affordable both computer and reading glasses can be, there isn’t a huge barrier to having one of each if you find it easier to use specific glasses for each viewing distance.

The other factor to consider is that blue light glasses often have a yellowish tint on the lens. You might prefer a crystal clear lens for reading if you’re not using a digital device.

Can I wear computer glasses all day?

If your computer glasses have magnification, you should only wear them while facing a screen. Otherwise, wearing blue light-blocking glasses all day isn’t a problem.

Having said that, spending 14-16 hours a day watching a screen is unhealthy regardless of the level of protection, even if the glasses mitigate some of the damage.

Common symptoms of computer glasses overuse can overlap with those of general prolonged eye strain. You can experience a feeling of irritation and discomfort, coupled with nausea and headaches.

In more advanced cases, your eyes will become slightly more myopic with a lessened ability to focus.

1 thought on “Computer Glasses vs. Reading Glasses”

  1. Thanks for pointing out how computer glasses make working in front of PCs for prolonged periods easier. My friend mentioned that he got a job as a junior programmer recently. I think he should consider finding designer glasses for daily use as a preventive measure.


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