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If you need a little extra help reading the Sunday paper — or your favorite book at night — reading glasses might be just what you need.

Have you noticed lately that the words on the menu of your favorite restaurant menu, book or newspaper are starting to look blurry? It might be a sign that you need a pair of reading glasses.

But where should you start? And can you stop by the drug store to get a pair or do you need a reading glasses prescription? Here’s what you need to know:

Why do you need reading glasses?

Most people typically need reading glasses after the age of 40. While the exact age may differ for everyone, it is a normal part of healthy aging.

“As we get older, our eyes get less flexible,” says Dr. Judith Bianchi Bowser, Director of Optometry at Geisinger Woodbine. “This means it’s harder for them to focus on things that are close to us.”

The first sign that you need a pair of readers? That you’re holding your reading material farther away from your face to make out the words. You may also notice that your eyes feel tired more quickly after reading and may also experience headaches.

Shopping for the right pair of readers

If you’ve noticed you’re struggling reading, take a trip to a local store or optical shop that sells nonprescription reading glasses, and bring something to read with you.

“Start with the lowest power of glasses first,” says Dr. Bowser. “Nonprescription reading glasses usually range from +1.00 to +4.00, raising increasing in increments of +0.25, so start with the lowest and work your way up until you’re able to read easily.” The prescription power you need will increase between age 40 and 65 as your eyesight continues to change.

You’ll want to make sure that you can read at a comfortable distance. If you’re holding something out too far away to be able to read it, try on a pair of glasses with a higher number. If you find that two different prescription powers feel the same, and that you can read well with both, choose the pair with the lower number.

When you’ve found one that works well, consider buying extra pairs to keep around the house or in your car. You should have these on whenever you’re reading to avoid straining your eyes, which can lead to headaches, so having spares around that you can use when you need them can really come in handy.

“Take time to choose pairs that suit your style as well,” says Dr. Bowser. “Your reading glasses will become a part of your everyday life, and just like a pair of prescriptions lenses, a hat or a shirt, they should reflect your personality.”

When should you see your doctor?

If you bought a pair of nonprescription reading glasses at a local store and they still aren’t helping, or your vision is getting worse, it’s time to call your eye doctor.

“Your eye doctor can perform tests to properly diagnose problems,” says Dr. Bowser. “From working with you to find the right reading glasses prescription to talking through other treatment options and evaluating the health of your eye, your eye doctor will help you find the best options for your individual needs.

Remember, eye health is important and you should see an eye care professional to make sure your eyes are healthy and working without straining.

Next steps:

Meet Dr. Judith Bianchi Bowser
Learn more about eye care at Geisinger
Here’s how to protect your eye health as you age