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Ask Dr. Schauer ~ Why can’t I read with my contacts?

“I wear contacts, but it seems I always have to wear my cheaters to read the newspaper or on my computer. Is this normal? I thought contacts would clear my sight issue. I’m a newbie with contacts, only wearing them for 2 months now.”

The first question that I have for this listener’s question is her age. If she recently reached the age of approximately 42 years old, it could be that her eyes are going through the natural process of presbyopia … and it coincidentally coincides with her recently wearing contact lenses.

What is presbyopia?

Presbyopia is where the focusing system of the eye starts to decrease. This makes things blurry that are close to you, whether it’s your computer screen, your smart phone, or the newspaper.

If this is the case for our listener’s question, then the solution may be to try bifocal contact lenses instead. Or, a person could simply wear “cheaters” over the top of the contact lenses.

What else could be the issue?

It is possible that our listener could have had a prescription change. While she did state she’s been wearing the contacts for 2 months, she doesn’t state how long it has actually been since the eye exam.

It is also possible that our listener could have a focusing problem (if she is under the age of 40). Vision therapy exercises can sometimes help fix this problem with accommodation and the muscles that control it.

Or, it could be that the contact lens power isn’t quite right. What most people don’t realize is that your eyeglasses prescription is usually not the same as a contact lens prescription. And to make things more complicated, contact lenses often are not available in every possible power. For example, if someone’s eyeglasses prescription is -7.00 -2.50x 035 we can easily get that exact prescription in a pair of glasses. But not with contacts. For most contact lens brands, once we get over a -6.00, they only make the contacts in half steps. Because of that, we sometimes have to “fudge” the prescription to get it as close as we can. Plus, we also need to apply a correction factor to the contacts since it is over a -4.00. And… the astigmatism correction (those are the 2nd and 3rd numbers in the prescription) does not come in a -2.50. Most contact lens companies only make a -2.25 or a -2.75.

Long story short, contact lens prescriptions are often not exact and not perfect. Eyeglasses are always custom made with the exact prescription ground into the lenses; but this is not the case for contact lenses. For most people, this does not create an issue. But for some people, that “fudge factor” can truly be the difference between being able to read the newspaper, or not! Sometimes a small adjustment in the contact lens prescription will remedy the problem.

What should our listener do?

No matter what the issue might possibly be, our listener should return to the optometrist she got the contact lenses from and voice her concerns. That way, the problem can be identified and it can be fixed!



Top image by Flickr user N4I (location) used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharelike 4.0 License. Image has been cropped and modified from original. Image rights state commercial use and modifications allowed when image was obtained on 07/18/2017.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.