“You’re not wearing your glasses? You’ll ruin your eyes!”
You may have heard something like this before and wondered if it was true.
But then you may have also heard that wearing your glasses every day isn’t good either, as it can weaken your eyes over time.
What are the myths and truths when it comes to wearing prescription glasses?
We answer that question and more in this post.
Start with the Correct Prescription Lenses
Let’s first assume that your prescription is the right one. You’ve been to the optometrist and had your eyes checked, and you received the correct prescription. When you look through your glasses, your vision is clear.
If that’s not the case and you can’t see well, be sure to check back with your eye doctor to see if your prescription may need to be changed.
But for the rest of this article, we’ll assume that your prescription is appropriate for the amount of vision correction you need.
Now that you have your new glasses, the question is: can you harm your vision if you wear them, or if you don’t wear them often enough?
Is It Bad to Wear Your Glasses? Will Your Eyesight Get Worse?
A few years ago, a group of researchers conducted a survey of over 2,000 students to find out how much they knew about eye health and the use of eyeglasses. They found that a common piece of misinformation was that using eyeglasses would further damage their eyesight.
This is a belief shared by many people—that if they wear their prescription glasses, they’ll make their eyes “weak” and their vision worse over time. They fear that the prescription glasses make vision “too easy” for the eyes, creating lazy eyes that will be even more dependent on correction in the future.
From what we know so far from research, this isn’t something you have to worry about. There are no studies showing that wearing glasses worsens eyesight. Some individuals may mistakenly believe this is true because they find they need their glasses more as they age.
But this is because your eyes continue to experience changes over the years—including those that make vision blurry—not because people are wearing glasses.
The bottom line is that if you can see better with your glasses, you can wear them as often as you need to without worrying about damaging your eyes.
You’ll also save yourself some of the other uncomfortable symptoms that can occur when you don’t wear them. We’ll discuss those below.
Is It Bad Not to Wear Your Glasses? Might You Harm Your Eyes?
On the other side of the coin, some people worry that they may harm their eyesight if they don’t wear their glasses all the time.
Again, we have no evidence of this—as long as you are an adult.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the reason to use prescription or reading glasses is “to both make you see better and to reduce eye strain that may cause eye aches and headache as well as fatigue.”
Dr. Hirshfield, M.D., goes on to note that not using the glasses may bring on these symptoms, but it will not damage your eyes.
For children, however, it’s a different story. Research has shown that children who need vision correction and don’t get it may damage their eyesight in the long run.
Is It Bad Not to Wear Your Glasses? For Children, It Might Be
In a trial conducted in Malaysia in 2002, researchers gave one group of children with myopia (where distant objects are blurry) either the correct glasses for their prescription or glasses that left them slightly short-sighted.
They hoped that the glasses with less correction would help the children’s eyes to adjust so they would see better as they got older.
Unfortunately, that didn’t work at all. The children who wore the weaker glasses experienced eyesight that got gradually worse. The results were so startling that the researchers stopped the study early.
Similarly, in a 2011 Cochrane review of studies in children with myopia, the researchers concluded that it is better to give children the correct glasses rather than deliberately trying to under-prescribe.
Benefits of Wearing Glasses for Children
Wearing the right glasses regularly, on the other hand, has shown to provide children with some important benefits. For one, it may improve reading speed.
In a 2014 study of 9- to 10-year-old children, researchers tested reading speed before and 4 to 6 months after giving one group prescription glasses. (The other group did not receive glasses and served as the control group.) The results showed that the group with glasses improved their one-minute reading speed score by 13 percent.
Wearing the proper glasses can also help children avoid developing a squint. In another study of 150 children with hyperopia (in which near objects appear blurry), researchers found that wearing the right glasses helped reduce the risk of developing a squint, which can threaten visual function.
Side Effects of Not Wearing Your Glasses
Though it’s unlikely that not wearing prescription glasses will damage adult eyes or impair vision, it can cause a lot of other negative side effects.
When you don’t wear your glasses, your eyes have to work harder to try to see correctly. Rather than simply settle for poor vision, they will constantly try to focus so that the images you’re seeing will be clearer.
Imagine if you had a camera without auto focus, and you had to see through that camera all day long. You would be constantly adjusting the focus, right? You’d have to turn it to see across the room, turn it again to see your cell phone, turn it again to see the person sitting across from you, and on and on.
You can imagine how tired your hands and arms would be after a full day of doing that!
Your eyes will feel the same if you make them work too hard to focus on the things around you during your everyday life. Here are some of the outcomes you can expect.
Long periods of working to focus will cause eyestrain. This is a common condition that results when your eyes get tired from intense use. Symptoms include sore, tired, burning, or itching eyes, watery or dry eyes, and increased sensitivity to light.
You may experience this after a few hours of not wearing your glasses, or after a full day, depending on how blurry your normal vision is. Your eyes will feel tired and heavy and may ache inside the sockets.
Eyestrain can easily cause headaches. If your eyes are working too hard through the day, don’t be surprised if you end up with a headache in the afternoon or evening. The most common type is a tension headache, which results from the tension in your eye muscles as they tried repeatedly to focus.
If you need prescription glasses and don’t wear them, you will experience blurry vision. When light enters your eyes without being bent through your corrective lenses, your eyes can’t focus correctly. This can lead to problems with reading, doing your job, driving, and more.
Inability to Concentrate
If your eyes are tired and you have a headache from eyestrain, it’s going to be much more difficult to concentrate on your tasks at work. It could significantly slow your productivity and make the work day seem a lot longer than it usually is.
If your eyes feel tired, don’t be surprised if the rest of you feels tired too.
You may have started the day with plenty of energy, but if you force your eyes to work harder than they have to without your glasses, that can lead to eyestrain, which in turn, can make you tired.
You may even have trouble keeping your eyes open once they get worn out, and that can send signals to your brain that it’s time to go to bed—even if it’s the middle of the day.
Increased Risk of Injury
Have you ever noticed that when you don’t have your glasses on, you’re more likely to stub your toe, hit something with your arm or elbow, or even run into something?
The problem is that your eyes aren’t sending your brain the correct messages when it comes to the objects around you and how close or far away they are.
It’s no big deal if all you do is bruise yourself. But if you trip and fall, you could suffer a more serious injury—all because you weren’t wearing your glasses!
If you have difficulty seeing distant objects and you try to drive without your glasses, you could be increasing your risk of an auto accident. Driving at night, especially, can be much more challenging with blurry vision.
Your limited sight may make it difficult to interpret road signs and instructions. In the UK being caught driving without glasses or contact lenses when you require them can result in a £1000 fine and 3 penalty points on your license. So not wearing your glasses could be exceptionally costly!
Should I Take a Break from My Glasses Sometimes?
You may wonder about a happy medium—wearing your glasses, but not wearing them all the time. Does it help your eyes to “give them a break” from prescription lenses?
We have no evidence showing that this helps at all. In fact, it will probably bring on some of the uncomfortable symptoms listed above. Why put up with that? Wear your glasses as often as you like.
Are There Benefits to Wearing My Glasses?
In addition to enjoying clear vision and happy eyes, there are some other benefits to regularly wearing your prescription glasses.
Protection from Irritants
Though it depends on the size of your lenses how much protection they may offer your eyes, glasses in general can help block dust, dirt, and other small particles from getting into your eyes. This can protect your eyes from getting irritated.
Protection from the Sun
If you have UV protection built into your lenses, they can also protect you from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. Prescription sunglasses and transition lenses both work great for keeping radiation away from your eyes.
Protection from Blue Light
Some eyeglasses providers now offer the option to treat your lenses with a coating that helps filter blue light. This is the type of light emitted by computer, tablet, and cell phone screens.
It can negatively impact your sleep-wake cycle, contribute to dry eyes, and even increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Blue-light filtering lenses can help reduce the negative effects of blue light on your eyes, potentially leading to other benefits like improved sleep and more comfortable vision.
Convenient and Cost-Efficient
When comparing glasses and contact lenses, glasses are a lot more convenient to wear. They’re easy to take on and off at night, and a good quality pair can last for years as long as your prescription doesn’t change.
They are also less likely to irritate your eyes or contribute to dry eyes than contacts are.
Delay the Appearance of Wrinkles
You may not have thought about this one, but if not wearing your glasses makes you squint, over time, that can worsen the appearance of wrinkles around your eyes. Proper eyesight allows the eyes to relax, potentially delaying the development of the wrinkles around them and on your forehead.
Contribute to Your Style
Glasses have evolved from being purely functional to a fashionable accessory. Many people wear glasses not just for vision correction but also as a style statement.
There is a wide variety of frames, shapes, and colors available, allowing individuals to express their personality and showcase their unique sense of style.
They can also enhance and complement the natural contours of the face. The right frame shape can highlight one's best features and create balance, adding symmetry to the overall facial appearance. This can contribute to a more polished and put-together look.
The decision to wear or not wear prescription glasses depends on individual circumstances, but from the evidence we've found we don't see a strong argument for not wearing your glasses if you need them.
Starting with the correct prescription lenses is crucial, ensuring that your vision is clear and comfortable. Contrary to a common misconception, wearing glasses does not worsen eyesight. Instead, it provides a solution for clearer vision and can help alleviate symptoms of eye strain and headaches.
Hopefully you found this article helpful. Please check out our other eyecare blogs. Thanks for stopping by.
5 truths about protecting your eyes. (2021, February 12). Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/5-truths-about-protecting-your-eyes
Blouza, A. J. (2007). [Management of hyperopia in children]. J Fr Ophtalmol, 30(3), 255-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0181-5512(07)89587-8
Chung, K., Mohidin, N., & O’Leary, D. J. (2002). Undercorrection of myopia enhances rather than inhibits myopia progression. Vision Research, 42(22), 2555-2559. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0042-6989(02)00258-4
Research progress about the effect and prevention of blue light on eyes. (2018). International Journal of Ophthalmology. https://doi.org/10.18240/ijo.2018.12.20
Walline, J. J., Vedula, S. S., Mutti, D. O., Twelker, J. D., & Cotter, S. A. (2011). Interventions to slow progression of myopia in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2011(12). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22161388/
Will my vision get worse if I don’t wear my glasses all the time? (2023, September 18). American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/ask-ophthalmologist-q/will-my-vision-get-worse-if-i-don-t-wear-my-glasse
Zhang, Y., Guan, H., Du, K., Zhao, J., Shi, Y., Wang, H., & Wang, D. (2021). Effects of vision health education and free eyeglasses on knowledge of vision and usage of spectacles among primary school students: Evidence from Gansu and Shaanxi provinces in China. Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, 14, 1449-1464. https://doi.org/10.2147/rmhp.s297265