by Jamie Bartlett December 09, 2019 3 min read

So, you’ve heard about distance glasses.

But what do they do? And why are they different from reading glasses?


Distance glasses are a type of single vision lens used to correct nearsightedness (myopia.) These concave lenses improve your ability to see distanced objects using a minus (-) dioptric power throughout the entire lens.


In short, distance glasses and reading glasses are actually both single vision lenses, but they provide very different ocular functions.

To get a better understanding, this article explains their separate purposes and which lenses are best to help you see.


How do I know if I need distance glasses?


Example of a nearsighted eye prescription


Recently had your eyes tested?

You’ll know if you need distance glasses by looking at the Sphere boxes on your prescription paper for each of your eyes. If they contain negative numbers (-) this means you are myopic and require optical correction for distance vision.

Alternatively, your Sphere boxes may contain positive numbers (+) which means you’re hyperopic and have difficulty seeing objects close-up. If you need help understanding your prescription, here’s a handy guide.

However, if you’ve never had your eyes examined, you can check your distance vision using this printable test.


Free eye test chart

Eye test chart for printing and using at home

Download this eye test chart to test your distance vision yourself.



    Can I use distance glasses for reading?


    Distance glasses provide an entirely different function than reading glasses.

    Distance glasses are used for myopia to correct distance vision which is anything beyond arm’s length. Reading glasses are used for hyperopia and presbyopia to correct close vision with 35cm from your face.

    These types of glasses provide opposing visual corrections therefore you cannot use distance glasses for close vision tasks such as reading, writing or using your phone.


    Is it bad to wear distance glasses for reading?

    Because distance glasses only help your vision for objects far away, they don’t impede your ability to see things close-up and have no negative impact.

    The same goes for reading glasses. If you struggle with close vision, reading glasses will only help you with close distance tasks within 35cm from your face.

    To give you better context, here’s a handy guide to what is the normal reading distance compared to intermediate and distance vision.


    Close vision

    Focusing within 35 cm from your face.

    Common tasks include reading from paper documents or books, using your phone or handwriting.

    Correction: To help your close vision, you can use short distance glasses such as reading glasses and/or bifocals, trifocals or varifocals.


    Intermediate vision

    Focusing at arm’s length.

    Common tasks include using a computer or reading a noticeboard. These zone is the region between close and distance vision.

    Correction: To help your intermediate vision, you can use intermediate glasses and/or bifocals, trifocals or varifocals.


    Distance vision

    Focusing beyond arm’s length.

    Common tasks include watching television, driving or playing sports.

    Correction: To help your intermediate vision, you can use distance glasses and/or bifocals, trifocals or varifocals.



    Men’s single vision distance glasses

    Women’s single vision distance glasses


    Young man wearing black frame distance glasses


    Distance and reading glasses combined

    Need help seeing close-up AND far away?

    Sorry to break it to you, but single vision lenses just entered the equation. Yep, now we’re talking multifocal lenses.

    Remember the three vision zones? Close, intermediate and distance.

    These lenses are designed to help you with near, intermediate and distance vision, all in one pair of glasses. This differentiates single vision from multifocal glasses. They’re a one trick pony.

    • Single vision glasses include: Ready readers, prescription reading glasses, intermediate glasses or distance glasses.
    • Multifocal glasses include: Bifocal, trifocal or varifocal glasses (also known as progressives.)



    Single vision lenses define a single vision-zone lens which can be used individually to correct near, intermediate or distance vision.

    Distance glasses utilise a negative (-) Sphere power measured in dioptres. This measurement is found in the first boxes on your prescription paper for each of your eyes.

    Distance glasses do not negatively affect your close vision, nor do reading glasses impede your distance vision.

    Thanks for reading this article. If you found this guide useful, you should join our newsletter for monthly optical knowledge and limited edition glasses frames.



      Jamie Bartlett
      Jamie Bartlett

      Co-founder of Banton Frameworks.

      Also in Single vision glasses

      What are single vision lenses?
      What are single vision lenses?

      by Jamie Bartlett September 08, 2021 3 min read

      Understand the meaning of single vision lenses. For distance or for reading, get to know their various types in this handy lens guide.
      Glasses for driving 8 tips
      Glasses for driving, 8 tips

      by Jamie Bartlett February 10, 2020 6 min read

      8 tips for wearing glasses for driving in the UK. A handy guide if you’re unsure about the rules & regulations for eyesight for safe driving.
      What are plano lenses?
      What are plano lenses?

      by Jamie Bartlett December 04, 2019 2 min read

      Mild prescription? Chances are, only one of your eyes may need glasses. Plano lenses are for the other eye that's doesn't need any optical correction. Here's a quick guide.