Self-Adjusting Glasses: How They Work

Self-adjusting glasses are a relatively new technology that allows you to adjust the prescription in your eyeglasses. Many people are accustomed to visiting the optometrist for a yearly checkup. While these exams are essential to eye health and vision, not everyone can afford to change their glasses regularly.

Key takeaways:
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    Self-adjusting glasses can correct nearsightedness and farsightedness between -6.00 to +4.00 diopters. People with higher refractive errors or astigmatism require prescription glasses.
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    Self-adjusting glasses are cost-effective and reduce the need for multiple pairs. The ability to adjust the prescription at any time may appeal to those with frequently changing vision.
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    Lack of frame selection, poorer aesthetics, and thicker, heavier lenses may limit people from using these glasses.
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    Adjustable focus glasses are not a substitute for an annual eye exam to check your vision and eye health. This is the best way to prevent conditions that may lead to vision loss.

Self-adjusting glasses (also called adjustable focus glasses, dial vision glasses, or variable focus glasses) are a convenient and cost-effective option. This article will compare some pros and cons of using these glasses over traditional eyewear, such as single-vision glasses, bifocals, and progressives.

What type of vision can self-adjusting glasses correct?

There are four categories of refractive error (vision disorders that cause blurred vision), including:

Myopia (nearsightedness) primarily causes distant objects to appear blurry. These types of prescriptions have a minus sign in front of the number.

Hyperopia (farsightedness) primarily causes near objects to appear blurry. These types of prescriptions have a plus sign in front of the number.

Astigmatism is an irregular curvature of the eye that affects vision at all distances and distorts light to cause glare and starbursts. These types of prescriptions have a cylinder and axis number.

Presbyopia (age-related farsightedness) is blurred near vision that progresses after age 40. These types of prescriptions have a plus sign in front of the number.

Most self-adjusting glasses can correct myopia, hyperopia, and presbyopia. Some are sold as adjustable focus reading glasses and only correct hyperopia and presbyopia. Unfortunately, these lenses don’t correct astigmatism.

A written eyeglass prescription indicates the degree of correction needed, measured in diopter units. Depending on the brand, self-adjusting glasses correct prescriptions ranging from -6.00 to +4.00 diopters. If you’re unsure what type of refractive error you have, consult your eye doctor.

How do self-adjusting glasses work?

If you’ve ever looked through a pair of binoculars and adjusted the ring on the eyepiece to focus your vision, you can use a pair of self-adjusting glasses.

One type of adjustable focus glasses uses a fluid-filled lens technology. Turning a dial on the side of the frame injects fluid into the lens to correct hyperopia (or removes fluid to correct myopia). Each lens has its pump and a scale to indicate the prescription needed (in diopters). This way, you can adjust each eye individually.

Another technology uses two lenses that slide over each other to provide the correct prescription. Dials in the frame allow you to move the lenses until the scale corresponds to your desired prescription. This type of lens doesn’t require any fluid.

If you don’t know your prescription, you can still use self-adjustable glasses by following these steps:

  • Put on the self-adjustable glasses.
  • Cover one eye at a time.
  • Starting at 0 diopters, turn the dial slowly towards the plus or minus scale, depending on whether your vision is blurry at near or far.
  • You can stop once your vision clears up.
  • Repeat with the other eye.

Pros and cons of self-adjusting glasses

Although these glasses aren’t a replacement for prescription glasses, they offer some benefits that traditional lenses don’t.

Although self-adjusting glasses may not replace traditional prescription glasses, they’re an option if you break your glasses or run out of contact lenses. However, it’s best to see an optometrist ensure you have the optimal corrective lenses to see, reduce eyestrain, and prevent vision issues.

Self-adjusting glasses play an important role in developing countries without sufficient access to eye care. Many people have uncorrected refractive errors that significantly impact their ability to learn, work, and function normally. The Centre for Vision in the Developing World has engineered and distributed over 60,000 pairs of self-adjusting glasses to developing countries to improve quality of life.

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