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Eye Health Center

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You Can See Clearly Now

And if you can't, new higher-tech glasses, contacts, or easy surgery will bring even the numbers on your cell phone into focus


The Problem: Your new reading glasses seem fine at the drugstore, but once you get home, they aren't strong enough.

The Fix: Bring a book or your knitting or use the fine print on a pill bottle for your own eye test. "The letter charts in stores are fairly generic," says Diane Charles, an optician in Redmond, WA. "You may not be able to gauge how well you can make out the things you need to see in your own life." Also, off-the-rack readers may not work for you. "Most people need separate prescriptions for each eye," says Charles.

The Problem: Even though you're wearing your glasses, you can't make out the computer display clearly.

The Fix: Higher-tech lenses. Up to 90% of people who work on computers all day suffer from eyestrain, blurriness, and other symptoms of "computer vision syndrome," reports the American Optometric Association.

If you're using bifocals or progressive lenses, you may also suffer muscle strain as you crane your neck to use the narrow "middle band" within your prescription. You can have multifocals made so more space is allotted to computer distance. Also, many companies have introduced digitally produced progressive lenses (depending on the manufacturer, they may be described as "free-form," "digitized," "digitally surfaced," or "HD"), which can provide a wider field of vision than the 80% that older progressive models do. In a study at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry, 95 people spent one week using progressive lenses and one week using the new free-form kind; the majority reported that the free-form ones gave them a significantly wider field of undistorted vision. Another option: a pair of glasses just for the computer.

The Problem: You love your prescription sunglasses for driving, but you can't tell if the fuel gauge is on "E" or "F."

The Fix: Progressive sunglasses. "People don't automatically think they'll need readers when they're driving," says Dr. Williams. "But you have to look at the speedometer and your navigation system." And when you get your new shades, ask for lenses that block out 99% to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation and screen out at least 75% of visible light — these filters help prevent premature aging of eyes, which can lead to cataracts.

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