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
• Stagger Purchases: Even if your eyes have changed, you don't necessarily need to buy new glasses. "Ask your doctor how the new prescription compares to what you're using," says Lynn Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology at UCLA. "Then together you can decide if you need to upgrade or can wait. Maybe you'll buy new sunglasses this year and reading glasses next."
• Shop Online: If you're willing to give up the expert fitting that comes from a shop, Internet sites (search for "online glasses") offer amazingly low prices and stylish choices. For a vintage look, GH Fashion Director Jasmine Chang recommends warbyparker.com; styles cost about $100 (for frames and lenses). To order online, you'll need to send in a recent prescription that includes pupillary distance.
• Find Frames On Ebay: You'll discover designer names like Oakley, Coach, and Dolce & Gabbana, as well as vintage eyewear. Some online opticians on eBay fill prescriptions, too. Otherwise, take the frames to your local optician.
And when you replace old glasses, think about donating your castoffs to Lions Clubs International, which distributes used frames and lenses to needy people around the world. For info on finding a local drop box or for mailing instructions, go to lionsclubs.org.
High-Tech (And High-Priced) Glasses
Two new models may change the way you see the world.Superfocus glasses are fully adjustable. With a quick slide of the focus mechanism, you can see the TV across the room or the tiny type on the remote. Prices start at about $700; for more info, go to superfocus.com. EmPower glasses correct for distance vision, but you can activate reading mode, which changes the molecular structure of transparent liquid crystals in each lens. You can make the switch by touching a corner of the frames or set it to occur automatically when tiny accelerometers sense you are looking down. EmPower glasses cost about $1,200; for more info, go to lifeactivated.com.
As more and more baby boomers hit the "can't see in the distance, can't see up close" phase of their lives, doctors are developing new surgical approaches to help. One technique that enjoyed popularity several years ago — conductive keratoplasty (CK) — turned out to be a disappointment. While it produced good results at first, the improvement was only temporary, says Kraig Scot Bower, M.D., director of refractive surgery at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Lutherville, MD. In time, patients' vision went back to what it had been before.
However, LASIK, the traditional laser surgery that's been used for many years to correct for nearsightedness and farsightedness, can help with midlife vision challenges. Essentially, the surgeon tweaks the adjustment so that you get corrections for whatever you most need — reading, driving, typing on a BlackBerry. "LASIK treatments are getting better and better," says Dr. Bower. You can also try a monovision approach that corrects your dominant eye for distance vision and your nondominant one for near vision. It sounds tricky, and there is some blurriness with distance vision, but "many patients do extremely well with this," says Dr. Bower.