Does wearing glasses make your eyes worse?

Does wearing glasses worsen your eyesight?

Wearing glasses will not make your eyesight worse.

While no-one knows exactly where this myth came from, the answer is a resounding ‘false’ – wearing glasses will not make your eyesight worse. It’s actually one of the biggest myths around corrective eyewear and thankfully, is not how our peepers work.

What do glasses do?

Glasses correct blurry vision whether you suffer from myopia (seeing better up close), hyperopia (seeing better further away) or astigmatism. Your spectacle lenses change how light focuses at the back of the eye, to bring everything to a nice crisp focus.

But when you take off your glasses, the world seems blurrier than you remember. Does this indicate that you “need” your glasses more now than you did before you got them? Not necessarily. The change means your brain is getting used to seeing things clearly when you are wearing your glasses, and you are more aware of the difference now. 

Your prescription depends on the shape of your eyeball and cornea. And wearing glasses (or not), won’t change that anatomy. 

Why do I need a stronger prescription over time?

You might be asking why you find yourself needing a stronger and stronger prescription as the years go by?  Our near vision changes quite predictably as a normal physiological change as we get older. To understand why vision can worsen as you age, it’s important to consider how our eyes work. 

Each eye lens is about the size of a shirt button, and each lens flexes and changes shape as we focus on objects either near, or far away. The amount of flexing corresponds with the distance of an object (for example lenses flex more to bring closer objects into focus). Much like you would see a small automatic camera lens “move” in and out until it finds the correct focus.  

As we get older, our eye lenses grow larger and thicker while the so-called focusing muscles (ligaments called zonules) loosen. These ligaments can no longer effectively bend the lens into the position necessary to see up close as the lens hardens, rendering it less flexible. 

In terms of glasses strength, we expect about a one step (0.25 dioptre) change in the reading prescription about every two years while we’re in our 40’s to early 60’s. So it’s quite normal to have to update your spectacles every couple of years. 

This age-related weakening of the lenses of your eyes has nothing to do with whether or not you are regularly wearing your glasses; wearing glasses won’t speed up or slow down this change. Glasses, though, can correct for the gradual change of your vision as you grow older, to help you to continue seeing the world clearly.  

Will my eyesight get worse if I keep wearing the same prescription glasses?

Some people fear that wearing a wrong (or older) prescription can cause their eyesight to worsen. That’s another myth, at least in the case of adults. But you may experience symptoms of headache, eyestrain or tired eyes, or blurred vision while wearing an incorrect prescription.  

I’m nervous about my child wearing glasses while their eyes are still developing

Children’s eyes grow and develop over time, and we always take this into account when deciding whether a child needs glasses. 

We now have special types of glasses that can be used to help slow down the progression of myopia, or near-sightedness, in children.  Myopia develops when a child’s eye grows too quickly.  Some recent studies have found that undercorrection (glasses too weak or not wearing glasses when needed) can actually increase the rate of myopia progression. 

In addition, the special glasses given to children with crossed eyes or a lazy eye can change them—but in a good way. These aids help straighten the eye. The real harm comes from not using them while the eyes and visual pathways to the brain are still developing.

Our best advice?

Don’t stop wearing your glasses. Yes, glasses can’t fix medical issues or reshape your eyes, but wearing them will improve your vision. 

As long as you see your optometrist for your annual check-up, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Wear your glasses whenever you need them, and enjoy seeing the world clearly.