Do I need glasses?

Many people need glasses, most often to correct refractive errors to help them see clearly. A routine eye test can check whether you need glasses, and the NHS recommends having one at least every two years. If you notice vision changes, or symptoms such as headaches or tired eyes, don't wait for your next routine appointment; see your optician for a check-up.

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Signs that you need glasses

People of all ages can need glasses to correct their vision. Our eyesight can also change over time, so even if you didn't need glasses as a child, your vision could change, especially in middle age. Some people who need glasses don't have obvious symptoms, while for others, the symptoms can creep up gradually. Symptoms can be harder to notice than sudden vision problems. Some of the signs of needing glasses include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Double vision
  • Frequent headaches
  • Squinting
  • Eye strain
  • Difficulty with night vision
  • Seeing halos around bright lights like lightbulbs and headlights.

The most common reason to need glasses is a refractive error. Refractive errors happen when light travelling into the eye doesn't focus correctly on the retina at the back of the eye. Types of refractive errors include:

  • Farsightedness, or hyperopia (trouble seeing close up objects clearly)
  • Shortsightedness, or myopia (trouble with distance vision)
  • Astigmatism (when the shape of the eyeball causes blurred vision at any distance)
  • Presbyopia (a common symptom of ageing when focusing on near objects becomes harder)

If you notice any new vision problems, see your optician for an eye exam. During an eye exam, you'll not only get a vision test but an overall eye health check, which can help detect common eye conditions such as cataracts.

How do I know if I need glasses?

The best way to know whether you need glasses is to have a comprehensive eye exam with your optician. An eye test will check your overall eye health and your vision, so even if you don't currently wear glasses, you should still have regular eye tests.

The NHS recommends we all get our eyes tested every two years. Some people might need more regular eye exams, for example, children who wear glasses and adults over 40 with a family history of glaucoma.

Do I need reading glasses?

It's common to need reading glasses as we age. This is due to a refractive error, presbyopia, that often develops in people over 40. You might notice you get tired from doing a lot of close up work, need to hold books further from your eyes and find it takes longer for your vision to adjust between looking at near and far objects.

Your optician can advise you on whether you simply need reading glasses, often available to buy over the counter, or whether you need prescription glasses.

Do I need glasses for driving?

The DVLA has minimum eyesight standards for visual acuity and field of vision that you must meet to drive. The standards are slightly higher for lorry and bus drivers. If you don't meet this standard, you may need to wear corrective lenses for driving.

Some eye conditions that affect your vision must be reported to the DVLA. You have to tell the DVLA about some eye conditions, even if they only affect one eye, including retinitis pigmentosa, Stargardt disease, and strabismus with double vision. Other eye conditions must be reported to the DVLA if they affect both eyes, including central serous retinopathy, macular degeneration, and uveitis.

Frequently asked questions


Regular eye tests check your vision and make sure you're wearing the correct prescription glasses. Even if you've never worn glasses, regular eye tests are important for monitoring any changes to your sight and for your eye health. Having the correct prescription ensures your vision is clear and prevents complications of uncorrected refractive errors such as headaches and eye strain.

Medically reviewed by: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists on 28/07/2022

Edited by: Nick Astbury FRCS FRCOphth FRCP
Clinical Associate Professor

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.