7 reasons you need a backup pair of eyeglasses

Man looking at two pairs of eyeglasses

If you wear prescription eyeglasses, you should have a backup pair. Why? Glasses break, you lose them, or you just need a second pair for better reading, to reduce digital eye strain or to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.

“As you understand the importance of a second pair of glasses, you realize you truly do yourself a disservice by not having one,” says Dibby Bartlett, incoming president of the Opticians Association of America. 

Here are seven reasons you need a spare pair of eyeglasses (in case of breakage, loss, or even for special needs or added protection):

1. Accidents happen

Eyeglasses are notoriously easy to drop, step on, crush, bend and break. Accidents happen when you least expect them, so a little preplanning can pay off. 

Dave Duff, a senior content specialist for SeatGuru in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, says he has always been a “one-pair-of-glasses kind of guy” who never saw the need for a spare pair. A recent close call while playing with a toddler cousin changed his mind. 

“She decided to take my glasses and try bending them in a way that glasses aren’t meant to be bent,” he says. “I grabbed them from her hands before they could snap, and it was at that exact moment that it dawned on me why people have more than one pair of glasses!”

A spare pair of glasses is particularly important for people who travel, since replacing glasses while away from home can be complicated and time-consuming. 

2. It’s harder to see up close

Many hobbies and activities — reading, handwork and gaming, to name a few — require the ability to focus closely on fine details. Even reading restaurant menus and text messages gets harder through the years.

As we age, our near vision gradually weakens, a condition known as presbyopia. For many people, a pair of inexpensive non-prescription “readers” can suffice for close-up work or easier reading of those menus. 

As the presbyopia advances, a prescription for progressive lenses (or bifocals or trifocals) often is necessary. 

ARE YOU HAVING TROUBLE SEEING UP CLOSE? Find an eye doctor near you and book an eye exam.

3. You spend a lot of time looking at screens

If you work at a computer or on a laptop all day and are checking your phone into the night, you’re at increased risk for computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain. 

Symptoms include eye fatigue, headaches, blurred vision and red eyes. Digital eye strain also can result in a sore neck, shoulders and back from tipping or leaning your head back to compensate for your blurred vision. 

Digital eye strain can be minimized with customized computer glasses equipped with modified lens power and anti-reflective (AR) coating and/or blue-light filtering lenses. 

The AR coating eliminates light reflections from the front and back surfaces of the lenses that can cause eye strain, while the blue-light filtering lenses shield the eyes from potentially harmful high-energy visible blue light from screened devices. 

SEE RELATED: What are blue-light filtering glasses? And do you need them?

4. Sport lenses are more durable

Each year, emergency rooms in the United States treat about 30,000 sports-related eye injuries. Most could be avoided with the proper eye protection — protection that standard eyeglasses and contact lenses cannot deliver.

Sports glasses and goggles are constructed with stronger materials and designed for impact resistance and durability as well as comfort, fit and protection from outdoor elements. 

“Athletes requiring vision correction should wear protective prescription eyewear specifically approved for sports, such as impact-resistant frames and polycarbonate sports lenses,” says Samuel D. Pierce, optometrist and immediate past president of the American Optometric Association. 

Anti-glare and anti-scratch coatings are other features to consider, he says. 

5. Sunglasses protect your eyes

That great vision and comfort you get from your prescription eyeglasses doesn’t routinely protect you from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

Prescription sunglasses and photochromic lenses offer quality sight and block the sun’s rays, which, without protection, can lead to macular degeneration and other vision issues.

“No matter the season or the location, people should protect their eyes with good quality sunglasses that block out UV light,” Pierce says. 

“Those who spend a significant amount of time outdoors should also consider wraparound frames to shield their eyes,” he adds.

6. You need safety glasses at work

There are plenty of work-related duties that can pose a serious risk to your eyes and vision, from operating power tools on a construction site to working with chemicals in a laboratory. 

In fact, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that every day, about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain job-related eye injures requiring medical treatment.

Nonprescription or prescription safety glasses are recommended for people who work under potentially hazardous conditions. The lenses and frames used in safety glasses are much stronger than regular glasses, and side shields and wraparound styles provide additional protection. 

Look for the ANSI Z87 mark on the lens or frames indicating they meet requirements set by the American National Standards Institute.

7. You need glasses as a backup to your contact lenses

If you wear contact lenses, having a backup pair of eyeglasses helps when you contract an eye infection, forget to pack extra contacts for a trip or have a lens rip unexpectedly.

For example, if your eyes get red or watery from allergies, did you know you’re supposed to take your contact lenses out before applying eye drops and then use your glasses until the drops take effect? 

“Contact lens wearers do need a regular pair of prescription glasses, and it’s advisable to have a pair that they would actually be comfortable going out in public with,” advises Clifford W. Brooks, OD, of the Indiana University School of Optometry. 

“If you’re having trouble with your contacts or overwearing them, you’re tempted to just tough it out and wear your contacts,” he adds. “If you choose a pair of eyeglasses that are attractive and serviceable, that’s a lot safer.”

SEE RELATED: How many pairs of glasses do you need?

A backup pair of glasses is an insurance policy

Let’s circle back to the beginning — accidents happen. Having a backup pair of glasses is like having an insurance policy in case you break or lose your glasses. 

That backup pair can save you:

  • Time: It can take a week or more to get a new pair of prescription glasses.

  • Trouble: How will you see without your glasses?

  • Money: If you snag a Buy One, Get One offer by getting your primary and backup glasses at the same time. 

“We always try to talk people into getting a second pair for their own sake, especially if they are reliant on them,” Bartlett says. “In our world today, if you’re incapacitated for even a couple of days, it changes everything.”

The bottom line for people who need some degree of vision correction: Where would you be without your glasses or contacts?

All things considered, you really can’t err with a spare pair of glasses.

SHOP NOW FOR A BACKUP PAIR: Find an optical shop nearby or online and get the perfect backup glasses for your needs.

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Beth Duff

Beth Duff is a health care writer, editor and reporter with more than 30 years of editorial experience spanning broadcast, print and electronic media.

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