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Can you further impair your vision with scratched lenses?

hand holding up a pair of scratched eyeglass lenses

Can scratched eyeglass lenses make your vision worse?

You sent your eyeglasses flying across the floor and now they have scratched lenses. Those scratches will probably annoy you for the rest of the day and make your vision a little less clear. But as much as those scratches may distract you and blur your vision, they will not make your vision worse.

Why scratched lenses will not further impair your vision

Whether you are nearsighted, farsighted or presbyopic, your refractive error is due to what is going on at the level of your eyeball, not the quality of light entering the eyes.

Refractive error can occur when there are variations in one or more of the following:

In myopia (nearsightedness), the eyeball is too long in relation to the curvature of the cornea and the focusing power or position of the lens. This causes the light rays entering the eye to come to a focus in front of the retina, not directly on it, causing distant objects to appear blurry. 

In hyperopia (farsightedness), the eyeball is too short in relation to the curvature of the cornea and the focusing power or position of the lens. This causes light rays entering the eye to come to a focus behind the retina, not directly on it, causing up-close objects to seem blurry. 

In presbyopia, the lens has lost its flexibility due to age and can no longer effectively focus light rays from near objects directly on the retina. This makes it difficult to read or see near objects clearly.

Astigmatism is usually the result of the surface curvature of the cornea or lens being steeper in one meridian than another. This causes the light rays entering the eye to converge at multiple points within the eye, causing blurry images at various distances.

So your refractive error can be caused by issues with the cornea, the natural lens of the eye, and eyeball length. The light rays that enter the eye may be distorted by scratches on the eyeglass lenses but they cannot cause or worsen visual impairment or permanent physiological changes to the eyeball.

Scratched lenses may give you a headache or eye strain

The job of corrective lenses is to bring light rays that enter the eye to a sharp focus directly on the retina. But when scratches are present on the eyeglass lenses, the light rays are bent in irregular directions, resulting in a distorted and blurry image.

If you spend the day squinting or trying to focus your eyes to clear up a blurry and distorted image, your eyes may eventually fatigue and cause you to experience eye strain (asthenopia). The temporary strain you experience will not cause any permanent damage to your eyes and it should go away once your glasses lenses no longer have scratches. 

In addition to eye strain, you may get a headache from having scratches on your glasses. Your brain receives an image from the retina of each eye. The brain combines the images from the left eye and right eye and processes the two as a single, three-dimensional image.

If the image from one eye or both eyes is suddenly less clear because of your scratched glasses, you may experience discomfort and headache. This is also temporary and will be relieved once your eyeglass lenses are free of scratches.

How can I keep my glasses from getting scratches?

There are a few daily habits that can minimize scratches on your glasses lenses:

  • When you put your glasses down, fold them and set them with the lenses up.

  • Keep your glasses in a protective case when you put them in a bag or aren’t using them.

  • Use cleaners and microfiber cloths that are safe for glasses. [Read our article on how to clean your glasses the right way.]

When you purchase new glasses, consider adding a scratch-resistant coating to your lenses. This special coating adds a hard protective layer that helps to decrease scuffs and scratches.

What should I do if my glasses are scratched?

Take your glasses to your optician or eye doctor and see what they recommend. Replacing the scratched lens and keeping the frames may be an option. Visiting your eye doctor’s office is also a great opportunity to get your annual comprehensive eye exam. This will not only keep your vision clear but also keep your eyes healthy. 

READ NEXT: The best scratch-resistant sunglasses

At a glance: refractive errors. National Eye Institute. August 2020.

At a glance: nearsightedness. National Eye Institute. September 2020.

At a glance: farsightedness. National Eye Institute. September 2020.

At a glance: presbyopia. National Eye Institute. September 2020.

Understanding astigmatism: Answers to common astigmatism questions. All About Vision. September 2021.

Vision: processing information. BrainFacts.org. April 2012.

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