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Quick GuideEye Health: Eyewear Guide for Vision, Sport & Fashion
Many pharmacies (and other vendors) today sell magnifying glasses for viewing tiny objects or fine print. These products are available as handheld magnifying glasses, headset magnifiers, magnifiers that rest on a stand, also known as coil stand magnifiers, and magnifiers that can be attached to eyeglasses, sunglasses, or even diving masks. Coil stand magnifiers are particularly well suited to prolonged near tasks because they maintain a consistent focal length, thereby reducing constant refocusing and eyestrain.
The power of these products usually ranges from 2x to 3x (two times actual size to three times actual size). Handheld magnifiers generally resemble a big lollipop. Headset magnifiers feature a wrap-around cinch that attaches to the head and a flip-up visor with the magnifiers. The magnifiers can be raised above the eyes or lowered to the eyes as necessary. Magnifiers on a stand allow viewing of a small object while the hands remain free. This feature keeps the focal distance constant, reducing fatigue while freeing the hands for other functions. Magnifiers attached to eyeglasses, sunglasses, or diving masks also enable the viewer to keep his or her hands free. Some magnifying glasses contain a light to illuminate viewed objects. These products require batteries or an electrical connection.
Inexpensive plastic magnifiers are also available. They may or may not be flexible. These devices may be attractive because of their light weight, handiness, and of course their low cost. However, they tend to scratch easily and have a short lifespan. It is generally best for anyone who really has need for a good magnifying glass not to skimp but invest in high quality products.
Eye doctors specializing in low-vision aids can provide the best advice and the best products for magnification and vision enhancement, particularly for people with eye diseases and compromised vision. These professional products are particularly well suited for patients with macular degeneration or hereditary visual conditions.
Medically reviewed by William Baer, MD; Board Certified Ophthalmology
"Visual impairment in adults: Refractive disorders and presbyopia"