Glasses can help people see better, but you might not realize you need them. Your eyes can change over time, so even if you had perfect vision before, that’s not necessarily a given later on.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that more than 150 million Americans use corrective eyewear. It’s not always clear if you need glasses or not, so it’s always a good idea to see your eye doctor for a thorough exam.

What symptoms might you develop if you need glasses?

Your vision changes over time as you age. Not every change in vision is abnormal. Things like needing more light to see clearly or trouble differentiating black and blue, for instance, are normal and don’t require glasses. But there are times when changes in vision aren’t normal, and glasses may be warranted.

Some people who need glasses don’t have any symptoms, while others have very clear symptoms. Symptoms of needing glasses can vary based on the kind of eye issue you’re having. Some common symptoms include:

  • blurred vision
  • double vision
  • fuzziness, as in objects don’t have defined, clear lines and things seem a bit hazy
  • headaches
  • squinting
  • objects have “auras” or “halos” around them in bright light
  • eyestrain, or eyes that feel tired or irritated
  • distorted vision
  • trouble seeing and driving at night

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list. If you notice any changes in what’s normal for you, call your eye doctor. They can do an eye exam to see what might be going on and how it can be helped.

Types of vision problems

The National Eye Institute (NEI) states that the most common kinds of vision problems are refractive errors. This term includes:

  • nearsightedness
  • farsightedness
  • astigmatism
  • presbyopia

Refraction is when the cornea and lens of the eye bend incoming light so that it’s concentrated on the retina, which is in the back of the eye. This allows you to see. A refractive error occurs when the light isn’t able to be focused on the retina, because of the shape of the eye. This can happen because of aging or changes in the shape of the eye or cornea.

Other vision problems include things like age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts. These can’t be treated with glasses.


Nearsightedness, also called myopia, is when a person can see nearby objects clearly, but when objects are far away, they get blurry. Someone might have trouble clearly making out people on a television screen. A child might have difficulty reading the chalkboard in school.

This condition occurs if the eyeball is too long, or if the cornea is too curved. The American Optometric Association estimates that nearsightedness affects approximately 30 percent of the U.S. population.


With farsightedness, or hyperopia, objects that are far away are mostly clear, while objects close by are blurry. This happens when the eyeball is too short, or the cornea is abnormally shaped. According to the NEI, farsightedness affects approximately 5 to 10 percent of the U.S. population.


In astigmatism, light doesn’t get evenly distributed onto the retina, so images can appear blurry or stretched out. However, not everyone with astigmatism has distorted vision.

This condition can happen at any age. While most people have some kind of mild astigmatism, those with more significant astigmatism might need glasses to correct it.


Presbyopia abnormally shaped. According to the NEI, farsightedness affects approximately 5 to 10 percent of the U.S. occurs in nearly everyone. It’s a typical symptom of aging. According to Penn Medicine, individuals usually start displaying symptoms of presbyopia between the ages of 38 and 42.

As we age, the eye isn’t as flexible as it used to be. When it’s not able to flex as well as it did before, focus on nearby objects becomes impaired. This is why many people need bifocals or reading glasses as they grow older.

The bottom line

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, see an eye doctor as soon as possible. Even if you’re not having any symptoms, it’s a good idea to get regular eye exams with dilation to ensure that you’re seeing clearly and to keep tabs on your eye health.

Only an eye doctor will be able to do a comprehensive eye exam to see if you’d benefit from wearing glasses. If the results indicate that you need glasses, your doctor can speak with you about the kind of lenses that would be best for your condition, as well as any other treatment.