Are cheap reading glasses a risk to your health?

Dizziness, double vision, aching eyes - there's often a price to pay for picking up a cheap pair of supermarket spectacles says Which?. The worst specs Which? tested emerged from Poundstretcher stores which flogs the Clarifeye brand from £2.99.

Even glasses costing almost £30 from Boots came in for criticism. Are cheap spectacles a short-sighted move?

In the frame

Which? commissioned a professional optometrist to test 18 pairs of ready-made spectacles bought from 11 high street chains, including Poundstretcher. The test also included brands from Boots and Foster Grant. Price was no reliable indicator of quality, Which? found.

"Although our expert," says Which? "found the magnification was correct in all pairs – so the lens power matched the stated prescriptions - tests revealed other faults in eight pairs we bought from stores including Boots and Superdrug, as well as two pairs from the major brand Foster Grant."

Three faults were found in a pair of Clarifeye glasses from Poundstretcher, costing £2.99. Faults included lenses not centring correctly; lenses were also distorted and didn't fit the frame properly.

Trust strain

"We also found," says Which? "the lenses not centred correctly in two pairs of £18.50 Foster Grant glasses bought from Superdrug and a pair of £27.50 Style H glasses from Boots. This fault could strain the eyes."

The bottom line is that quality, Which? found, varied widely between brands and retailers making it tricky to know which retailers or brands you can rely on. Your buying vision can be further blurred when some retailers offer a free second pair (a sales tactic Tesco has used).

Do you opt for thinner (often better) quality glass, or a handy spare pair? Bear in mind that some optician stores will be franchise operations.

If you're buying glasses, follow these tips says Which?
  • Pick glasses protected by packaging
  • Make sure frame is marked with industry standard markings such as 'CE'
  • Try them out. You should be able to read easily for two minutes
  • If you buy them from an optician, ask for the lens power and centre positions to be checked
  • Buy plastic rather than cheap metal frames, which can break easily
  • Get a pair with a spring hinge for a better fit. Avoid plastic hinges