Reading Glasses, Bifocals, or Progressives?

January 18, 2021

As we age, the lenses in our eyes gradually lose their flexibility.

This process is called presbyopia, and it’s the main reason most seniors need reading glasses for up-close work. For those of us who already need glasses to correct nearsightedness, however, the solution is a little more complex, and there are different options. Would you rather pair contacts with reading glasses, wear bifocals (or even trifocals), or wear progressives?

Bifocals: Yea or Nay?

Bifocals are pretty straightforward. Each lens has an area that corrects for nearsightedness and a smaller area nestled at the bottom to correct for presbyopia or farsightedness. The worse the presbyopia becomes, it might be helpful to add a third lens in the middle to help with tasks like working on the computer. These triple-lens glasses are trifocals.

As simple as bifocals and trifocals are, many people struggle to adjust to the image jump effect that comes from having two or three lens types in one. There’s also an element of self-consciousness, because our culture tends to see bifocals as an accessory of old age.

A Modern Solution: Progressive Lenses

If the costs of bifocals outweigh the benefits and you also don’t want to use contacts in addition to reading glasses, progressive lenses are a very sleek option. Instead of putting different lenses together like puzzle pieces the way bifocals and trifocals do, a progressive lens contains multiple prescriptions all in one continuous piece. No distracting lines to worry about, and by tilting your head the right way, you’ll be able to see clearly at any distance!

Don’t Fear the Adjustment Period

Even a simple prescription change can take a few days to get used to, and progressive lenses are no different. Don’t be discouraged if they seem uncomfortable the first time you try them, and follow these tips to speed up the adjustment process:

  • Don’t switch back and forth with your old glasses! Every time you do, you’re resetting the clock on getting used to the new lenses and likely prolonging any eye strain symptoms!
  • Make sure the fit is right so that the “corridor of power” in the middle of the lens is in the right place for you to look through it naturally.
  • Practice moving your head to see things at different distances instead of your eyes.
  • Practice switching from looking at distant objects to up close ones by watching TV and reading at the same time.

Bring Us Your Questions (and Your Glasses!)

If you still have questions about how progressive lenses work or if another option might be better for you, we’d love to discuss it with you at our practice. We’re also happy to make any adjustments you need with your glasses so that you can enjoy a good fit!

We love helping our patients see clearly!

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.