Healthcare Technology Featured Article

October 29, 2020

Choosing the Right Glasses: Bifocals or Progressive Lenses?

Many adults find once they reach the age of 40 or so that they start to develop what is known as presbyopia. This is when objects that are close to the eyes become less distinct and the eyes need help in focusing on them. Some people simply choose to have two pairs of single-lens glasses, each for different purposes – one set for activities such as driving that require clear distance vision, and another set for close-up activities such as reading. However, carrying two pairs of glasses at all times can be inconvenient.

For many years, the solution to this was bifocals. Bifocals are a form of lens that is essentially divided into two. When looking through the upper part of the lens, people are able to focus more clearly on objects that are far away. When looking through the lower half of the lens, closer objects become more distinct. Bifocals remove the requirement to carry two pairs of glasses while allowing for clear vision at near and far distances. There are also trifocals, which have a middle section designed to allow for clear vision at intermediate distances. As the eyes move up and down, they transition between the sections so the user can see clearly at any reasonable distance.

One of the problems with bifocal and trifocal lenses is that they have visible lines separating the sections. These lines can help the user to adjust to wearing them as they can easily tell which part of the lens they are currently looking out of. However, they can be unsightly, and many people associate these types of lenses with old age. There are many recent solutions that have been added to the market to try and help patients with their eyesight. People can shop now for a wide range of glasses to help protect their eyes. For example, some may opt for blue light glasses which aim to protect eyes from blue lights on screens and to help reduce any eye strain, others may opt for progressive lenses.

Some people have now opted to use progressive lenses rather than bifocal lenses.

Progressive lenses allow the user to see at any distance, just like bifocals and trifocals. However, the gradient of the lenses is gradual, meaning no unsightly visible lines. They offer all the benefits of a multifocal lens, but with the option of a more youthful appearance. Many people find progressive lenses more comfortable to use, as there is no sudden clarity shift when the eyes move from one part of the lens to another. The gradual shift in lens strength can make switching from viewing close and distant objects much smoother. Image jumping, which can occur with bifocals or trifocals, can be disorienting. When the proper prescription has been fitted, progressive lenses provide the user with clarity of vision at all distances.

Some people do find that there are some disadvantages to progressive lenses. They are more expensive than other types of lenses, as they are essentially three sets of glasses in one. Some find that the added convenience makes up for the difference in price, while others prefer to stick to a more affordable type of lens. Progressive lenses can also take some getting used to, requiring the user to practice moving their eyes to the correct part of the lens depending on where they are looking. With bifocals and trifocals it is easy to know where to move the eyes, as there is a visible line indicating the sections, With progressive lenses, the user has to take some time to learn where to look and practice viewing objects at a variety of distances, which may take a couple of weeks to master.

Progressive lenses can also cause distortions of vision when people accidentally look through the wrong part of the lens, which has the potential to cause accidents, such as when crossing the road. As the lower part of the lens is designed for magnifying close objects, it can make it difficult to gauge steps as the feet may appear larger than they are, which has been known to result in people tripping on the edge of pavements. While this is also true for bifocals, wearers of these are usually more aware of how their vision will change as their eyes cross the noticeable line, and the vision changes suddenly rather than gradually.

One reason many people who wear progressive lenses cite for their choice is not having an unsightly line in the centre of their glasses. As presbyopia is a condition associated with ageing, bifocal lines are also associated with the elderly. However, the condition can begin in people as young as 35, and even children sometimes need multifocal lenses to correct their vision. Many people prefer the smooth aesthetic of a progressive lens, which allows them to look younger and more stylish while still correcting vision issues.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to lenses. Qualified opticians will be able to talk through all the options and help each customer make the choice that is best for them.

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