What are progressive lenses (all you need to know)
Imagine having a bird’s-eye view of beautiful scenery and an Eagle’s eye to spot every single detail all through one lens.
As we age our body goes through many changes, one of the changes being that our eyes begin to age and our vision becomes less clear. Usually, over the age of 40, eye aging is very common and will lead to the need for progressive lenses.
So, what are progressive lenses? Let’s navigate through the various aspects of what progressive lenses are, how they work, and how to get used to them. We will help you decide the best multifocal option for you, the best frames that go with it, and show you how easy it is to purchase a pair of progressive lenses online.
What are progressive lenses?
Progressive lenses - AKA no-line bifocals - are a type of multifocal lens. Multifocal lenses have different prescriptions built into one lens to correct different distances, so you can see every distance clearly: far, intermediate, and near (bifocals, on the other hand, only have two prescriptions that can correct far- or near-sightedness with near for close-up objects). Progressive lenses have no lines in between the different prescriptions, which means you can flick between different distances of vision with smooth transitions.
In real terms, this means the top of the lens is adapted for distance vision and gradually reduces into the intermediate prescription which corrects computer distance. Then, finally, it diminishes in power towards the bottom, which is designed for reading or other “close up” tasks, like checking a price tag or using your smartphone.
How do progressive lenses work vs. Bifocals and Trifocals?
Progressive glasses are meant for everyday use; after all, their entire purpose is ensuring that you can see well over a range of distances. If you have them, you should wear them all day long, almost accepting them as your new set of eyes. But, how to look through progressive lenses?
With progressive lenses, you can look ahead to comfortably see distant objects, view your computer through the intermediate zone by looking just slightly downward, and read up close comfortably by lowering your gaze a little more.
You can switch out your old pair of reading glasses and single-vision glasses for one all-encompassing pair.
In the image below, you can see how vision-corrected lenses work for the different multifocal lens types
1. Single lenses essentially correct 1 visual defect, such as hyperopia (farsightedness) and myopia (nearsightedness).
2. Bifocals have 2 power values and correct both distance and near visual defects. Usually, at the top, you’ll have your distance correction, and towards the bottom your near vision correction.
3. Trifocals essentially are similar to bifocals but contain 3 power values. In between the distance and near correction there is an intermediate which helps when you are using, for example, your computer.
4. Progressive lenses, unlike bifocals and trifocals, help correct 3 power values without any visible lines. Each area transitions from one visual correction to another allowing for a smoother vision, however, this can cause a small amount of unwanted distortion at the sides
So now you probably want to know: which is better: bifocals or progressive lenses?
Bifocals are still a popular choice as you do not need multiple pairs of glasses, however, are a less expensive option than progressive lenses. Bifocals lenses can also be mounted to any frame and the lens can be manufactured in any material, whether it’s glass, plastic, or polycarbonate. At times, bifocals become the primary choice because some struggle to adjust to progressive lenses.
Bifocals, however, only have 2 power values and do not allow for the intermediate distance. As time has gone by and technology has improved, it’s been shown that progressive lens technology is superior to bifocals.
Progressive lenses have been redefined and enhanced with modern technology, becoming more popular than the common bifocals. The multiple powers built into the lens, characterized by the invisible design, can upgrade your visual experience.
Even though progressive lenses can be a little more expensive than bifocals, the price is worthwhile, due to the increased benefits. Progressive lenses look better, are more practical, provide more optical powers, and are easier to use.
Progressive lenses: the pros and cons
The obvious advantages of progressive lenses are the enhanced comfort you will feel once you have your vision properly corrected. By having the seamless blend of prescription down the lens, progressive lenses can also help ease headaches or disorientation that can come with more old-fashioned bifocal lenses.
If you spend a lot of time in front of screens, for example at work, wearing progressive lenses for computer use will enhance your daily comfort. A pair of computer progressive lenses can help reduce eye strain and relieve discomfort from focusing at a short distance for prolonged periods.
Additionally, having multiple visions corrected with one pair of glasses, your day-to-day life will become easier, as you are not constantly having to carry around two or three different pairs of glasses.
These are 3 main pros to wearing progressive glasses:
• Clear vision at all viewing distances
• Enhanced comfort
• Aesthetic benefits
In terms of disadvantages, it is a well-known fact that progressive lenses do take some time to get used to. It is quite common that progressive lenses make you dizzy while adjusting to them. In the first few weeks, it can be disorientating to do things that require an accurate sense of depth perception, like climbing the stairs.
Adjusting to progressive lenses and the changes in lens power can produce a ‘swim’ effect, where the wearer feels like their field of vision is constantly moving. After a few weeks, however, this will usually subside.
Most glasses cause some kind of distortion, regardless of whether they’re progressive or not. However, the three different segments found in progressive lenses can make that distortion feel more prominent than with other pairs of eyeglasses.
Some users find it hard to switch rapidly between the different areas of focus. This is understandable; it is not a natural situation for the eye and distortions are likely.
In time, however, distortions are likely to dissipate. Most people claim it takes about two weeks to adjust to progressive lenses.
If you still experience problems with vision distortion after this initial fortnight, it might be a good idea to go and speak to an eye doctor.
How to get used to progressive lenses?
Getting used to progressive lenses can take some time; ranging from several hours to several days. If you wonder why your progressive lenses are blurry, this is because the gradient power of the lens can cause aberrations in your peripheral vision.
The left and right extremes of the lens are not as strongly “progressive” as the central, vertical corridor, meaning your vision could seem blurry when looking to the sides. However, as with any developing technology, each new generation of progressive lenses represents an improvement on the last, and many people never suffer any problems at all.
The latest generation of progressive lenses is known as “free-form” lenses, which are made with a computer-aided manufacturing process to reduce aberrations. Each lens is customized exactly to the position of the wearer’s eye, taking into account the angles between each eye and the surface of the lens when looking in different directions, providing the sharpest, crispest image possible, as well as enhanced peripheral vision.
Don’t give up on your new lenses! Here are a couple of tips for getting used to progressive lenses and enjoying clear vision:
• Move your head. One of the first and most important steps to getting used to your new progressive lenses is moving your head more. You should use your lenses by moving your head towards an object you want to focus on instead of simply moving your eyes.
• Remember that all your prescriptions are built into the lenses. Looking down is meant for looking at objects close-up, looking up is for looking further away, and looking straight ahead through the middle of your lenses puts the focus on intermediate distance, like a computer screen.
• Don’t switch between glasses. Aim to only use your new pair of progressive glasses, this will help you get used to them much more quickly.
• The more you wear your progressive glasses, the faster you will get used to them.
What types of progressive lenses are there and how to choose them
Depending on your vision needs, there are a variety of progressive lenses available to you. There are lenses designed specifically for whether you have a greater need for distance, intermediate, or near vision correction.
Broadly speaking, there are four types of progressive lenses:
1. Computer progressive lenses are ideal if you work on a computer for several or more hours a day. Also known as near variable focus lenses, these types of progressive lenses are designed to provide a clearer vision indoors and relieve discomfort and eye strain. If you spend a lot of time in front of screens, wearing progressive lenses for computer use will enhance your daily comfort, further eliminating the risk of computer vision syndrome (CVS).
2. Premium progressive lenses include your dominant eye in the lens design. They offer a wider and smoother visual experience as you transition from one visual correction to another. These types of lenses can be customized to your prescription and frame. They can be easier to adapt although they present a higher cost.
3. Standard progressive lenses are regular progressive lenses and need a larger frame. They allow for a better choice compared to choosing bifocals or trifocals. They are a great fit that allows for a wide reading area and is more affordable. These particular lenses need a certain frame size that has enough vertical height for all 3 distances.
4. Short corridor progressive lenses can be fitted into a smaller frame compared to the standard ones. Aesthetically they look a bit better but do need to be fitted properly by an optician. The reading area is more narrow and may take some adjusting to do. With these glasses, the reading vision isn’t very wide so try to centre your eyes when reading.
In addition, there are also these 2 types:
1. Ground-view progressive lenses are ideal for outdoor activities and present a natural feel to your vision. They help reduce eye distortion and allow for better vision.
2. Transition progressive lenses are simply a type of photochromic lens that darken when exposed to UV light, acting as sunglasses when outdoors. When indoors the lenses are clear. They could be a great choice for wanting to use only one pair for both indoors and outdoors, so you don’t only get three pairs of eyeglasses in one, you also get a pair of sunglasses included.
For all detailed optical and lens queries it is always recommended that you speak with your optician. They will be able to advise you on what progressive lenses are the best option for you and answer any queries you may have that pertain to your specific optical needs. At SmartBuyGlasses, you can also have a look at common Q&As or speak to one of our online opticians for any questions related to progressive lenses.
How do you know if you need progressive lenses?
If you have multiple prescriptions for different distances, are juggling your life between two or three pairs of glasses, or are beginning to find that no single prescription is correcting your vision to a high enough standard for all daily activities, then progressive lenses could be the answer.
Always consult your local optician and have an eye test first. If the optician deems you need glasses to correct multiple visions, then a pair of progressive glasses may be more beneficial than other multiple vision lenses.
Most people start needing reading glasses after the age of 40. This is when the eye gradually loses its ability to focus on nearby objects, also known as presbyopia.
Other signs that may indicate the need for progressive lenses could be:
• Seeing close-up work begins to be a bit difficult. A pair of progressive lenses can help make vision clearer and you may not need reading glasses anymore.
• If you spend many hours in front of a computer and begin to experience computer vision syndrome (CVS), picking a pair of progressive lenses over bifocals or trifocals is more beneficial. Progressive lenses do not require you to sit so close to the screen.
• If you find the transition on bifocals to create more fatigue and cause dizziness, especially if you engage in a lot of sports activities, then the smoother transition of progressive lenses can allow for a better adjustment between the power values.
• To look cool! Bifocals and trifocals are known to have a thick lens and create that ‘coke bottle’ effect. Let’s put that coke bottle on a diet and slim it down to a nice pair of thinner progressive lenses.
How to buy progressive lenses?
So how do you buy progressive lenses online? At SmartBuyGlasses, we stock loads of brands that offer progressive lenses - just input your new prescription at the checkout. You’ll be able to fill in the details or upload your prescription directly to SmartBuyGlasses.
Don’t have your prescription in front of you? Don’t worry, If you have a current pair of progressive lenses, but can not remember your prescription, you can always scan your glasses prescription with our lens scanner tool. The tool is quick, easy, and reliable. All you need to scan is a smartphone with the app installed, your current pair of prescription glasses, a laptop or desktop with a webcam, and a credit card and the prescription will be given to you straight in the app.
If it’s your first time ordering progressive lenses, or you need to update your prescription, you will need to get an eye exam at your local optician. After your eye exam, your optician will provide you with all the prescription details needed to order your pair of progressive glasses online.
If you are unsure as to how you can read and fill out your prescription online, these are the main aspects you will need to consider:
1. You will see that your right eye and/or left eye will have a -0.00 or +0.00 power value that indicates your prescription strength for distance.
2. The sphere and axis values will indicate if you have astigmatism, which causes blurred vision. If you do not have astigmatism, these fields will be left empty.
3. The PD is your pupillary distance, which is the distance between the pupillary of your right and left eye. This is important as it will help fit the glasses to your eyes. For a more accurate vision, the optical centre of your lenses should be the same as your pupillary distance. Usually, this is included in your prescription, but in case it’s missing, you can calculate the PD online from home.
4. The last value is ADD. This value indicates that you have presbyopia and that you will need bifocals or progressive lenses.
Sample image for a prescription that requires progressive lenses
How to manually enter your prescription on our website
Apart from choosing the best type of progressive lenses, selecting the best frames for progressive lenses is an important aspect to take into consideration because certain progressive lenses work better in different sized frames.
You want to find a pair of frames that will allow for the entire range of vision to fit into the frame, a frame with short or larger lenses wouldn’t work.
For example, frame shapes such as cat-eye or pilot would cut off the bottom part of the lens and would make reading difficult. Meanwhile, rounded edges, such as oval frames, would allow for a better lens fit and range of vision for all distances.
You also want to make sure that the widest part of the frame is not wider than your face, like in the image below. The frames should allow for a wide range of view as they sit correctly on your face. Allowing for the visual transition to be as smooth as possible without external factors that may cause distractions if reflected on the lenses. You can try your frames online from the comfort of your own home with our virtual try-on tool.
You’ve now learned about the best way to achieve the bird’s eye view and Eagle’s eye through a great pair of progressive lenses.
If you are over the age of 40, progressive lenses should be considered if you have to correct multiple visual impairments or presbyopia. They will not benefit you if you only have myopia or hyperopia to correct.
Progressive lenses are the type of multifocal glasses you want to buy, not only to look cool but to allow for a clearer and smoother vision at all distances and enhance your visual comfort. Progressive lenses help correct 3 different power values with only one lens, as you start looking from the top and work your way down the lens, you will notice how the power values change. No visible lines in the way!
Getting used to progressive lenses is also getting easier and the latest generation increases the reduction of optical aberrations. This makes the manufacturing process adhere to customizing the lenses to an individual’s eye position. You may feel a little discomfort the first few days or the first week, but like any other pair of glasses, your eye needs to settle to the new lens.
So try out the tricks mentioned in the article to get used to progressive lenses. For example, remember to not switch between your new progressive lenses and your old pair of glasses. This is a good way for your eyes to adapt a lot quicker to progressive lenses.
If you’ve found this guide enjoyable or informative, why don’t you check out some more articles from our Optical Centre?