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Progressive Lenses: Are They for You?

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I just got my first pair of glasses with progressive lenses and the optician told me it would take a couple of weeks to adjust. So far I'm just wearing them a few minutes per day, exploring this new world of vision and when I start feeling dizzy or exhausted, I take them off.

Progressive lenses are similar to bifocals, except that the focal length of each lens changes continuously from the distance vision prescription to the reading vision prescription.

Bifocals, trifocals, reading glasses, and progressive lenses are all options for those of us over the age of 40 who have lost the elasticity in the natural lenses of our eyes. This happens to almost everyone who fails to die young. The condition is called presbyopia.

Some people choose to wear contact lenses that correct one eye for near vision and the other for distance vision. Cataract patients have new lenses implanted into their eyes, replacing the natural lenses completely and sometimes choose this “monovision” option of one eye focused for close work, the other for distance.

Implantable lenses that can change their focal length are in the developmental stages and may be an excellent replacement for natural lens.

Meanwhile, adjusting to glasses that have more than one focal length is a challenge for some. One of my friends told me that she loves her progressive lenses and was adjusted by the end of the first day. Other friends have told me they tried progressives and found them impossible.

A common observation is that people who have worn bifocals have more trouble adjusting to progressive lenses. If you go straight from single vision lenses to progressives, as I am doing, it may be easier.

The adjustment is in the brain, not the eye. Right now I'm used to two completely different pairs of single vision glasses, plus my unaided eyes. With my primary glasses, I can see to drive and do most other activities. With my computer glasses, I can read the screen without leaning in and getting massive headaches with neck pain. With no glasses, I see clearly at a close distance. When I go shopping, I wear my primary glasses, but I have to take them off to read labels. I also take them off to eat, because the food looks blurry with them on. Each time I switch, I reset to a new type of visual input. By now I find it normal to change the focus of my entire visual field but it's very different to put on the progressive lenses and see different degrees of focus in different areas of the visual field.

I posted a status on facebook about my new progressive lenses. Here are two comments I received:

(1)“They are the only kind I can wear. If I wear the ones with lines, I destroy things while driving”,

(2)“They sound HARD! I tried them with regular glasses and just could never, ever get used to them. My opthamologist told me not to even bother with contacts!”

The reference book (below) reports that everyone should expect adjustment to multi-focal lenses to take some effort. If you, the reader, have experience with progressive lenses, please add a comment about how hard or easy it was for you to adjust to them.


Clyde K. Kitchen, M.D., “Fact and Fiction of Healthy Vision: Eye Care for Adults and Children”, Praeger, 2007.

Linda Fugate is a scientist and writer in Austin, Texas. She has a Ph.D. in Physics and an M.S. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering. Her background includes academic and industrial research in materials science. She currently writes song lyrics and health articles.

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EmpowHER Guest

I've been wearing these new progressives for about three weeks. I really think I'm going to have to give them up. I find the vision to be extremely sharp, but it's really exhausting me every day. It also feels like my eyeballs are being pinched. I have eye muscle imbalance and no depth of perception. My eyes do not focus together. Maybe these problems just do not mesh well with the progressive lenses. I have a few more days to try them with the ability to trade them in. I wish they'd work better for me.

May 12, 2014 - 10:38pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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