Bifocals and progressive lenses both help people who need help with far and near vision. Instead of using two different pairs of glasses with different prescriptions, bifocals and progressive lenses allow people to wear just one pair daily. Typically, these are people with age-related farsightedness or presbyopia. Let’s discuss the differences between bifocals and progressive lenses, and how to determine which choice is right for you.

How Are Bifocals and Progressive Lenses Different?

The major difference between bifocals and progressive lenses is the type of transition between the two different prescriptions. Bifocals have a clear line where one prescription ends and another begins. Progressive lenses, on the other hand, have a smooth, natural transition between far, intermediate, and far distances of vision. However, one is not always the “better choice,” depending on your lifestyle and vision needs.

How Do Bifocals Work?

Bifocals have been around for over 300 years. They simply take two different lenses with different prescriptions and combine them into one lens. The “near” lens is typically shaped like a D and placed at the bottom of the frame, although there are many different types and shapes of bifocal glasses. There is usually a visual mark of where one lens starts and another one ends. The idea is to use one part of the lens when you are looking at something nearby, such as a newspaper article, and the other when you are looking at something in the distance.

Pros and Cons of Bifocals

While progressive lenses are a much newer innovation than bifocals, there are still many people who prefer to use bifocals. Whether they are simply used to them or they’re better for their lifestyle, bifocals can often be a good choice. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of bifocals.

Pro #1

Good for Precision Work and Working Outside

Some people prefer bifocals for precision work because the “near” lens is easier to locate. Additionally, people who work outside and are usually looking at things from a distance and moving their heads rather than their eyes sometimes prefer bifocals and the larger “far” part of the lens.

Pro #2

Some Users Like The Division in Lenses

Some people are very used to bifocals and prefer the clear division between the two lenses. For some, the division can be helpful when changing their focus. Certain kinds of workers who need a wider “far” lens prefer to know exactly where the division is.

Con #1

Puts Users at Greater Risk of Computer Vision Syndrome

Bifocals are linked to a greater risk of computer vision syndrome when compared to progressive lenses. Computer vision syndrome happens when people who use a computer screen are using improper eyewear or have an unsuitable environment. It typically includes symptoms of irritated eyes, blurred vision, and headaches. Bifocals make it harder to see things that are an arm’s distance away, such as computers. However, progressive lens wearers should be aware of this risk as well.

Con #2

Some Users Dislike the Division of Lenses

Sometimes, when users move their vision from one lens to another, it can be disorienting or cause them to pause. Because there isn’t a natural transition, it can cause some discomfort. Some people might get used to this over time.

Con #3

May Be Difficult for Office Workers

Wearing bifocals can be hard for office workers, who are constantly looking at different things, be it the computer, a printed report, or a screen across a room. If you are having to focus on many different screens throughout the day, bifocals may not be the best choice for you due to the disorienting nature of switching between the two lenses.

How Do Progressive Lenses Work?

Progressive lenses have the same idea as bifocals, but instead of having two distinct areas of the lens, they naturally transition between near, intermediate, and far sight. The lens is smooth and made up of one piece of glass, so wearers won’t see a harsh division between the different prescriptions. There are several different kinds of progressive lenses that can fit your lifestyle accordingly.

Pros and Cons of Progressive Lenses

Although progressive lenses are considered to be an advancement of bifocals, which have been around since Ben Franklin allegedly invented them, they’re not always the best choice for everybody. Let’s review the pros and cons of progressive lenses.

Pro #1

Provides a Natural Transition Between Vision Distances

Many people who have more than one prescription enjoy the way that the glasses naturally transition from one prescription to another. This can be less disorienting than bifocals for some, especially for people who are constantly looking at things at different distances. They’re helpful for office workers, who look back and forth from their computer every day.

Pro #2

Very Popular for People with Presbyopia

Progressive lenses are becoming more and more popular for people with presbyopia, because of their ease of use and adaptability to different situations. Older versions of progressives tended to have a motion blur when moving between prescriptions, but that has mainly been removed as progressive lenses continue to advance. Because they are so popular, you shouldn’t have a hard time replacing them or getting them adjusted.

Pro #3

Expanded Intermediate Zone for Computer Vision

Many progressive lenses have an “intermediate” zone, which provides a lens for looking at things an arm’s distance away, such as a computer. This makes them more suitable for computer use than bifocals.

Con #1

More Costly

Progressive lenses are more expensive than bifocals because of their more advanced design. Typically they’ll cost about $100 or more than bifocals. However, the additional cost is worth it for many wearers.

Con #2

Progressive Lenses Have a Learning Curve

If you’ve mainly used bifocals in the past, you may find that progressive lenses have a bit of a learning curve. If you’ve trained your eyes to look between the two distinct parts of the lens when switching the distance of your vision, you may have a hard time adjusting to the more natural, progressive lens. However, after a few weeks, most people are more accustomed to the lens.

Con #3

Diminished Depth Perception

Because of the progressive nature of the lens and their larger intermediate section, progressives can sometimes produce diminished depth perception for people who need to work at precision (like welders) and people who work outside (like construction workers).

How to Decide What’s Right For You

If you have more than one prescription and want to switch to bifocals or progressive lenses, there are a few things to consider. Some of the factors include:

  • If you use a computer regularly
  • How long each day you’ll wear them
  • If you’ve worn bifocals in the past
  • If you wear your glasses outdoors
  • Your budget

Be sure to talk to your eye doctor about what the right choice is for you at your next eye exam. They can help you determine what type of glasses will best fit your lifestyle.

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