Not since you were in kindergarten was reading such a challenge. Forty years later, and it’s not the big words you stumble over, but how far away they are from your eyes. If you can’t seem to get that newspaper or map far enough away to see the text clearly, you probably have presbyopia. It goes with aging and happens because our eyes get less flexible and less capable of focusing up close.
Sure, it’s annoying – and a little demoralizing, too. But, a trip to your eye doctor will show how easily it’s treated. One of the great advances in recent years is the progressive lens. Also referred to as “no-line” bifocals, these beauties pack a vision-correcting punch, taking care of near vision, far vision and everything in between. And, they’re not grandpa’s bifocals – there are no lines to give away your little secret.
We talked with an expert, Lesley Walls, O.D., M.D., to get the lowdown on the topic.
Q. Progressives versus bifocals – what’s the difference?
A. With progressives you get smooth, continuous vision at near, middle, and distant focal ranges, with no lines or unsettling image jumps. Bifocals, on the other hand, correct near and distant vision only. There’s a visible line between the two fields of vision. That’s what creates an often-annoying image jump when you go from one distance to another.
Q. Do people get better vision with progressives?
A. Not necessarily better, but more naturally, for sure. Transitions from one distance to another will be uninterrupted, and you’ll see clearly across all visual areas. When you’re driving, for example, you’ll be able to read a map, the mileage on your dashboard, or the signs on the highway – all in one smooth sequence.
Q. Are progressives hard to get used to?
A. They can be – to varying degrees for different people. When you first wear them, you may experience a short period of distortion or wobbliness in your vision until you get used to them. For some people, it only takes a few minutes, others, a few days. There are some where it can take a couple weeks, too.
Q. What are the different types of progressives?
A. Some have wider or narrower fields of vision. If you do a lot of work at close range, such as bookkeeping, needlework or reading, your near field of vision may be wider to meet those needs. If you work at a computer, on the other hand, the mid-range “corridor” that is characteristic of progressives may be larger. Your eye doctor will help you find the right kind for your lifestyle and habits.
Q. Are progressives expensive?
A. They tend to be more expensive than other multifocal lenses, but most people who wear them say the natural and clear field of vision is worth the extra cost.
Q. Do I need a special frame style with progressives?
A. Lens designs today are more compact, so you can choose small, stylish frame designs.
Q. Are there alternatives to wearing progressives?
A. Besides progressives and bifocals, there are also trifocal lenses or bifocal contacts. Like progressives, trifocals offer three fields of vision, but have two visible segment lines that mean a double image jump. New designs in bifocal contact lenses are also an alternative. Another option is monovision in which one eye is corrected with a contact lens for distance vision and the other eye with a contact for near vision.