Bifocal vs. Progressive Lenses: Which is Better for You

Last Updated on February 22, 2023 by amy

As you age, you may have started noticing your up-close vision changing. Perhaps you’ve increased the font on your cell phone or computer screen, cannot read restaurant menus, or find your favorite activities such as knitting or small tool work challenging.

Between the ages of 40 and 45, everyone will experience some presbyopia. Presbyopia is a refractive vision error that makes it hard to say things up close. It’s caused by the hardening of the cornea that happens naturally with aging. As the cornea hardens, it becomes less flexible and able to adjust to bring objects in near focus. Your vision will continue changing up until about the age of 65.

There are several options to correct presbyopia. You can hold your reading materials out further, putting your object into focus, or purchase reading glasses, bifocals, or progressive lenses. The best option for you will depend on your prescription.

What are reading glasses?

Reading glasses are available over the counter and by prescription. The correction offered by reading glasses is quite simple: it’s a magnification generally that ranges from +1 to +4. If you’ve just started noticing changes in your vision, reading glasses are a good choice for a quick fix. Your best bet is to start with the lowest level of magnification. At your next eye exam, your eye care provider can update your prescription to include correction for presbyopia.

What are bifocal lenses?

Bifocal lenses correct for two types of vision problems. They will help you see objects far away as well as up close. These lenses had a visible line separating the near and distance prescriptions. Many retailers now offer a seamless transition between the two distinct focal areas. This seamless transition is called a progressive lens.

What are progressive lenses?

Progressive lenses can correct two to three vision issues in one lens: near, middle, and/or distance vision. The lens allows for a smooth transition between each area of correction.

Some patients report having a difficult time adjusting to wearing progressive lenses. Some reports show that as many as 10 percent of people may have difficulty adjusting.

Are bifocal or progressive glasses better?

From a cosmetic standpoint, progressives are better because there’s no visible line in the lens like with bifocals. This can be a significant selling point for anyone who doesn’t want to give away their age. There’s also no image jump or abrupt disruption with progressives. Progressive lenses are also considered the most appropriate eyewear for using computers or other digital devices. The downside of progressive lenses is that they take longer to adapt to them. Also, bifocals are less expensive. Progressives are more expensive because it takes more effort to create one lens with multiple prescriptions and no visible lines.

Today, most eyeglass wearers choose progressive lenses.

How do I know which type of lenses I need?

If you’ve just started noticing your vision changing, reading glasses are a great solution temporarily. You should visit your eye care professional to receive the proper prescription and learn if you need to have other areas of your vision corrected.

If it’s been a while since you visited the eye doctor, you may be surprised to learn that your distance vision has changed. Vision changes can happen gradually over time and may have gone unnoticed. So get that vision checked!