Progressive Glasses Vs. Bifocal Glasses

Last Updated on February 9, 2024 by Josh Wilkerson

You’ve hit the big 4-0. That’s right, you’re forty years old and we know what you’re thinking: ‘Where has the time gone by?’ But there’s something different you notice in this stage of your life and that things are looking a little fuzzy around you—even with your glasses on. You pick up a magazine and it has to be at a certain length in order for you read it clearly; you notice that you are waking up with irritating headaches and migraines; the next thing you know you’re squinting while reading a WSJ article on your phone because it’s looking blurry. What is going on? Do you need a new pair of prescription glasses? Most likely, yes, but let’s get into some of the types of lenses that exist so that you can find the ones that are right for your need. We’ve heard a range of terms bouncing around like “polarized”, “non-polarized”, “single-vision”, “progressive”, “bi-focal”. But what do they mean and how does it apply to your life, especially when you’re buying a fresh, new pair of glasses? All of these terms can be overwhelming, but it is important to realize that lenses are correcting a specific type of vision. For now, let’s focus our attention to the difference between progressive glasses and bi-focal glasses.

Progressive Glasses
Remember, different lenses are created to correct various forms of vision. Think of it as selecting the right pair of gloves for your hands while working out. For those of you who require more support on wrist, will select a glove design that will support that function. The same concept is applied when selecting lenses for your glasses, except a professional optician determines whether or not you need progressive glasses.

For those of you who suffer from presbyopia, progressive prescriptions are suitable for that need. So, what is presbyopia? To be clear, it is not a disease, but rather something part of the natural aging process which impacts vision. People at the age of forty and up, usually start to experience this change in their eyes. It is the eye’s ability to change focus when objects are near. Blurred vision, headaches or fatigue, and the need to hold reading material at arm’s length are some common symptoms. So what is the bottom line of all of this? This occurrence is a result of the natural lens in your eye losing its flexibility.

So far, you have an idea of presbyopia and the need for progressive glasses to correct it, but what are these precious lenses capable of? Progressive lenses are multifocal lenses without lines that create a seamless magnifying power for distant, intermediate, and near vision. In other words, progressive lenses provide many lens powers for all viewing distances. Translation? So, when you’re in front of a computer, you are looking through the “intermediate” portion of the progressive lens, to help you see something that is fairly close to you; but when you’re looking down to look at the text message on your phone or reading a book, you are looking through the “near” portion of the progressive lenses to help you see or read objects that are close to you. It is one pair of glasses or frames, but you are able to see through multiples lenses within the glasses. Hence, the term multi-focal. Progressive lenses are also referred to as “no-line bifocals” because it does not contain any visible lines which would be found in traditional bifocals and trifocals. Just because you need to see through various distances, does not mean everyone around needs to know you are. This is why progressive glasses are so beneficial—people won’t be able to tell if you’re wearing the glasses for fashion or because you need to see things up close.

Choosing Progressive Lenses
When selecting progressive glasses, make sure you know for which purpose you will be using the pair most for. For example is this going to be for daily use, for computer use, driving? Are you going to be spending most of your time indoors performing household activities? Try to be as specific as possible when consulting with your professional optician, so that way he or she can select the best pair of progressive glasses for your specific needs. We feature free-form high-definition progressive lenses that are with computer controlled surfacing equipment for the most precise prescription. These lenses also feature a computer algorithmically determined segment height for the widest field of vision at each focal point in the lens. Similar to our single vision lenses, these lenses are highly shatter-proof and feature anti-scratch, anti-glare, and 100% UVA/UVB protective coating (Classic Specs).

Bifocal Lenses
Here’s another scenario at age 40: Your glasses are on and now you’re having trouble reading things up close. But then you take off the glasses and maybe you can read—maybe not. Maybe you need to wear your glasses while you have you contact lenses on so you can see clearly. Okay, now you’re starting to lose your mind because things are starting to become silly. Let’s take a peek at a specific type of progressive glasses called bifocal lenses.

For starters, let’s examine the word, “bifocal”. Generally, when there is a “bi” in front of word, it means two. For example, the word “bicycle” means it has 2 wheels. This will help you remember that bifocals allows the individual to focus on objects both at a close range and at a distance as well without the need to adjust or remove the glasses. So, bifocals contain two lens powers while progressive multifocal lenses gradually change in power from the top half of the lens to the bottom, which creates multiple lens powers. Fun fact: Can you guess who came up with the idea of bifocals? If you’re thinking Benjamin Franklin, you’re probably right. Bifocals came out around the 1760s-1790s time frame, however there is no definite answer in terms of who invented them.

It is normal to feel awkwardness or discomfort in the beginning of wearing bifocal glasses due to the distortion or sense of a narrow field of vision. But over time, wearers adapt to the swaying and the variations in power. A helpful tip is that as soon as you know (from an optician) that you have presbyopia, start using this type of lens so your eyes can quickly adjust to the changes. However, if you wait too long to wear progressive glasses or bifocal glasses, then it may become difficult to adapt to it because by then, your presbyopic power might have increased. Once you know you need progressive glasses, the sooner you get them, the faster your eyes will be able to adjust.

Summary of Progressive vs Bifocal Glasses
Bifocals and trifocals are conventional options for glasses because when looking through them wearers may notice that images may seem to “jump” as your eyes move past the defined boundary between the distance and near part of the lens. On the other hand, progressive lenses are a modern option as they transition smoothly between the lens powers within the lens letting you change focus between distant and near rather comfortably and seamlessly—no “jump”.