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What Are Progressive Lenses? Plus Pros and Cons You Need to Know

Tired of carrying around multiple pairs of glasses every day — or worse, forgetting one at home only to find you need it? If your vision challenges require a variety of prescriptions, progressive lenses may be the solution you’re looking for.

So, exactly what are progressive lenses?

Let’s delve into what progressive lenses are and what they can do for you. We’ll also consider some reasons you may not want progressive lenses, so you can make an informed decision that’s right for you.   

What Are Progressive Lenses vs. Bifocals?

Single-vision lenses or contact lenses usually help to correct either hyperopia (farsightedness) or myopia (nearsightedness) — and sometimes astigmatism too.

However, some people have more than one vision issue. For example, they may have both myopia and hyperopia. Or, on top of other vision problems, they may develop age-related presbyopia and suddenly begin to struggle with reading anything close-up, like text messages, menus in restaurants, or their grocery list. Or they might find that seeing their computer screen is becoming more difficult.

If any of those scenarios feel familiar, you probably need more than one vision prescription to see clearly throughout your day.

To accommodate this, you could get multiple pairs of glasses and simply switch between them when you need to. Alternatively, you could invest in multifocal lenses — or their latest evolution, progressive lenses.

Multifocal lenses contain different vision correction prescriptions in the same lens. Bifocal lenses offer two different lens powers, while trifocal lenses offer three. The bottom of the lens is designed for close-up work — much like reading glasses — while the top part of the lens helps with distance vision. Trifocal lenses also have an extra center section for seeing in the middle distance.

Multifocal lenses have been around for some time (in fact, ever since Benjamin Franklin invented them) but the latest technology has taken them to the next level of functionality and style. Enter progressive glasses.

Let’s clarify what progressive lenses are good for — and when you might want to think twice before getting them.

Pros of Progressive Glasses

What are progressive lenses: brown eyeglasses on a pink background

Progressive lenses — also known as progressive addition lenses — offer many benefits for the modern glasses wearer.

You Only Need One Pair of Glasses

Instead of carrying around two pairs of glasses — for example, one for near vision and another for distance viewing — progressive glasses combine these two viewing areas in one. You’ll have clear vision whether you’re reading a text on your phone or driving on the highway (hopefully, you’re not doing both at the same time). There’s no need to waste time and energy switching glasses and that extra pair won’t be taking up precious space in your purse or pockets.   

There’s a Smooth Transition Between Near and Far

Old-school multifocals are manufactured by fusing the eyeglass lenses for different distances. This results in visible lines between the prescriptions, which can cause a disconcerting image jump as you move your focus from one area of the lens to another. Some wearers even experience headaches or nausea from this disorientation.  

Progressive lenses — or “no-line bifocals” — are graduated, giving you a smooth transition from one viewing distance to another. No more jarring jumps, just seamless clear vision wherever you look.

Progressives Make Computer Use Easier

Computer glasses are designed to support your vision in the intermediate distance — where your computer screen is. In old-fashioned trifocals, the middle section of the lenses would take care of this, reducing eye strain caused by squinting at the screen. The new progressive lenses automatically include a middle-distance section, as your eyes transition from the near distance to further away, so you’re essentially getting built-in trifocals – perfect for working on your computer, then glancing down at your paperwork or up to look out the window.

Progressive Lenses Look More Stylish

Those visible lines we mentioned earlier aren’t just disconcerting — they’re also essentially the opposite of stylish. Luckily the new types of progressive lenses offer both clear vision and style. Instead of being made up of different lenses fused together, the prescriptions are all built into one lens. So, to the observer, the lens design looks just like a regular pair of single-vision glasses. And with the right choice of frame, you can actively enhance your look, rather than detract from it.

Cons of Progressive Eyeglasses

Striped eyeglasses on a yellow background

Now that you know what progressive lenses are and you’ve learned about some of their many benefits, you might be thinking they sound like the answer to all your vision problems. But before you place your order, there are a couple of things you need to be aware of.  

Progressives Don’t Work for Everyone

While progressives are the best option for many people, there are some exceptions, for example, if you’re someone who relies on precision vision, like an artist or welder, or you read a lot of fine print, like a lawyer. You probably focus close-up for long periods, and the excellent magnification of the lower part of traditional bifocals — and the strong contrast with the top part — may suit your needs better than progressive lenses. You may also prefer bifocal lenses if you move around a lot outdoors and rely on depth perception to do your work, for example, if you’re a landscaper or construction worker.

Progressive Lenses Cost More

Because of the technology involved, it costs more to make progressive lenses than it does to make bifocals. So you’re likely to pay a little extra for your pair of progressive glasses. That said, you’re only paying for one pair of glasses rather than two separate ones, so you may end up saving money in the long run.

Also, because progressive lenses offer graduated vision, if your prescription changes slightly, you can still use them by simply making small adjustments to where you look. Contrast that with bifocals, which have a hard and fast prescription in each section of the lens. So, your progressives have a longer “life” than bifocals and it could be a while before you need to replace them.

Progressive Glasses Can Take Time to Get Used To

When you make the switch to progressive lenses — whether that’s from regular glasses or traditional bifocal lenses — your eyes and brain need time to adjust. During that adjustment period, you might temporarily feel a little disoriented, dizzy, or nauseous, or even get headaches. You may also initially notice some blurring in your peripheral vision.

To get used to your new lenses and help your body adjust more quickly, wear them consistently. That said, take special care when you’re walking up or down stairs and while you’re driving because your depth and distance perception will be adjusting too.

Also, practice good general eyecare, for example, changing your focus regularly, from close-up to further away. This is a good habit to get into anyway as it helps to reduce eye strain.

If your new glasses still aren’t feeling right after a couple of weeks, revisit your eye doctor and get them checked. Getting the right fit is particularly important for bifocal lenses and progressives because your eyes need to fall in exactly the right place in the frames.

Where to Get Your Progressive Lenses

Pair Eyewear's Wanda Hogwarts eyeglasses

If you’ve decided that progressive lenses are what you need, it’s time to consider where to get yours.

A great place to start is Pair Eyewear. Pair can fill a variety of prescriptions, including progressive lenses, and our range of glasses frames offers options to suit all face shapes. Best of all, once you’ve chosen your favorite Base Frame, you can change your look in a moment with our wide range of snap-on Top Frames.

To place your order, you’ll need the prescription from your latest eye exam (or we can ask your optometrist for it), and some time to virtually try on the frames that grab your fancy. Once you’ve done that, you can add other lens options, like:

  • Blue light filters to protect your sleep if you often work on your computer late at night

  • Light-responsive lenses that protect your eyes by changing their tint depending on the brightness of your surroundings

  • Ultra-thin premium progressive lenses to lighten the weight of your glasses (especially if you have a high prescription)

Is It Time to Switch to Progressives?

Progressive lenses offer multiple prescriptions in one graduated lens. To change from reading up close to seeing your computer screen and then looking into the distance, you simply need to move your eyes from the bottom to the top of the lens. The transition between the different distances is seamless, you only need one pair of glasses — and, if you choose well, those glasses can look great on you.

However, progressive lenses do cost a little more and can take time to get used to. They may also not be ideal if you do certain types of work.

Once you’ve considered all the pros and cons, if you decide progressive lenses are for you, head over to Pair Eyewear to browse our gorgeous range of glasses. Between our beautifully designed Base Frames and Top Frames to suit every personality and occasion, progressive glasses never looked so good.