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What Are Progressive Lenses - Pros & Cons and More

Your yearly eye exam came with a surprise this year: you need progressive lenses. If you’re in the age 40 and up crowd, this might not come as a surprise, but if you’re younger, you might wonder what progressive lenses are, why you need them, and why you can’t just get your “regular” eyeglasses any longer.

Before you visit your optometrist or optician to shop for specs, consider this: your new eyewear is very sophisticated and able to provide you with multiple levels of vision correction in one lens — without obvious delineation, like you’d have with bifocals or trifocals.

The eye care experts at Pair Eyewear have the information you need to help make your journey into progressives a transition as seamless as the smooth transition in your lenses. We’ll explain what progressive lenses are, how they work, and how they compare to other options for multiple vision correction.

First, a little education about vision correction.

What Are the Basics of Vision Correction?

If you’ve been wearing single-vision correction eyewear for years, multivision correction can seem foreign. After all, you’ve only got two eyes, so why the need for multiple corrections?

The reason is due to different fields of vision. There are three fields of vision your eye doctor measures to determine if correction is needed:

  1. Near vision. This is a measure of how well you can see at distances that are close up, like a book or a smartphone.
  2. Intermediate vision. Intermediate distances are distances that aren’t too far and aren’t too close. This includes text or objects within about 20 feet of your face.
  3. Distance vision. As you may have already guessed, distance vision measures how well you can see objects in the distance, like a road sign.

Problems with any of these different distances have special names. These “problems” are referred to as refractive errors, and they are called so because they describe problems with how light is refracted onto the retina, where your vision cells are located.


The most common type of refractive error is called myopia. Myopia is also referred to as nearsightedness, and it means that you have no trouble seeing objects close up, but you have trouble with distance viewing.


The ying to the myopia yang is hyperopia, or farsightedness. If you are farsighted, it means you’re able to see objects in the distance, but you have trouble seeing objects close up. If you’ve ever “played trombone” with your smartphone or a book (moved the object back and forth until it comes into focus), you might be dealing with this issue with close-up vision.


Unlike hyperopia and myopia, astigmatism causes all planes of vision to appear blurry. Astigmatism happens when the cornea has an abnormal shape. When the cornea is misshapen, it can create halos and blurry lines around objects in the near, intermediate, and distant fields of vision. Astigmatism also makes it more difficult to drive at night.


If you tell your eye doctor that the two certainties in life are death and taxes, they might correct you by adding presbyopia to the list. Presbyopia is the term for age-related vision loss that everyone will experience as they age.

Presbyopia is like hyperopia, in that it affects how you see objects close-up, but unlike hyperopia, this refractive error happens as the result of changes in the eye due to age. Most people will begin to experience presbyopia symptoms by their late 30s or early 40s, prompting many middle-agers to head to the local drug store and grab a pair of reading glasses.

If you only have one refractive error, you’ll be prescribed a single-vision corrective lens. However, it’s extremely common to have more than one type of refractive error, and that’s why multifocal lenses were created.

What Are Progressive Lenses?

What are progressive lenses: brown eyeglasses on a pink background

The typical eyewear prescription is confusing enough if you only need single-vision lenses — add in a few more fields of vision and astigmatism, and you’ve got a complicated script that can have you see double (pun intended).

Although the script itself might look confusing, multifocal lenses are one of the biggest wins of all time in eyewear science. Think of it this way: If you need both near and distance vision correction and don’t have access to multifocal lenses, you’d need to invest in:

  • Reading glasses, or eyewear you can use to have clear vision when studying objects close up.
  • Distance glasses. When you’re ready to put down the book and gaze out into your backyard where your kids are playing, you’ll need to swap your reading glasses for your distance glasses.

If you have astigmatism, you can add another pair of glasses to your list and don’t forget that you’ll need each pair of glasses in a shaded option for bright days and possibly a polarized pair for certain activities.

Work on a computer? You’ll also want to throw in a pair of blue-light filtering lenses, too. We’re now up to about six or seven pairs of glasses, and let’s be honest, a big hassle.

Multifocal lenses help prevent the need to swap your eyewear for vision correction purposes. However, earlier multifocals were not as sophisticated as the progressive glasses we have today.


The OG of the multifocal lens world is bifocals. These eyeglass lenses had a divided lens that allowed for two types of vision correction in one. The bottom of the lens corrected close-up vision, while the top of the lens corrected distance vision.

There was just one problem: intermediate vision wasn’t a consideration for bifocal users, and early glass bifocals had a visible line that most wearers didn’t like. In fact, bifocals (and that obvious line) quickly became associated with “old age.” Even though aging is a gift, bifocals made the package a little less aesthetically appealing.

No-line bifocals were a great advancement, but there was still the need for vision correction that also addressed intermediate distances.

Trifocal Lenses

Trifocals were the solution that compensated for the missing field of vision that bifocal lenses did not correct — middle distance.

Trifocals are important because progressive lenses work similarly to them. Trifocals have distance vision correction located at the top of the lens, near vision correction at the bottom of the lens, and mid-range vision correction in the middle of the lens.

Like bifocals, trifocals had obvious lines that made the lens design itself less than desirable, even though all distances and viewing areas were now accounted for. In addition, some users of both bifocals and trifocals complained that the lines in the lenses would cause an image jump or a change in the way an object looked if the viewer looked at it with their eyes cast upward and then downward.

Progressive Lenses

The powers of science and aesthetics combined to develop a new type of lens that had the ability to hold multiple lens powers in one single lens without visible lines of delineation. These are called progressive lenses, and they give the wearer the ability to correct multiple vision problems with one lens.

How Do Progressive Lenses Work?

Striped eyeglasses on a yellow background

Progressive lenses work by providing a gradual gradient within the lens that changes based on where you look in the lenses. The same rules apply here — looking up will correct your distance vision, looking straight ahead corrects mid-range distance, and looking down through your lenses will magnify close-up objects.

There are several different types of progressive lenses.

Standard Progressive Lenses

Standard progressives are the universal standard for multifocal eyecare. They work for practically anyone who needs multi-distance vision correction.

Premium Progressive Lenses

For the ultimate in lens options, premium progressive lenses are ideal. They can be customized to fit your frames, and they may also make it easier for you to utilize the reading magnification portion of your glasses. These lenses are sometimes referred to as high-index lenses, which means you’ll get the highest quality lenses in the thinnest material available. These are ideal for someone who needs vision correction below -6.00 or above +3.00.

Blue-Light Filtering Progressive Lenses

Blue-light filtering lenses are necessary for anyone who spends time in front of a computer screen, smartphone, tablet, or LED television (read: everyone).

Blue light can penetrate the eye and reach the retina, and although we don’t yet know what kind of long-term damage our continual exposure to blue light can do to our eyes, we do know that it can interfere with circadian rhythm and impact our sleep. It can also lead to computer vision syndrome and cause headaches and eye strain.

Blue-light filtering lenses have a specialized compound used in the lens that effectively filters out blue light, keeping your eyes protected. This upgrade in your progressive lenses is worth considering to keep your eyes safe in all situations. Just so you know, the most significant source of blue light is the sun, but a quality pair of UV-protective sunglasses will keep your eyes safe when you’re outdoors.

Light-Responsive Progressive Lenses

Speaking of outdoors, let’s talk about light-responsive lenses. If you’re trying to cut down on the amount of glasses you keep on hand, you can eliminate sunglasses by opting for light-responsive progressive lenses when purchasing your new glasses.

Light-responsive eyewear naturally darkens when exposed to UV rays and returns to transparency when you move out of the sunlight. Keep in mind that light-responsive lenses don’t typically work in your car, which has a UV-blocking coating on the windshield.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Progressive Lenses?

Pair Eyewear's Wanda Hogwarts eyeglasses

Progressive lenses are a godsend for people who need multiple vision correction, but they do take some getting used to. Here’s your cheat sheet of pros and cons so you can make the best decision for your vision correction.


  • Progressive lenses look like single-vision correction glasses (there’s no visible line)
  • Progressive lenses correct multiple refractive errors with one lens
  • You’ll reduce the number of pairs of glasses you need
  • Most eyewear and frame manufacturers offer progressive lenses


  • You’ll need to train your eyes to use your progressive lenses. It can take some time to adapt to looking into three different areas of your lenses.
  • Sometimes, people using progressive lenses have trouble with peripheral vision distortion.
  • Price. The price point for progressive lenses is usually higher than standard bifocal, trifocal, or single-vision lenses.
  • You’ll only get one pair of frames, which you might find a little boring…but wait, there’s a hack for that!

Despite the cons, progressive lenses remain some of the most popular eyewear options on the market, and you can find them right at Pair Eyewear. Pair gives you the ability to choose one Base Frame in a shape that is uniquely you, select your lens type (including multiple types of progressive lenses), and then pick your top frames.

Top Frames snap to the surface of your Base Frames allowing you to build a frame wardrobe that is ever-changing and stylistically interesting, never boring or mundane. It’s everything you love about having multiple frames, but without investing your vacation fund in eyewear or lugging around multiple pairs of glasses.

The Bottom Line

If you’re on the search for the right pair of glasses, Pair Eyewear gives you the ability to try out progressive lenses in the most fashion-forward progressive frames available. Go ahead, upgrade your eyewear to first class, with Pair.


How is near vision measured? | American Academy of Ophthalmology

Visual acuity test Information | Mount Sinai - New York

Astigmatism, Hyperopia, and Myopia | Boston Children's Hospital

What Is Astigmatism? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment | American Academy of Ophthalmology