Have you heard or wondered about progressive lenses? An invention from the 1950s that have seen lots of technological updates, they are a fantastic creation for people in their 40s (or for people needing different distance and reading prescriptions – we’ll get to that in a bit). If you’re in this age group, you may have noticed a bit of change in your eyesight – your arms don’t seem long enough or you may struggle to read the menu in low light or feel like newspaper print has become smaller? If you haven’t, then you’re one of the lucky few.
The problem of adjusting focus from near to far does not go away when wearing standard single vision eyeglasses. And that’s because standard single vision eyeglasses, as its name suggests, have just one prescription in each lens. If you have trouble reading the fine print and seeing an object across the room, you may need a lens with a combination of prescriptions. This is where progressive lenses come in.
What are Progressive Lenses?
Also known as multifocal, varifocals or progressive added lenses (PALs), progressive lenses have a progressive blend of prescriptions in the same lens. As mentioned above, regular lenses in single vision glasses have just one prescription in the entire lens. Progressive lenses allow for a blend of prescriptions, unlike standard eyeglasses and bifocals, which have one or two determined prescriptions.
Now, let us talk about the most common misconceptions about progressive lenses.
1. Progressive Lenses Are Only for Older People
Indeed, progressive lenses are commonly prescribed for those in their 40s. This is because most people around this age develop presbyopia, which is an age-related change in how the eyes work when reading or seeing near objects. Reading prescriptions are often required, and can start as early as the late 30s.
However, progressive lenses come in various types, with different formats suitable for different age groups, including children, teenagers, and young adults. This is because some non-presbyopic people require a different near prescription to reduce or support near work.
Some progressive lenses are tailored for specific tasks, such as working with multiple screens, indoor use, office use, computer use, or different specific work environments.
At E Eye Place, we can access all lens manufacturers based in Australia. We try the lenses out ourselves and our family so that we get that firsthand experience of the technology in our different visual environments. For example, Lionel wears ZEISS Progressive Individual Photofusion and Maui Jim prescription sunglasses. Annie wears Maui Jim Progressive Lenses, and Stephanie wears ZEISS Digital lenses (also a type of lens with more than 1 prescription in each lens). (Stay tuned for our next blog posts on our personal experiences with spectacle and contact lenses for our very different lifestyles!)
2. It’s Hard to Get Used to Wearing Progressive Lenses
Not all progressive lenses are the same, and everyone’s visual system is different. Many factors affect how comfortable progressive lenses are, including:
Correct lens type: The best progressive lenses for you are in line with your reasons, environment, and demands.
Correct frame: The frame must fit the wearer properly, and is suitable for the type of environment and takes into account the prescription of the wearer. For instance, a large rectangular frame is not ideal for someone who is very short-sighted, because the lens will be unnecessarily thicker and heavier.
Your unique visual needs: Did you have previous laser surgery or perhaps have specific eye conditions such as lazy eye, high prescriptions, complicated prescriptions, or binocular vision dysfunctions? These factors should be assessed first to figure out the best progressive lenses for your unique case.
If you’ve heard of horror stories linked to progressive lenses, they are usually due to a misfit of the lens type or an inappropriate recommendation. There is no magical one-size-fits-all progressive lens!
So, how do we determine the correct progressive lenses for you?
It’s essential that you go through a thorough evaluation of not just your eyes but your environment, as well. How your eyes function and the measurement of your working distances or reading material are part of the assessment. State of the art 3D measurements of how glasses and lenses will fit on your face is vital to ensure you have been advised of the best solutions with the best outcomes.
This is when being independent is such an advantage. We are not limited to just a selected range of lenses, so everyone has plenty of suitable options. For example, a road train driver and a delivery driver may sound similar, but their needs vary significantly. A theatre nurse and a dentist can have diverse requirements that require lenses that address different visual requirements. A piano teacher will require a different lens as compared to a violinist in an orchestra. It all depends on a person’s requirements, which are often unique to their eyes, goals, and environment.
3. All Progressive Lenses Are the Same Everywhere
Here’s an analogy we like to use in addressing this misconception about progressive lenses.
A car is a car, right?
But think about it. In the past several years, investments in automobile research and development (R&D) have soared, leading to added technology, specifications and improved features. Fuel efficiencies and safety and comfort features cater for different needs. Also, there is a massive difference between car manufacturers. You can’t say that a Kia, Mercedes, and a Ferrari are all the same. Additionally, cars that are designed to navigate city traffic are different from vehicles designed for off-road terrains or for carrying heavy loads.
In light of this, we can say the same about progressive lenses. They differ in pricing, brand, size, type, and purpose. They must be a precise fit for the wearer.
4. You Only Need One Pair of Progressive Lenses
This statement is also not true. Indeed, for some individuals, a pair of progressive lenses is all that is required. However, for others, there may be a need for at least two different types of lenses for different situations. For example, you can wear your pair of progressive lenses for a visually demanding work environment, such as safety glasses or glasses for lots of computer work. Your other pair can be for everyday use after work.
Like shoes, you use a different pair for exercising and working, which can be in the form of work safety boots. You surely don’t wear safety glasses on formal occasions when you should don dinner dress shoes. That is not to say you will require 20 pairs of eyeglasses – we will work with your profile to identify what is most essential for you.
5. Everyone Can Use Progressive Lenses
Not exactly. While the majority of people get used to good quality progressive lenses easily, there are situations where progressive lenses are not ideal. This varies from individual to individual.
Here are some examples:
Let’s say that you are prone to motion sickness. Thus, you can find progressive lenses disorienting and harder to get used to. That said, this is not an absolute contraindication. Some people with motion sickness can still wear progressive lenses (Stephanie is a classic example!), as long as they are a well fitted and good quality set of lenses.
Some individuals need to gaze upwards within close vicinity. Progressive lenses are not typically ideal in this case because the reading section in progressive lenses is at the bottom.
Some people have eye conditions that have a heavy reliance on either just one eye or peripheral vision. Therefore, single vision or bifocals are more appropriate options.
Progressive lenses could be problematic for the very elderly or frail who have a history of trips and falls.
Now that we have some of the misconceptions straightened out, you may be a good candidate for progressive lenses. Talk to E Eye Place to experience the amazing visual and cosmetic benefits of progressive lenses.
Stephanie is an owner optometrist, researcher and educator. She has held clinical, teaching and research roles in Australia and overseas, and has extensive training and clinical experience. Stephanie is also the head optometrist at E Eye Place, on top of this, she is also currently a PhD candidate at UNSW. Dr Stephanie Yeo Optometrist BOptom (HC1) GradCertOcTher DOPT (Merit) CO Ophthalmic Medicines Prescriber.