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progressive lenses or bifocals which is best for you

Progressive lenses have taken the world by storm. However, they’re not for everyone. We have clients who walk in two or three months after giving progressives a determined go, only to regret they did and order their bifocals back.

Progressive Lenses Or Bifocal Lenses: Is There A Difference?

There is a reason for this, mostly around how you live your daily life and the differences in how these lens types work. Both are designed to help people who are both short- and farsighted. But they work in different ways. 

Progressive Lenses

Progressive lenses are the newest lens innovation, allowing for different fields of vision depending on where your eyes look through the lens. So, in most cases, a pair of progressive lenses have multiple prescriptions in one – an area for distance vision, one for medium distance like the computer screen, and one for closeup vision, like when you’re reading. In addition to supporting both short- and far-sighted prescriptions, progressive lenses are also an option for patients with astigmatism.

Unlike bifocals, which have visible lines or sections depicting the different lenses, modern developments in lens technology mean progressive lenses are line-free, which is an aesthetic design bonus. Without visible lines, it’s also a streamlined lens design feature that means your eyes and brain don’t have to leap two different lenses.


Bifocals have been around for more than 300 years. Lens manufacturers fuse two sections of lenses, with the upper-portion engineered for your distance vision prescription and a lower section or square designated for your reading prescription. Moving your eyes from one area of the lens to the other becomes an unconscious action and provides clear vision whether you’re driving or reading the latest social media post.

That said, you can see bifocals from the “outside” due to the lines that divide the two lenses. And this jump from one prescription to the other can give the brain a moment of pause. So, those sensitive to it experience a bit of confusion or discomfort as the eyes adjust from one frame of reference to the other.

Are Progressives Right For You?

Progressives are popular, but they’re not for everyone. Some of our patients just can’t adjust to the way they work, and others have jobs that are less suited to progressives.

There’s a learning curve

The most important thing to understand is the learning curve required when transitioning from traditional eyeglasses or bifocals to progressives. Because of the graduated lens design, those wearing progressives have to “retrain” how you move your eyes and your head when focusing. As a result, before you get used to the shift, you may experience spans of wooziness, nausea, headaches, eye strain, etc., but it usually goes away within a few days.

If you’ve never worn glasses before, this doesn’t take much time at all. Those who are used to bifocals typically experience more extended adjustment periods. Either way, most patients need a few days to a week to get used to the way progressives work, after which they don’t think about it anymore. And there are also patients who never make the official progression (pun intended) into their progressives. They decide to go back to their bifocals or glasses/readers combo.

Do you work at a desk?

We’ve noticed the patients who seem to make the progressive leap the fastest and most complete are those who work in office or desk environments. Progressives are exactly suited for these setups, where we move from looking up (distance), to the computer screen (mid-distance, and reading paperwork (close distance) from minute to minute.

Once they’ve adjusted, most of our professional patients find progressives are the ideal solution for optimized vision at every angle, rather than having access to distance/close and experiencing daily strain from the mid-distance computer screen range.

Do you work outdoors or require precision vision?

If you work outdoors for much of your day, it’s worth talking to your eye doctor before making the leap to progressives. Those who continuously move across varying terrain are not always fans of the way progressives work. Because you move your head with your eyes, rather than just your eyes, our outdoor working folk often complain that they have diminished depth perception or cant always move their head the way they need to for progressive lens success.

The same is true for workers who rely on precision vision, such as welders, artists, or manufacturers. While progressives may be fine for the home setting, single vision or bifocal lenses may be your best bet.

Are you paying cash?

If you lack vision insurance or are living on a budget, it’s worth noting that progressive lenses average $100 more than their single lens or bifocal counterparts. If you have children prone to forgetting, losing, or breaking their glasses, we also recommend passing on progressives until they’ve officially graduated to the next phase of glass care and protection.

How long have you worn bifocals?

Because of the learning curve mentioned above, there is a direct correlation between the length of time a person has worn bifocals and their ease of transition into progressives. Patients who’ve worn bifocals for 10 years or longer may not want to make the switch.

Are you interested in learning more about the difference and which would work best for you, progressive lenses or bifocals? Schedule an eye exam at Atlantic Eye Institute. We offer a 30-day guarantee on your new progressives, and will happily replace them with bifocals if you aren’t satisfied.

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