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Progressive Lenses: What They Are and How They Work

Glasses Types

Progressive Lenses: What They Are and How They Work

What Are Progressive Lenses?

Do you wear reading glasses? If so and you’re 40 or older, you may notice your readers aren’t working as well as they used to. This is likely because you have presbyopia. Presbyopia is a normal part of aging. When you’re young, the lens in your eye that focuses light onto the retina is flexible and can change shape easily. As you age, the lens becomes rigid, making it harder for you to see clearly up close.

Even if you have presbyopia, you may not need glasses to see far away, causing you to put your glasses on to see near objects and then take them off to see things at a distance. After a while, this can become inconvenient and annoying.

If this describes you, consider progressive lens glasses. They are like three pairs of glasses in one, enabling you to see clearly close up, at arm’s length and far away.

How do Progressive Lenses Work?

Progressive lenses are known as “no-line” multifocals because there are no lines between the areas of strength on the lens, unlike bifocal or trifocal lenses.

Instead, there is a smooth transition among the three lens segments:

  • The top helps you see clearly when you look straight ahead into the distance.
  • The middle is slightly below eye level and is for looking at things at arm’s length, such as your computer screen.
  • The bottom is for near vision and helps with close-up tasks like reading or looking at your phone.
Diagram of a progressive lens in glasses showing the location of distance, intermediate, and near vision.

Pros of Progressive Lens Glasses

There are many reasons to wear progressive eyeglasses, including:

Convenience of One Lens for All Your Vision Needs

You can see clearly at all distances with progressive lenses. They correct nearsightedness and farsightedness. They can also correct astigmatism, which is blurry vision caused by light not focusing evenly on the retina in your eye.

Smooth Transition Between Powers

Bifocals and trifocals can cause “image jump,” which is when objects suddenly change in clarity when your eyes move through the different segments of the lens. Progressive lenses eliminate this jump because the shift between the three lens powers is gradual and seamless.

Keep You Looking Younger

Lenses with lines are often associated with old age, so you might feel self-conscious wearing bifocals or trifocals. Progressive glasses are transparent and look like “regular” glasses, so you won’t feel old wearing them.

Cons of Progressive Lens Glasses

There are also some drawbacks to consider, such as:

Takes Time to Adjust

Since progressive lenses have three lens powers, it will take some time to learn the right way to look through the lenses. Things can also look wavy or fuzzy in your peripheral (side) vision. These effects should go away as you become more comfortable with your glasses and your eyes adjust.

More Expensive

Progressive lenses are more expensive than single vision, bifocal and trifocal lenses. There are many types of progressive lenses, so talk with your eye doctor or optician to choose which lenses are right for you.

How Progressive Lenses Compare to Other Lenses

Even though bifocals and trifocals also help you see clearly at multiple distances, there are a number of differences between progressives and other lenses.

Single Vision Lenses

Single vision lenses have only one prescription strength and correct only one vision issue, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism.


Bifocals are divided into top and bottom zones. The top is used for distance vision and the bottom is for near vision. There is a noticeable line on the lens between the segments.


Trifocals have the same three power segments as progressives. The difference is that there are visible lines on the lens separating the segments.

Tips for Wearing Progressive Lens Glasses

Once you’ve decided to get progressive lenses, it will take some time to get used to them.

Consider these tips to help you adjust:

Move your head, not your eyes.

When you start wearing progressives, adjust your head position or point your nose toward what you’re looking at. Bring your head up to see far away, look straight ahead to see objects at arm’s length, and point your nose down to read or to do close-up work.

You can move your chin up and down to focus. You will also want to move your head when looking to the side because progressive lenses can make your peripheral vision blurry.

Wear your progressives as often as possible when you first get them.

The more you wear your new lenses, the quicker you’ll get used to them. Don’t switch between your old glasses and your progressive lenses because it will take longer for you to get accustomed to the new ones.

Test yourself.

Pick up a book or magazine to read while you’re watching TV and look back and forth from each object. This can help speed up your transition to your progressive lenses.

Be careful when walking.

When you’re walking, look straight ahead rather than down at the ground or at your feet. The bottom strength of your progressive lenses is for close-up tasks, and looking down at your feet can cause your vision to become too magnified.

It will probably take one to two weeks for you to adjust to your progressive lenses. Talk to your eye doctor if you’re still uncomfortable after a couple of weeks. They can adjust your prescription and check to make sure your glasses fit correctly so that you can get the most out of your progressive lenses.