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Glasses 101: Intro to Lens Options

February 20th, 2023

Glasses 101: Intro to Lens Options


If your vision needs supportive care and you opt for eyeglasses over contacts, there’s a question you might not be prepared to answer: Single vision, bifocal, or Progressive Lenses? These terms refer to how the lenses of your eyeglasses are designed, and it’s important to understand the difference so that you can make the best decision for your lifestyle.

Single Vision Lenses

Single lenses, also referred to as “monofocal” lenses, have the same prescription strength across the entire lens. These lenses are good at correcting farsightedness or nearsightedness. The lens has a single focal strength, which sharpens your vision of items that are either close or far away, depending on the problem that needs to be corrected.

Reading glasses are always single-focus lenses and they are used by people who are farsighted and need help seeing things up close. 

Bifocal Lenses

While single vision lenses sharpen your vision either for close objects or faraway objects, bifocal lenses can improve how you see both. If you have mild to moderate presbyopia, this might be the right option for you. Typically, the upper part of the lens has a focal length that allows you to focus on faraway objects better while the bottom part is separated by a line to allow you to focus on close-up objects better, like when you’re looking down at a book.

Depending on your personal preference, you might opt to get two different pairs of glasses — one for close-up activities like reading and one for faraway activities like being outdoors — in case you don’t like how bifocal lenses feel. They do take some getting used to, so ask your doctor about alternatives if bifocal lenses cause you to strain your vision. 

Progressive Lenses

Progressive lenses, also known multi-focal add a third lens power that helps your eyes focus on a wider range of distances. While bifocal lenses are good for faraway and close-up objects, Progressive lenses also help you see things that are at arm’s length.

One thing to note when asking about progressive lenses is the slight distinction between traditional trifocal (which have a visible line between the prescription strengths) and progressive lens. Progressive lenses have three different prescription strengths, but they have been blended to create a more gradual transition instead of a hard line. This is generally considered easier on your eyes, and it makes things look more natural. 

If you need a progressive lens, getting multiple pairs of glasses likely isn’t reasonable as you’d have to be constantly switching between them. However, if you’re uncomfortable with using a progressive lens, you should speak to your eye doctor as they may be able to prescribe another option, like specialty contacts, to provide you the most comfort throughout the day.

Choosing The Right Eyeglasses

You likely won’t have the choice between single Vision, bifocal, and progressive lenses since these different prescription types are used for very different vision conditions. However, you may find yourself opting for a separate pair of single focus glasses to help you with activities like reading or driving, even if you’re being prescribed bifocal or progressive lenses, so it’s always helpful to know your options.

Ultimately, if you have questions about which glasses are right for you, the best person to direct those questions to is your eye doctor. They can help you choose the best pair to fit your lifestyle and restore your healthy vision.

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