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Progressive Lenses: Are They for You?

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I just got my first pair of glasses with progressive lenses and the optician told me it would take a couple of weeks to adjust. So far I'm just wearing them a few minutes per day, exploring this new world of vision and when I start feeling dizzy or exhausted, I take them off.

Progressive lenses are similar to bifocals, except that the focal length of each lens changes continuously from the distance vision prescription to the reading vision prescription.

Bifocals, trifocals, reading glasses, and progressive lenses are all options for those of us over the age of 40 who have lost the elasticity in the natural lenses of our eyes. This happens to almost everyone who fails to die young. The condition is called presbyopia.

Some people choose to wear contact lenses that correct one eye for near vision and the other for distance vision. Cataract patients have new lenses implanted into their eyes, replacing the natural lenses completely and sometimes choose this “monovision” option of one eye focused for close work, the other for distance.

Implantable lenses that can change their focal length are in the developmental stages and may be an excellent replacement for natural lens.

Meanwhile, adjusting to glasses that have more than one focal length is a challenge for some. One of my friends told me that she loves her progressive lenses and was adjusted by the end of the first day. Other friends have told me they tried progressives and found them impossible.

A common observation is that people who have worn bifocals have more trouble adjusting to progressive lenses. If you go straight from single vision lenses to progressives, as I am doing, it may be easier.

The adjustment is in the brain, not the eye. Right now I'm used to two completely different pairs of single vision glasses, plus my unaided eyes. With my primary glasses, I can see to drive and do most other activities. With my computer glasses, I can read the screen without leaning in and getting massive headaches with neck pain. With no glasses, I see clearly at a close distance. When I go shopping, I wear my primary glasses, but I have to take them off to read labels. I also take them off to eat, because the food looks blurry with them on. Each time I switch, I reset to a new type of visual input. By now I find it normal to change the focus of my entire visual field but it's very different to put on the progressive lenses and see different degrees of focus in different areas of the visual field.

I posted a status on facebook about my new progressive lenses. Here are two comments I received:

(1)“They are the only kind I can wear. If I wear the ones with lines, I destroy things while driving”,

(2)“They sound HARD! I tried them with regular glasses and just could never, ever get used to them. My opthamologist told me not to even bother with contacts!”

The reference book (below) reports that everyone should expect adjustment to multi-focal lenses to take some effort. If you, the reader, have experience with progressive lenses, please add a comment about how hard or easy it was for you to adjust to them.


Clyde K. Kitchen, M.D., “Fact and Fiction of Healthy Vision: Eye Care for Adults and Children”, Praeger, 2007.

Linda Fugate is a scientist and writer in Austin, Texas. She has a Ph.D. in Physics and an M.S. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering. Her background includes academic and industrial research in materials science. She currently writes song lyrics and health articles.

Add a Comment11 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I was having problems with dizziness. I have been to a neurologist, ear, nose throat doctor, was treated for vertigo and have no spinning anymore, been to cardiologist and they have found NOTHING!!! I went to the eye doctor and he told me that it was probably my eyes and that my eye muscles were getting weak so I got progressive lenses. Boy are they NOT for me. I have had them for 4 weeks and still cannot adjust to them at all. I'm getting bifocals hopefully today!!. Anyone else experience dizziness before the found out they needed glasses? I have astigmatism too!!

November 20, 2019 - 10:51am
EmpowHER Guest

thank you so much for this article, and for all those who commented. I'm just now trying my firt Progressives, and am not happy. While it's only been a day- constantly having to move my head and eyes around to figure out where the clearest spot is to read a book, computer, food label- is really annoying. I don't really need the distance yet... am back to wearing my drug store glasses right now...and will try the progressives out for a little bit, but certainly not an entire month. I'm not comfortable wearing glasses all the time, have never had to, and do not need them for distance. I think I need the same prescription for reading books as the computer- so I'm having to tilt my head too far back to work on computer, even when it's at lowest height.

February 27, 2018 - 2:14pm
EmpowHER Guest

I dealt with progressive lenses for four days before deciding there is no way I can do this. The complete loss of peripheral vision, dizziness, nausea, and post-it note sized clear vision field when working on a computer were horrific. My job depends upon my being able to quickly utilize two computer screens while typing information from paper on a stand. This is impossible to do when only able to see a post-it note sized section of screen/paper at a time. I had lasic eye-surgery 13 years ago and continue to have good distance vision that needs very little correction. It has only been recently that I have ended up with blurry vision and headaches after working on the computer all day. It frustrates me that the optometrist did not inform me of the loss of peripheral vision with progressive lenses and the option of getting single vision lenses for computer use only. The single vision lenses are now on order, but I certainly wish I'd never even attempted the nightmare of progressive lenses.

June 19, 2017 - 1:10pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have been trying to get use to my progressive lenses for over 2 months. There are times I get terrible headaches, I get sick to my stomach, it's almost like motion sickness.
Even with the progressives I do not have clear eye sight. I can see far away, but I cannot clearly see up close, people at a regular distance from me. When I am talking to my husband, or anyone else within a comfortable or closer position, I cannot clearly see them. I cannot see my computer and I also have a very hard time reading. I have depth perception issues and have almost fallen down stairs or run into walls and doors.
Its very frustrating, because I have been told, I will have to give up seeing clearly out of one of these three distances. I don't understand why I can't get glasses that allow me to see clearly at all three distances.

December 14, 2016 - 1:55am
EmpowHER Guest

first pair of glasses prescribed in 2013 , just for reading. later in 2014 doctor told me i needed for far vision, so another prescription for far vision was given. i was changing both of my glasses from reading to far vision i was OK, 2015 i went for my annual vision exam and doctor, ( a different one) told me now i needed glasses for my middle vision, he recommended that in order not to have three pair of glasses i should be wearing trifocals that was going to be easy for me since i was not going to be interchanging. So, i accepted. he told me it was going to take one to two weeks to adjust, buy one month passed , two month passed and i could not get used to them. i was thinking that maybe it was me not being happy with these glasses. so 4 month passed and i was not OK with those. my doctor told me he did not understand what was happening, so i went back for a new vision test , this time he told me my trifocals were heavy for me and that they were moving and did not sat well on my nose that was why i never adjust to the trifocals. he recommended a light frame. since my prescription was the same just the new glasses and lighter frame ( since it was another year, he took advantage of my insurance) and this time gave progressives with the three prescription; close, middle, far vision... he told me one to two weeks to get adjusted to them buy i never got adjusted my eyes seems not to focus well , a had headaches, i got dizzy , my neck hurts ( i thought it was from the computer , but it was cause i have to tilde me head so far back ) two month later i started to see double i went to see him again (idiot me) he told me to go back to my old trifocals just to see if with those i was ok, buy i was not OK i keep seeing double, four months later i have to talk to my insurance to make complaint about it,, so insurance talk to my doctor and told him he need to recheck in a more deep way, so these time my doctor said y need to have a prism in my glasses because since i am getting old my natural light is not enough and the muscle in my eyes gets lazy that is why I am seeing double. so, my glasses stay in the doctor office for having the prism on , since my old trifocals were really too heavy and were marking my nose , i decide to go back to my very first pair that i still have, and voila i can see clearer , not double and OK.. so trifocals and progressive were not good for me. i understand this is along story but i hope that when other people read it and they are having same troubles get help faster .

May 21, 2016 - 11:40pm
EmpowHER Guest

I had worn Progressives before, then when having trouble seeing prior to Cataract surgery, I preferred a Distance pair I had, ultimately needing surgery when new prescriptions were not working. After both surgeries, I got Progressives soon after, later realizing that they were not as easy to wear as earlier versions had been. I had the prescription checked and had those glasses redone, yet still found that the mid-range appears vague or missing. Of course, I was told "to adjust", find the "sweet spot"..whatever. All I know is that I cannot see to work at the kitchen counter sharply or to the bathroom mirror. And those who tell you "how to look through them", are not seeing through another's eyes. (Also, since these lenses are an "hourglass" shape, it is not as simple).

I have seen that some are better off with lined Bifocal / Trifocals, which I will try, because I am desperate. (There are pairs referred to as "Household" or "occupational" lenses, which that particular optician at the Dr's. office, was not open to dicussing, but you can see these referred to online). Also, I do use Computer glasses or for focusing in a closer range, I go without. (I have not been happy since my first eye surgery was not right, having the 2nd done by a different Dr. and need surgery to raise my droopy lid, that is apparently the result of the sutures used in that 1st surgery - - concerned, though). I was always used to seeing well with glasses - I just want my normal ranges of vision back.

August 30, 2015 - 8:10pm
EmpowHER Guest

I probably gave up too easily, but I wore them for one day and found them intolerable. Side distortion, constantly moving my head around. I just couldn't do it for another day. I was unable to work comfortably at my computer.

Maybe because for many years I have used two glasses - one for distance, and one for computer/reading (it is in fact a progressive), and found this to work well for me, despite having to switch glasses.

August 12, 2015 - 8:17pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Similar experience, this is the first hour with them. It's good from 10 feet and beyond, but awful for reading. I have good far sight and started with only reading glasses. I am way happier with my single lens reading glasses. I cannot read a line at once and see sharply only 1 word at a time. This selling practice is a scam.

April 27, 2017 - 6:08pm
EmpowHER Guest

I recently got a new prescription and decided to give progressives another try. (I tried them 3 years ago with no success). I could not adapt to them this time either. . I could see well for reading, and watching tv, but wearing them for work and trying to focus on the computer screen, or look back and forth from my paperwork to the computer, was difficult. Also, I did not see as clearly driving as I can see when I am wearing my distance glasses (or no glasses at all for that matter!). I wore them every day for a month but had to give them up. Sadly I guess they are just not for me.

April 15, 2015 - 4:34pm
EmpowHER Guest

I just got my progressive lenses and distance (driving and watching TV) is great. Up close reading is very clear although I do have to move my head from left to right to see. Only a few words directly in front of me are clear. Everything else to each side is blurry and distorted. Arm's length is my problem. As long as it's my fingernails or something larger at that distance, it's fine. However, I work on a computer all day and neither the midrange nor the near work. Is this something I will just become accustomed to?

March 6, 2015 - 10:35am
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