If you’re having some trouble with activities that require close vision – such as threading a needle, painting, or reading – don’t worry; you aren’t alone.

When we reach the age of 40, many of us will develop some degree of presbyopia. Presbyopia is a natural part of the aging process, and it causes a gradual reduction in the ability to focus on objects up-close. If you are struggling with near vision and you also need corrective lenses for distance, you have a few options when it comes to types of progressive lenses and bifocals.

Although it’s a lot to take in, knowing the difference between bifocal lenses and progressive lenses can help you figure out which ones will work for you.

Bifocal Lenses

Put simply, bifocal lenses help you see objects that are far away or close up – but because they only have two focal areas, they do not have an intermediate field of vision. Although bifocal lenses used to have a visible line between the two distinct focal areas, the transition between the near and distance prescriptions on modern bifocals is seamless and invisible.

Bifocals traditionally have the distance prescription for looking at objects far away built into the top portion of the lenses. The location of the distance prescription helps the wearer see objects in front of them or above their line of sight. The near prescription for reading or looking at objects close up is at the bottom.

Some bifocals can have the distance prescription built into the middle of the lenses and the near prescription at the top and the bottom. These bifocals are good for people who need to look up and change their field of vision from near to far frequently – like electricians or librarians.

Progressive Lenses

Trifocal and progressive lenses are multifocal – meaning that they have near, distance, and intermediate fields of vision. Multifocal lenses are suitable for people who need vision correction in all three fields of vision. Trifocals have three distinct focal areas that can be seen by the wearer.

On the other hand, Progressive lenses blend the focal areas between the three prescriptions – providing clear vision in the areas between the different prescription strengths. While progressive lenses are popular, it’s important to note that they aren’t for everyone.

Because more of a progressive lens is dedicated to blending and not to distinct focal areas, ten percent of people find the transition from bifocals to progressive lenses difficult.

What’s Best for You?

While progressive lenses are extremely popular and innovative, they are not the best choice for everyone. For one, they are more expensive than bifocals or single vision eyeglasses.

Progressive lenses can cost around $100 more than traditional lenses. Progressives may not be for you if you are on a tight budget or prone to losing or breaking your spectacles.

Some people can’t adjust to the jump from one prescription and field of vision to another. Others work in industries that are better suited to bifocal lenses.

When transitioning from traditional bifocals to progressive lenses, there’s a bit of a learning curve. Due to the lenses’ gradient between different prescriptions and fields of vision, you may have to retrain how you focus your eyes and move your head.

Adjusting to progressive lenses after wearing traditional eyeglasses can cause headaches, eye strain, and nausea; however, it is usually short-lived and resolves after a few days.

If you have never worn glasses and decide to try progressive lenses as your first eyeglasses, the adjustment period is much shorter. Generally, people who are used to wearing bifocals find adjusting to progressives more difficult.

Working at a Desk

Because progressive lenses are perfectly suited to office environments, people who work at desks tend to find the transition to progressives easier.

Working at a desk means adjusting your eyes from a near prescription when reading, an intermediate prescription when looking at a computer screen, and a distance prescription when looking up.

Working Outdoors

If your job requires you to spend most of your time outdoors, you should consult with your eye doctor before changing to progressive lenses. People who move across different terrains with many adjustments to their field of vision don’t generally like the way progressives work.

Because you move your head and eyes when focusing, people who work outdoors tend to complain about reduced depth perception or not being able to move their head the way they want when wearing progressives.

People who require precision vision for their jobs – such as manufacturers, welders, or artists – can also find progressive lenses limiting and prefer single vision lenses or bifocals.