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Bifocal vs Progressive Lenses

Bifocal vs progressive

Our eyesight changes as we age, and that means most people will need glasses at some point in their life. In many cases, prescription glasses for adults have to address multiple vision issues, including trouble seeing things far away and up close.
Woman wearing sunglasses
When that happens, bifocal or progressive lenses can help you enjoy clear, strain-free vision.
So what should you know about bifocal vs progressive lenses? At a basic level, both options offer the same thing: two prescriptions in a single lens.
However, these lenses function differently and offer unique benefits depending on the user.

Types of lenses

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Bifocal

Bifocal lenses have two distinct sections: one for near-distance vision, one for far-distance vision. Unlike progressive lenses, this division is visible, appearing as a line in the lens.

2
Progressive

Progressive lenses gradually transition from near to far within the lens. This transition is usually very smooth, without any clear divisions between sections.

Beyond how they work, there’s one more thing you should know about bifocal vs progressive lenses. While all bifocals essentially have the same design (a near-vision section and a far-vision section), progressives have a few variations depending on the user’s needs.

The bifocal vs progressive debate might seem confusing, but picking the right lens doesn’t have to be complicated.

Choosing between bifocals and progressives is typically a matter of personal preference and comfort. Some people find a bifocal’s clear distinction between prescriptions more comfortable, others like the smooth transition available in progressives.
Woman wearing sunglasses
These preferences typically depend on a few lifestyle factors. For example, if your job requires you to regularly look between paperwork up close and presentations far away, progressives might make the transition between distances easier.

Because of their smooth transition between distances, progressives can also help if you deal with blurry middle-distance vision.

Progressive lenses tend to be more popular since they offer that smooth transition, but bifocals also have some benefits. Most notably, bifocals usually have bigger viewing areas for reading and computer work. Since a wider section is dedicated to looking at things up close, bifocals might be a better option if your lifestyle involves a lot of reading.

Woman wearing sunglasses

Progressives might be good for you if…

1
  • 1
    You regularly look between things up close and things far away.
  • 2
    You’re distracted by the lines in bifocals.
  • 3
    Your middle-distance vision is blurry.

Bifocals might be good for you if…

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  • 1
    You prefer a clear distinction between prescriptions within the lens.
  • 2
    You spend a lot of time reading or looking at things up close.
  • 3
    You don’t deal with blurry middle-distance vision.

Cost of bifocals vs progressive lenses

Both progressive and bifocal lenses are effective ways to enjoy healthy vision, but progressives are usually considered the more advanced option. This is partially because bifocals were invented in the 1700s while progressives were made in the mid 20th century. As a result, progressive lenses tend to cost more than bifocals.
Woman wearing sunglasses
No matter which type of lens you choose, customization can impact the price. With progressives, premium options for more specific prescription needs can cost more. With bifocals, protective coatings or specialized frames might up the price.

Pros and cons of bifocals

Let’s go over a few pros and cons of bifocals so you can make the best choice for your eye health

Benefits

1
Strain-free reading

Reading is easier thanks to bifocals’ dedicated near-vision section. This section is typically bigger than those available in progressive.

2
Wide range of frame

Bifocals have been around for a while, so finding frames you like won’t be a challenge.

3
Easier to adjust

Bifocal lenses might be easier to start wearing since the distinction between sections is more obvious than with progressive lenses.


Disadvantages

1
Line between sections

Some users might find the line between sections distracting.

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Aren’t great for computers

Progressives might be a better option if you use a computer regularly. People who wear bifocals often have to tilt their heads back to see their screen through the proper section of the lens. This position can lead to neck and shoulder pain.

How to get used to lined bifocals

Lined bifocals might take a little while to get used to, but there are a few steps you can take to adjust sooner.