Progressive Lenses Versus Bifocals

As we age, our eyesight changes. Most of us will end up having to buy prescription eyeglasses at some point in our lives. Age-related vision changes like presbyopia can leave people in need of multifocal lenses, or glasses that correct both distant and close vision. Traditionally, bifocals have been the go-to option in this situation, but increasingly more people are choosing progressive lenses, instead.

Progressive versus bifocal lenses: what’s the difference?

Bifocals (and to a lesser extent, trifocals) have been around for more than a hundred years. The lens of a bifocal is split into two distinct areas, one meant for focusing on objects up close, and the other helping the wearer hone in on things in the distance. It’s a very basic principle: when you look down, such as to read a book, you stare through one lens strength, and when you glance up, you’re staring through another.

Progressive lenses are just that, progressive. They progress from one strength gradually to another, rather than switching all at once. This allows for a unique lens strength at every horizontal point on the glasses. Progressive lenses are favored by a lot of people because, unlike bifocals, they are not immediately distinguishable from regular eyeglasses and thus may make the wearer seem younger.

Types of progressive lenses

Because of the nature of progressive lenses over bifocals, there is room for a lot more customization. But all progressive lenses are not interchangeable, and picking the wrong one could be a huge waste of time and money. You’ll want to get familiar with the different categories of progressive lenses before settling on the one that’s right for you.

  • Standard

For most people, standard progressive lenses will fit the bill. They are designed to give a basic, wide range of vision and will work for most prescriptions. However, standard progressive glasses require a fairly large frame to fit the entire field of lens strengths. If the chosen frames are too small, it can ruin the effects of the lens.

  • Short-corridor

These are progressive lenses specifically made to fit into the smaller frames that standard progressive lenses cannot. With short-corridor progressive lenses, you will have a wider variety of framing options available to you. However, short-corridor lenses can be more difficult to adjust to as the range for each lens strength is smaller, sometimes causing distortion around the edges.

  • Computer

These progressive lenses are used primarily by office workers, artists, and other people who focus on objects in the intermediate distance for long periods of time. The main draw of computer lenses over standard ones is the more natural position of the head. With standard progressive lenses, focusing on a computer screen may require a slight head tilt to view the device through the proper area of the lens.

  • Premium

Premium progressive lenses are usually the most expensive option. They take into account your individual eye anatomy. Premium lenses are built slightly differently and allow both of your eyes to work together, even taking into account which eye is dominant.

When are progressive lenses the better option?

There is no wrong option between progressive lenses and bifocals. You only need to determine which is the best fit for you personally. Your eye doctor may have suggestions based on your specific prescription.

Progressive lenses are emerging as the frontrunner nowadays, with many people preferring their wider range of focus and more discreet look. Several common complaints about bifocals are not present with progressive lenses:

  • Image jumping

With bifocals, your eye must cross a hard border between the two lens strengths. Doing this can cause objects in your line of sight to “jump” as your brain refocuses using the new lens strength. Progressive lenses do not have this problem.

  • Horizontal lines

There is an obvious line delineating where the two lens strengths meet. Not only does this line cause the aforementioned image jumping, but it is noticeable to other people, as well. Progressive lenses can “blend in” with regular prescription lenses. When progressive lenses are used in sunglasses, it can be nearly impossible to tell that the wearer is using corrective lenses at all.

  • Middle distance focus problems

Bifocals offer only two lens strengths (and trifocals, three). So sometimes objects at a semi-close distance can be out of focus. Progressive lenses offer a much wider gradient of viewing distances.

Progressive lenses may take a few extra days to get used to. So if you try your first pair of progressives, the perfect vision may not come as quickly as it did with your first pair of traditional prescription glasses. Most people adjust to progressive lenses after a few days, while others find the transition more difficult.

If you get your prescription glasses online, progressive lenses may be harder to find, but they are still an option. offers progressive lens fittings for eyeglasses as well as prescription sunglasses.

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