Adapting to Progressive Lenses

Why do progressive lenses take getting used to?

Progressive lenses, like normal bifocal lenses, combine a zone for seeing far away with a zone for seeing up close, all in one lens. The difference is that unlike traditional bifocals, progressives do not have a harsh, visible line running across the lens.

This results in some pros as well as some cons for the patient:

  • PRO: It visibly improves the aesthetic of the lens (by removing the harsh lines of a traditional bifocal or trifocal lens).
  • PRO: It creates an additional “intermediate area” for you to use (for looking at things that aren’t quite far away, but not quite within the reading zone either).
  • CON: Without the visual queue of the harsh line running across the lens as an indicator, the human eye is left to figure out on its own where to look when reading.
  • CON: The merging and blending of two zones (for far and near vision) in one lens causes peripheral distortions. These distortions are the main cause of problems for first-time progressive lens wearers.

The first issue (trying to find the correct zone for distance and for reading) is eventually overcome as the brain naturally adjusts. Soon enough, a sort of muscle memory develops and the patient’s eyes naturally know where to look to find the appropriate zones.

The second issue (peripheral distortions) is a little trickier. No amount of muscle memory will reduce the amount of those distortions. You can spend a bit more and get a better lens with reduced distortions, but the distortions will never fully go away 100%. Instead, the effects of the distortions are mitigated simply by developing some habits (which over time become natural and second nature to the patient) as follows:

Tips for Adapting to Progressive Lenses:

  1. Point your nose at what you’re looking at.
    By doing so, you ensure that you look through the middle of your lens and not through the sides where the distortions lie.
  2. Do not switch back and forth between glasses with new and old prescriptions.
    Our brains learn best when given consistent information.
  3. “Bow to the floor” when walking up and down stairs.
    When walking up and down stairs, we naturally glance downward to see our feet. This causes us to look through the lower portion of the lens which contains the zone for NEAR vision. However, your feet are in the FAR range, so looking through the bottom of your lens will result in blurry vision and potentially falling. To solve this issue, we say “bow to the floor”. That is, bend over a bit, allowing you to look through the top of your lenses thus catching the DISTANCE zone and bringing both your feet and stairs into focus.
  4. Don’t put it off!
    Adapting to progressive lenses gets harder the longer we wait and the older we get, therefore ideally a patient should switch to a progressive lens in the earlier stages of their presbyopia which happens around our early to mid-forties.

Relax, relax, and then relax some more

As much as this article is about the difficulties of adapting to progressive lenses, the truth is that it’s not that bad; it just takes a bit of time, is all. In fact, the less you overthink the process, the more your brain is relaxed and will adapt.

However, should you be part of the small population that just won’t ever adapt to progressive lens designs, fret not. We can always switch you back to a traditional bifocal with a refund of the difference in price.

How long does adaptation take?

That depends on a few factors that go beyond the scope of this article, but generally speaking adaptation can take anywhere between 3 days to 3 weeks. We’ve seen people walk out of the store without any issues whatsoever, while others come back after 2 weeks needing extra adjustments and training. The key thing to remember here is that we are with you the whole way, helping, advising, tweaking and training.

Is it all worth it?

You betcha!

I know, I know, the idea of “peripheral distortions” and “adaptation time” might scare you away from the idea of progressive lenses, but there’s a reason why they’re so popular: They restore your full range of vision when nothing else will, and all it takes is a touch of time and a sprinkle of patience! 🙂