We all eventually get to a stage in our lives where we just can’t see as clearly as we used to. If you find that you have more pairs of magnifying eyeglasses lying around your home and vehicle than you can count, then it may be time to consider bifocal lenses. You have a basic idea of what bifocals are; but, exactly how do they work, and how do you know if you need them?
Bifocals are lenses that are split into two sections. The top section is for viewing things farther away; the bottom portion is for looking at items close-up. Frequent headaches, eye-strain, and trouble focusing when looking from close-up to far away are all signs that you may need bifocals.
If you are unsure if you need bifocals and would like to learn more about them and possible alternatives, continue reading this article and see how they can change your view of life.
How Bifocals Can Make Seeing Easier
As briefly mentioned above, bifocals, also known as multifocal lenses, are created by dividing your glasses’ lens into two sections. The top section is slightly smaller than the bottom section. It is used for viewing things at a distance, such as watching TV or driving a vehicle. The larger, lower section is made for viewing things at a closer distance, such as reading a book or working on something with small parts.
Fun Historical Fact
Bifocal lenses are said to have been invented by Benjamin Franklin around 1780. He originally dubbed them as ‘double spectacles,’ and later, around 1825, the trifocal lens’s inventor re-named them bifocal lenses. Franklin did not invent the original traditional eyeglasses, only the method of using two lenses within the same frame so that he didn’t have to wear multiple pairs of glasses anymore.
Signs That You May Need Bifocals
Everyone is different, but in most cases, the following signs are usually pretty good indicators that you may need to ramp-up your spectacles’ strength.
- Always having to focus when looking from something close-up to far away
- Blurred vision while reading at a normal distance
- Frequent headaches and/or feeling of eye-strain
- Having to hold things out farther in front of you to focus clearly on them
- If you are driving and everything looks clear until you look down and see that the speedometer is blurry or you can’t see the numbers on the radio dial
- Your vision and focus change throughout the day
If these symptoms seem familiar, it’s time to hang up the hassle of having multiple pairs of glasses lying around everywhere.
The Right Age for Bifocals
There is no right age to get bifocals; you are never too young for them. Everyone is different, and some people will require some vision aid sooner or later than other people. Don’t fret about whether you are too young for bifocals. If you need them, use them. There is no reason to put unnecessary strain on your eyes when there are so many options available to help you see better.
Studies show that 25% of adults that need their vision corrected require bifocals.
Since age seems to be a significant issue for so many people, let’s get that out of the way right now. If you are approaching 40 or have already crossed over that invisible yet very noticeable line, you should expect that you will start having issues with your vision when working to focus on certain things.
This is a normal part of life; don’t fight it, fix it.
The formal name for the eye condition that requires bifocals is presbyopia. Presbyopia occurs because of a loss of elasticity in the lens of the eye as we progress in age. This is absolutely normal and can be dealt with by wearing the proper eyewear.
Driving While Wearing Bifocals
You may be concerned about whether or not you can safely drive while wearing bifocals. The answer is yes! You can definitely drive while wearing bifocals; however, it may take some time to get used to looking from the road then down to the gauges on the dash or at the radio.
Be sure you are fully adjusted to your new specs before setting off on a long whirlwind road adventure, and be extra careful driving until you are sure that you are able to see everything in focus.
Cost of Bifocal Glasses
The cost of bifocals can range vastly due to the many brands and styles that are available today. Another factor of the cost is whether or not you have vision insurance and what they cover. Most insurance companies will cover the exam and the lenses, but you are responsible for the frames.
You can generally expect to pay anywhere from $50.00 on the low-end and up to $500.00 or more for high-end designer brands and styles. Additionally, if you want special features such as photochromic, anti-reflective, or scratch-resistant lenses, the price tag will go up considerably. Keep that in mind, when planning your budget.
A Line that Divides Your Lens – Necessary or Not?
Traditionally most bifocal lenses have a visible line that runs horizontally through the center of them. If your vanity does not allow for such a visible line in your lenses, then perhaps a progressive lens would suit you better. Opting to use photochromic lenses helps reduce the lines’ visibility and also helps those who have eyes that are sensitive to sunlight.
Progressive lenses have a gradual gradient to them so that you won’t actually see the divider line between the two prescriptions. Progressive lenses also offer multiple options depending on the type and shape of your frame. Some are better for reading, while others may be better for people who spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen.
A downside to wearing progressive lenses is that they will produce a blurry effect that you can get in the peripheral vision that can cause you to get motion sickness. The main drawback to using progressive lenses is that many people report a longer adjustment period associated with them than with traditional bifocal lenses.
Some Bifocals are Made for Close-Up Viewing Only
What if you read a lot or work closely with small parts and spend a lot of time looking down, but when you look up, you can see just fine? Do you wonder if they make bifocal lenses where there is no prescription on the top portion of the lens and just the readers on the bottom for people who don’t want to keep taking the regular reading glasses off all of the time?
The answer, of course, is yes! Just ask your optician to fit you for the lower portion that you need, and they can leave the top part clear and prescription free. Bifocal lenses like this are actually used for children in school settings quite frequently to prevent them from over-focusing and straining their eyes while reading and copying things from the board down to the paper.
Allow Ample Time to Adjust to Bifocal Lenses
As with any new pair of glasses, whether they are regular or bifocal lenses, you will need to be prepared to experience a period of adjustment time before you are totally comfortable with them. Some people will adjust faster than others; however, it will take around 2-3 weeks to get used to them in most cases.
Those people who take longer than that to adjust will occasionally give up after trying multiple pairs and not getting used to the switch. If you think that you may be in the latter part of the group, then continue reading this article so you can learn about alternatives that may help you with your quest to have better vision and focus.
Knowing if Your Lenses are Positioned Properly
When you look straight ahead, do you see a distinctive line in your lenses? If the line in the bifocal lens is not in the right position on your face, you will have an extremely difficult time adjusting to the change of using these lenses.
One tip to keep in mind is that the line that separates the two prescription strengths should be almost lined up with your lower eyelid. If the line is too high, you will not be able to focus properly.
Regarding Adjustment Periods – Safety First
Bifocal or progressive lenses can both affect the way you judge depth and distance. This can create a higher risk of tripping or falling, especially in older adults whose balance may not be what it once was. Be sure to consider this and tread extra carefully as you adjust to your new lenses.
Wearing Bifocal Lenses all of the Time
Another common question new bifocal wearers have is; can I wear my bifocals all of the time when I first get them? Yes, you can. It is actually recommended that you wear them all the time or as much as possible when you first get them. This will help your eyes adjust to the bifocal lens much quicker than if you start wearing them gradually.
Initial Side Effects of Using Bifocal Lenses
In most cases, some minor side effects are reported when first switching to bifocal lenses. These are normal and generally dissipate once you become accustomed to the new way of focusing. The most common complaints that people have after switching are:
- Balance issues
- Blurry vision
- Objects seem to jump/move around when looking from the top to bottom of the lenses
When adjusting to your bifocals, optometrists recommend that you remove them if you start to get a headache and put them back on when the headache goes away. Wear them as much as possible but don’t strain your eyes too much in the beginning.
Alternatives to Eye Glasses with Bifocal Lenses
Is vanity getting the best of you; are you worried about looking old while wearing a pair of glasses with bifocal lenses? Perhaps you just don’t like wearing glasses for practical reasons such as:
- They fog up in humid settings
- They get in the way while you are working
- They slide off of your face when you are sweating
- You have to clean them all the time, etc.
Worry no longer. The following paragraphs describe possible alternatives to wearing glasses with bifocal lenses for those of you who may be a little more image-conscious.
There are Two Types of Bifocal Contact Lenses
It may come as a bit of a surprise, but you can actually get contact lenses that meet your bifocal prescription needs.
- The first type is called segmented bifocal glasses. They have distinct lines between the prescriptions that you look through.
- The second type is called blended bifocal lenses. These lenses are shown in the picture below. A person in front of you can not see a visible line. But as you move your eyes up and down you will notice where the reading area starts and where it ends.
As you can see in the picture above there is no visible line with those blended bifocal lenses. They are also known as Free form bifocals.
If bifocal glasses aren’t your cup of tea, you could try these other options:
- You may also try what is bifocal contacts or monovision. The latter is a method where one contact has the prescription for your near-sightedness, allowing you to see more clearly at a distance, and the other contact is designed to help you see up close.
This method takes a little longer to adjust to, but once your brain realizes what is going on, it will automatically focus, and you should have no problems.
- Another great alternative for avoiding bifocals is to have laser eye surgery. The surgeon corrects the dominant eye and then creates slight near-sightedness in the other eye.
When Bifocals Just Aren’t Enough
There are some situations when a bifocal is just not enough. Some people have difficulty seeing at mid-distance. In such a case Trifocals can be the correct choice. Trifocal lenses are divided into three sections where the viewer can see close-up, mid-range (around arm’s length), and longer distances.
Other Bits and Pieces Regarding Bifocal Lenses
Since the lower part of your bifocal lenses is magnifying, things look bigger when you look through the bottom portion. If you look down through the lower half of your bifocals while walking or using the stairs, you are at a much greater risk of tripping or falling because the ground or stairs may look closer than it actually is, and your depth perception is thrown off.
Climb carefully. When climbing stairs or ramps, use the railing or a wall, if available, to guide you until you are comfortable with your new lenses.
Ready for reading. When curling up with your favorite book, be sure to hold the book about 16 inches away from you and look down through the lower portion of your lenses. Be careful not to make too many head movements as that can blur your focus. Instead of moving your head to read the page, move the page into your viewing area.
Shield sensitive eyes. Photochromic lenses are lenses that get darker or lighter with the presence or lack of light. Basically, they turn into sunglasses when you step outside and fade back to clear when you go back indoors.
Finally, You Can Fix Your Faulty Focus
You know you’re tired of the challenges:
- Stop holding that magazine at arm’s length from your face while you try to focus on the tiny words that are jumping around on the page.
- Quit having to carry multiple pairs of glasses for each task that you try to tackle.
- Stop dealing with daily eye fatigue and headaches.
Schedule an appointment to have a conversation with your optometrist about having your eyes checked; then get fitted for some bifocals so you can get focused back on the things that mean the most to you in your life.
I wish you a great day.