This Is How Far You Can See with Bifocals

Were you recently at the eye doctor’s office for an exam and found out that you not only need your glasses to read up close but now they are adding bifocals to your prescription so you can see far away too? What does this mean for you, and how far away will you actually be able to see with bifocals?

With bifocals, you can clearly see an object as far as 20 feet in front of you and as close as 12-14 inches in front of your face when reading a book or using a computer.

If you have to wear bifocals, then seeing far away is not the only issue you are having with your eyes. Bifocals are two prescriptions in one lens. One used to see far away, one to help see things up close. In the remainder of this article, we’ll cover various distances you can expect to see with bifocal glasses, as well as contacts. 

How Far Can You See with Bifocals?

The average human can see (with 20/20 vision) an object up to 20 feet in front of them. That means a person who wears corrective lenses, like bifocals, can see 20 feet in front of them clearly when wearing their glasses and looking through the upper half of the lenses.

The great thing about bifocals is they are not just used to help correct your vision to see far off into the distance. They are designed to help you see things closer up as well. When using bifocals to see objects up close, these special lenses are designed to help you see a distance from only a few inches from your face and out to around 12-14 inches.

So, not only will you be able to read the stop sign when coming to an intersection, but you can also read your dinner menu clearly while at a restaurant with the same pair of glasses. When you look through the lower part of the lenses how far you can see with bifocal lenses will be determined by the Add value in your prescription.

Here in the table below you will get an overview which distance will be clear while looking through the reading segment.

Add valueinches

What About the Distances In-Between?

Bifocals are a great way to correct your vision to optimize how you see the world around you more clearly. As mentioned in the previous section, bifocals make it easy for us to see clearly around 20 feet and beyond, and up close, within a few inches of our face. But what about the distances between? 

Unfortunately, there is no in-between with bifocals, which means, for some people, seeing things at an “intermediate” distance can be challenging and blurry. When using bifocals, focusing on an object more than 14-16-inches from your face but less than multiple feet can cause you to hit a “dead zone,” if you will. Neither lens power can clarify the image in that space; this is a situation where progressive lenses may be needed.

In the picture above I illustrated the clear fields of view with two colors. Red illustrates the field of view when looking through the reading segment. Blue illustrates the field of view you have when looking through the upper half of the lens for distance vision. Especially when the reading support (Add value) needs to be higher like 2.5D or 3.0D such a blurry gap will be likely.

Could You See Further with Progressive Lenses Instead?

When prescribed bifocals, you are given two specific lenses, one for seeing far away and the other for seeing things up close; this is great for those who need glasses for nearsightedness or farsightedness and then also for reading. 

However, if you have a vision impairment that makes seeing difficult, in general, bifocals won’t be the perfect fit. You will be able to see far away, and you will be able to see up close, but what about that middle area? That’s still going to remain blurry.

The picture shows the field of view with progressive lenses.

Progressive lenses will gradually change prescriptions throughout the lens, giving you a way to see at all distances and angles. The only real problem with these lenses is the blurry areas in the periphery of the lower half of the lenses. If you want more to know about the comparison between progressives and bifocals I wrote this article here for you.

How Far Away Can You See with Bifocal Contacts?

There are a lot of people who get frustrated and fed up with wearing glasses 24/7. They can bother your nose and ears and can be a pain to keep on when moving around. To solve that problem, bifocal contacts could be the perfect solution. 

Using bifocal prescription contacts will allow you to see just as far or as near as wearing bifocal glasses, correcting the problem for each unique situation. They use three different types of contacts to get the bifocal effect.

Monovision (One Script in Each Eye)

If you wear monovision contacts, you are essentially putting one lens prescription to see further away in one eye and a lens prescription to see close up in the other. This means one eye will see distances as far as 20+ feet, but the other only clearly see up to 14 inches.

These are generally worn for those who need them to eliminate the need for “readers.” However, people who use monovision contacts have a harder time adjusting to the contacts when they are used to glasses or contacts that correct their visual needs in the same way for the left and right eye

Bifocal Prescription Contacts

This type of contact is for people who tend to have an issue with the transition from near to far vision regularly. Contacts with a bifocal prescription are designed with the distance power in combination with the reading power which is positioned as a smaller circle in the middle of the contacts.

These work great for everyday bifocal needs. For example, they help identify traffic signs and pedestrians that are up to seven yards in front of you, but at the same time allow you to look down at your speedometer reader only a foot away from your face to make sure you are going the correct speed.

Just like glasses, these contacts may not work for everyone. Some people experience blurred vision or headaches. Some people also say they cannot see as far as they can with glasses, while others insist they can see further.

Usually what people notice is a loss in contrast generally speaking with those lenses. Also, more glare can be expected especially when driving at night as investigated by Sigfried Wahl in 2017 in this study.

Distant Prescription Contacts Combined with Reading Glasses

If you only need an up-close prescription for things like reading or using a computer, then getting a contact lens prescription to help you see far distances full time and pairing them with reading glasses when needed is probably your best bet. This is a perfect choice for those who need help seeing car-length distances and only short distances when reading smaller lettering.

This way you will not have to deal with a loss in contrast and the glare at night that comes with bifocal contact lenses.

When is it Hard to See Far with Bifocals?

In glasses, bifocal lenses are designed with two different lenses in one; they have a split lens, with the top lens most commonly used for seeing at long distances, while the bottom lens is used to see things up close, like reading a book. 

Bifocals are designed with the lower lens on the bottom so that when you are looking downward, the prescription to help you see up close is at the same level as your eyelid; this makes it easy to see through only by performing eye movements down.

If the glasses do not fit properly and the lens does not line up with your eyelid, that can cause unnecessary image jumping in your field of view and make things blurry and hard to focus regardless of how close or far you’re trying to see. 

It can also be hard to see at the proper distance with bifocals if they are new to you and you are not used to them. Things can seem closer than they really are, and you may make a few depth perception mistakes as you adjust to the new lenses. 

Final Thoughts

How far away you can see with bifocals will be determined by your prescription. The lens designed for seeing far distances in most circumstances will allow you to see as far away as you could before ever needing glasses. 

This, however, can be accomplished with just a one lens prescription. Bifocals offers you near and far at the same time, giving you a range of clear images at every distance when you wear them.

I wish you a great day.

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