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What Are Progressive Lenses & How Do They Work?

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Progressive lenses for eyeglasses can be a great option for those experiencing vision problems as they start aging past 40. Progressive lenses will heavily benefit those who need single-vision glasses to see at certain distances and also need corrective lenses to read things up close. If you are unsure if you will benefit from progressives lenses, book an eye examination to consult your optometrist.

What are Progressive Lenses?

Progressive lenses are multifocal eyeglasses that have a seamless increase in magnification from the top to the bottom of the lens, helping you see clearly at all distances with just one pair of glasses. The top portion of the lenses will put things far away into focus, the middle will put intermediate distances in focus, and the bottom will put things nearest to you in focus. There are no visible transition lines in progressive lenses, which makes them look smooth and reduces visual distortions while looking through them.

How do Progressive Lenses Work?

These lenses work by having multiple different magnification levels for different areas of the lens. The prescription changes little by little across the lens surface, providing a gentle transition

What is Presbyopia?

Presbyopia is the gradual loss of your eye’s ability to focus on nearby objects, and becomes noticeable to people over the age of 40. It is a natural deterioration, and completely normal for people to experience at some point in their lives. Some of the symptoms of presbyopia include:

Progressive lenses can help to reduce the effects of presbyopia while at the same time combating refractive issues like near and farsightedness. 

Comparison between single vision lens, bifocal lens, trifocal lens, and progressive lens with illustrations .

What Are the Differences Between Bifocal, Trifocal, and Multifocal Lenses?


Bifocal lenses have two different magnification levels separated by a visible transition line. Usually, the top lens is for looking at things at a distance, and the bottom lens is for looking at things near to you. 


Trifocal lenses have three different magnification levels separated by visible transition lines. The top is for looking at things at a distance, the middle puts intermediate distance in focus, and the bottom is for looking at things near to you.


Multifocal lenses are progressive lenses. There is no image jumping due to the transitions between different magnification levels being seamless.

Pros and Cons of Progressive Lenses


  • Seamless transitions provide no image jumping and reduce distortions when looking through your glasses compared to bifocals and trifocals.
  • Since progressive lenses have a gentle transition between magnification levels, they provide a smooth image at all distances rather than having 2-3 set distances being clear.
  • Progressive lenses resemble normal eyeglasses more than bifocal/trifocal lenses and do not look as thick and blocky. 


  • They take a significant amount of time to adjust to if you are used to regular eyeglasses. You will need to learn what parts of the glasses will put what distance into focus, and train your eyes to look through that part of the lens when necessary.
  • Progressive lenses can also cause peripheral distortion when moving your eyes from side to side. This can cause an uneasy or nauseating experience.
  • Progressive lenses cost more than regular eyeglass lenses and bifocal/trifocal lenses.

What Are the Best Uses for Progressive Lenses?

If you are over the age of 40, have refractive issues with your eyes, and are starting to be affected by presbyopia, progressive lenses can offer the most convenient and comfortable solution to your vision problems. If you think you could benefit from bifocal or trifocal glasses, but do not like the way they look, progressive lenses offer a better-looking, sleek alternative.

Adjusting to Progressive Lenses

It can take anywhere from a week to a couple of months to adjust to progressives lenses. To reduce the adjustment period it is important to wear them often, but if you are experiencing discomfort it is ok to take a break from wearing them. 

Booking an Eye Examination

If you are curious about trying progressive lenses, contact your optometrist and book an appointment for an eye exam and a fitting.


Written by Dr. Flora Huang

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