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Progressive lenses—also called no-line bifocals—are a high-tech solution for the diminished ability to focus on close-up objects that comes with age. The term for this loss of visual acuity is presbyopia, and it usually begins after adults turn 40. Many eye doctors recommend progressive lenses to replace multiple sets of glasses for reading and distance vision. Optometrists hear similar concerns about progressive lenses from new wearers—many of these issues will disappear after an adjustment period, or may be resolved with a few changes to the way you move while wearing progressives. Here are five common problems with progressive lenses—and how to fix them.

Can progressive lenses cause dizziness?

Vertigo—from mild to severe—is a complaint many have when they first get progressive lenses. With progressives, multiple powers are included in one lens. Dizziness can be caused by looking through the wrong part of the lens. “Swim” is the term applied to the seasick sensation some people experience when they’re moving while wearing progressive lenses. This sensation can be reduced or eliminated with changes to the way you shift vision from one zone to another. Finding the lens correction “sweet spot” may take a little time, but it will come naturally after a little time and patience. Try turning your head and pointing your nose or chin at the intended object, rather than relying on the movement of your eyes. 

Why is my depth perception off with progressive lenses?

Going up and down stairs or stepping off a curb can be a challenge for new progressives wearers. The natural inclination to look downward while using the stairs can be problematic—the correction in the bottom part of the lens isn’t suitable for the distance between your eyes and the floor. This can cause you to feel like your legs have suddenly grown, or that the ground is in a different place than you’re used to. If you find yourself constantly tripping or stumbling while wearing new progressive lenses, take your time and use caution while you adjust to their use. Practice wearing them while you sit, then ease into walking or using the stairs. You’ll want to learn to look through the correct part of the lens for distance vision, rather than the reading portion of the lens.

While you should wear your new glasses as much as you can for quicker adjustment—the exception to this rule is driving. If you’re not comfortable with your progressive lenses, wear your the single vision glasses you’re accustomed to while driving until you’ve fully adjusted to your progressives.

Do progressive lenses cause headaches?

Your eyes and brain need a chance to get used to new glasses, and headaches can occur during this period of acclimation. If you notice an increase in headaches after getting glasses with progressive lenses, or if the headaches aren’t getting better, you may be experiencing eye strain. Contact your eye doctor to check your prescription and lens placement.

Why do progressive lenses cause peripheral distortion?

New technologies are always developing, and soon it may be possible to eliminate the blur in your side vision due to progressives. Currently, however, it’s normal to experience some peripheral distortion while wearing progressive glasses.  Because the lenses are built for specific viewing zones, a warped periphery is more pronounced when you move your eyes left or right, rather than turning your head. While the distortion may become less noticeable with time, the outside edge of multifocal lenses may always appear slightly distorted due to the way the lenses are manufactured. Turning your head—rather than your eyes—to look to your side will lessen the blurriness in your peripheral vision.

Where do I look through progressive lenses for reading and computer use?

It takes a little practice to adjust to reading with progressive lenses. The reading area of glasses is near the bottom of the lens. If you tilt your head downward, you’re still looking through the distance portion of the lens instead of the section for close-up vision correction. Rather than tipping your head downward, your eyes should do the work here. Hold your head still and use your eyes to look downward at the page so the proper vision correction zone is used.

Looking at a computer screen is different when you’re wearing progressive lenses, as well. The field of view for distance correction for computer screens is likely narrower than you’re used to. For computer use, tilt your head back slightly to get a clear view through the correct portion of the lens. Because you tilt your head back to focus on your computer screen, your head—not your eyes—will do the work. This may cause a stiff neck until you adapt to the change. There are some ergonomic considerations that may help make the adjustment easier, including tilting your screen to compensate, changing the placement of your computer monitor, or raising your desk chair. If time and practice don’t seem to fix the problem, a consultation with an ergonomic specialist may help alleviate discomfort. Computer-specific progressive lenses are available as well, so consult your eye doctor if you use computers often.

Are progressive lenses worth it?

Lens quality is a major factor in multifocal lenses—that’s why FramesDirect only uses the highest quality Essilor lenses for every pair of progressive glasses. Technology is advancing quickly, and progressive lenses are being made with wider visual fields and can be tailored to your lifestyle. Specific zones for computer use, active lifestyles, sports, and more are becoming increasingly more common. The newest progressives have less swim effect and many people find the adjustment period easier. With these advancements, the convenience of one dedicated pair of glasses is well worth it. If you’ve tried progressives in the past and didn’t like them, it may be worthwhile to give them another chance.

There’s an adjustment period in learning to use progressive lenses. If you’re still having trouble adapting after a couple of weeks, check with your eye doctor to see if the lenses need adjustment. While a small percentage of people never get used to progressives, most say they’d never go back to bifocals.

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