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Whether you’ve been in multifocal glasses for a while, or you’re just beginning to look at options for after-40 vision correction, you’ve probably heard the terms ‘trifocal,’ ‘progressive lenses,’ and ‘no-line multifocals.’ All of these terms refer to types of lenses that offer multiple correction fields in one pair of glasses, providing the ability to see clearly at a variety of distances—without needing to carry multiple pairs of eyeglasses. What are the differences between trifocal vs. progressive lenses, and which are better?

What are Trifocal Lenses?

Trifocal lenses were developed in 1827, nearly 60 years after the invention of bifocal lenses. These lenses look and perform similar to bifocal lenses, with an added viewing zone to help correct vision in the intermediate field—so they improve vision at near, middle, and far distances. Trifocals have two visible lines where the viewing zones change.

What are Progressive Lenses?

Progressive lenses are also called no-line bifocals or multifocals, and they’re a popular choice for many people who would prefer to avoid the look of trifocals. They were granted a patent in 1907, but the first progressive lenses weren’t made commercially available until 1922. Now, they’re an option that can be made to suit a variety of lifestyles. The vision fields can be adjusted to perform best for your needs, whether you spend most of your time looking at things close up, reading or using a computer screen, or relying on distance vision.

Are trifocal or progressive lenses better?

Progressive lenses and trifocal lenses do the same thing—they both offer vision correction in three fields. While each type of lens has advantages, there are also drawbacks to progressive and trifocal lenses. Many people choose progressive lenses for a youthful-looking eyewear option, and they appreciate the ability to customize their lenses to a specific use.

Trifocals aren’t customizable like progressives, but they come in a few standard configurations. One option offers a wider intermediate viewing area than progressive lenses do, which can be more comfortable for computer use. Progressive lenses may be used for prescription sunglasses or photochromic or light-adaptive eyewear, also known by the brand name Transitions. Though trifocals may be available in sunglasses or light-adaptive lenses, it requires a special order.

Progressive lenses may cause peripheral distortion—unavoidable blurring at the edges of the lenses due to the way they are made—while the lines on trifocal lenses can cause an image jump when switching between the fields of vision. It takes time and a few adjustments to the way you move your head and eyes to get used to progressive lenses. For the best vision, point your nose at what you want to see rather than moving your eyes, then tilt your chin to focus. Once you’ve adapted progressive lenses—usually within a few hours to two weeks—they provide a more natural transition between lens powers than trifocals.

In order for progressive lenses to work properly for your lifestyle, discuss their use with one of our optometrists to ensure the visual fields are made to meet your needs. There are different lens configurations to provide the best vision quality whether you’re on a computer often, view objects close up regularly, or spend more time looking at things farther ahead.

Seamless vision correction can be provided by progressive lenses, without lines causing image jumping like in trifocal lenses. Trifocals require a special order, but our opticians are happy to assist you if this is your preferred lens style. You can call (800) 248-9427 to request trifocal lenses in your prescription glasses. While some prefer trifocals, they’re becoming less common with the rise in the use of progressive lenses. Progressives are a customized vision correction solution that doesn’t cost much more than trifocal lenses, but the advantage of seamless switches between lens powers is one of the many reasons people prefer this style.

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