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Why Progressive Lenses are Not All Equal


Progressive lenses have become the standard lens prescribed for people in their 40’s and beyond who need help with their reading vision. Progressive lenses are lenses designed to give excellent distance, intermediate, and near vision without adding any extra lines to our faces. (Those of you that are in your twenties reading this will understand someday….)

Progressive Lenses first came into vogue in the late 1970s but they were very flawed by today’s standards. Let’s just say that progressive lenses have progressively improved since those times. The easiest way to understand progressive lenses is to imagine that the lens has an invisible hourglass in it. The top of the hourglass is designed for your distance vision, the stem for intermediate distances, and the bottom for your near vision. The power progressively gets stronger as you look down the hourglass.

In the early days, the areas to the sides of the hourglass were quite distorted. People could notice a strong “swimming effect” and blur whenever they looked to the side. The reading and intermediate areas could also be quite small, which made them awkward for computer use. Glasses also had to be larger to accommodate the layout of the lens. Many people were previously unhappy with progressive lenses due to these limitations.

We now have the ability to prescribe digitally designed lenses that virtually remove these restrictions. These newer designed lenses, often called “Freeform” lenses, have enhanced the progressive experience so much that very few people can no longer wear them. The peripheral distortion zones have been minimized to such a degree that patients rarely notice any impact on their vision. Both the intermediate and reading zones have been widened and designs exist where smaller frames can be fit and still give the visual benefit of the progressive lens.

Some people need specialized computer progressives that have a minimal distance zone with a greatly expanded intermediate and near zone for their office work. These too have improved greatly over the last 5 years.

Saying you wear a progressive lens is like saying you drive a car. However, there is a big difference between driving a Yugo versus driving a Maserati. Many commercial chains, other offices, and insurance companies only offer the older technology Standard Progressive “Yugo lenses” for their patients. These Standard Progressive lenses can make patients happy under certain circumstances and lifestyles. However, the limitations that made Standard Progressive lenses harder to wear back in the 70s still apply to these lens types today.

Brookside Optometric recommends the Digital Progressive Lenses as our lens of choice simply because our patients have told us that the difference in cost between the Maserati progressive and the Yugo progressive is well worth the improvement to their vision these lenses provide them. If you failed in progressives years ago or have never tried one, you just might want to see what these 21st-century lenses can do for you today.


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