How old were you when you got bifocals?
May 23, 2011 5:36 PM   Subscribe

1. How old were you when you got bifocal lenses? 2. How difficult was it to adjust to them, particularly if you got contact lenses? 3. How many different pairs or combinations of lenses did you have to try before finding something that worked? 4. Are there new options in recent years that a near-sighted person with worsening close-up vision should know about? Thanks for helping me go to my eye doctor with good questions ready.
posted by mediareport to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I was 40. Am too astigmatic to wear contacts. Had no trouble at all adjusting - have had them for 10 years and have progressive lenses so no line. Lots of people have trouble with progressive lenses but for me it was an easy transition with no issues about things like going upstairs. I've played soccer in them occasionally when I forgot to change without major trouble even in goal.
posted by leslies at 5:52 PM on May 23, 2011

I'm quite near sighted (about -6.00 and -4.5) and still have terrific close vision without lenses. I can read anything with my naked eyes, including tiny print on boxes and bottles. But once I correct for my nearsightedness, my close vision goes to shit.

I have no bifocal glasses experience to share, but I tried progressive contact lenses a few years ago and HATED them because they didn't improve my close vision enough and my distance vision actually got worse. For a while I just used my normal contact lenses, corrected for near vision only, but had to wear cheap reading glasses if I wanted to read fine print, book or the computer screen. I know that many people swear by the monocular approach, where only one eye is corrected, but I didn't think that was a good option for me as I cycle in the city and wouldn't want my depth perception compromised.

What does work for me in under-correcting the myopia in my dominant left eye, which is also the more near-sighted eye. After an optometrist mis-labelled my new set of lenses, I found that -4.5 in each eye let me read anything, including the computer screen, at least as well as contacts-plus-reading glasses (minus the fuss of keeping track of glasses). My depth perception is fine, and while my distance vision is a little less sharp, closing my dominant left eye for brief periods where I need sharper vision means that my fully-corrected right eye can take over.

So maybe one option you can discuss with your optometrist is under-correcting your dominant eye, which may or may not be the more nearsighted eye. You may not need progressive or bifocal lenses at all, as long as your naked eye close vision is still good. If your ability to read fine print has really degraded, though, you'll need active presbyopia correction and my method may not give you good enough results.
posted by maudlin at 6:00 PM on May 23, 2011

I started wearing glasses when I was 12 and had to get bifocals in my early to mid 40s. I remember walking around the mall immediately after getting the glasses and thinking there was no way I could handle wearing bifocals. I didn't know where to look and everything looked wrong. But within a couple of days, I was completely comfortable with them and I stopped thinking about the fact that I was wearing bifocals. For me, it was a quick and easy transition.
posted by maurice at 6:01 PM on May 23, 2011

I started erring glasses when I was 9 and I got bifocals around 11. I didn't have any problems with them, didn't wear contacts at the time, and don't remember having to try different combinations. When I was in my mid-teens I stopped needing them and haven't worn them since.
posted by rhapsodie at 6:12 PM on May 23, 2011

My mom has had "monovision" contact lenses for a very long time - pretty much from the time I was 13 or 15? so at least 15 years. This means she has one contact lens that is for distance and one that is for near sight. This is not, apparently, a super popular way of going, but if you don't want / can't hack bifocals, or progressive contacts freak out your brain, monovision is a thing to ask your optometrist about.

(My mom and I have the same optometrist, and I'm fascinated by her freaky vision. She's essentially preternaturally far-sighted. I guess she could see me coming from a mile away, literally, when I was kid.)
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:18 PM on May 23, 2011

I have one eye that is near-sighted, one that is far-sighted and astigmatism in both eyes. I started wearing glasses at 5 but probably could have used them earlier. I tried contacts as a teen, but never really adjusted to them (they were hard lenses) and then just went back to glasses. From my mid-teens to my mid-to-late 30s, I could get by without my glasses for a lot of things so wearing glasses didn't really bother me (I don't drive so I mainly used glasses for reading and time on the computer).

My optometrist suggested progressive lenses in my mid-40s. I had read that with progressive lenses, it really pays to get Zeiss lenses so I did. I had absolutely no trouble adjusting to them; really I was fine the first day. You just have to remember to look through the middle of the lens. As one woman told me, you have to turn your head toward what you're looking at. Peripheral vision can be a little funky with progressives, although personally, I never noticed a problem. The major con for me is that they were expensive (especially since I liked to splurge on nice frames since I have to wear them all day, and I usually keep them for a few years). Plus, I was riding my bike more and tired of them getting foggy in the rain. So I after a couple of prescriptions with the progressive lenses, I decided to try contacts for the first time in over 30 years.

Since there are very few manufacturers who make progressive lenses that also work for astigmatism, I went back to a mono (one contact is near sided and one is far sighted) which also wasn't a big deal for me since that was what I had been used to in glasses. It took a few pairs of trail contacts to get it right. If they adjusted one or the other too much, I had trouble with my middle-distance vision, most notable when I was at a conference and had a hard time reading the power point slides on the screen. But after a few tweaks with both changes in the prescription and the brand, we found something that works really well for me (I'm using Acuvue Oasys for astigmatism). I've had them for a year and just went back and my prescription has remained the same for the first time in a few years and I'll stay with the contacts for as long as they don't bother me. Thus far they are able to correct my vision to 20/20 and contacts work out to be less expensive for me than zeiss progressive lenses plus nice frames.
posted by kaybdc at 6:24 PM on May 23, 2011

I was 46, and had a horrible time adjusting. For a guess, I tried like 15 pairs of progressives (over 5 years) before I got a combination of RX and lens that I liked. One problem I had was that I don't converge my eyes well, and having less depth of focus made that a lot worse, to the point where I was in pain looking at a PC monitor all day. Having presbyopia meant that I was less tolerant of prescriptions that weren't quite right for my eyes; when I was younger I had a lot more leeway.

But it's important to know that there are a lot of different brands of progressive lenses. When I first got mine, the higher-end ones weren't as common, and I got a lot of lenses that were just bad. I'd recommend staying far away from chain opticians, one-hour glasses, and from any optician who can't talk to you about the differences in brands. From what I've read, good brands include Varilux, Rodenstock, Zeiss, and Hoya, but I'm sure there are others as well. There isn't one that's best for everyone - it depends on your RX, and probably on other factors too.

I'm happy with my current progressives, but I also have reading glasses and PC glasses. Trying to use the progressives for everything just gives me eyestrain, and it's not worth it to me.

Good luck with it. I know that most people don't have anywhere near the amount of trouble I had.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 6:49 PM on May 23, 2011

Oh and I should mention that all of the trial lenses were free and were included in the price of my initial appointment. My optometrist charges $80 extra for appointments for contacts and with the first appointment there was another charge to teach me how to put them in and take them out (only necessary if you're not used to them and don't get the hang of it right off the bat). I tried each pair of trial contacts for two weeks. I think my initial appointment was in mid-to- late March and it was early May when I got my final prescription and was ready to put in my order for my year's worth of contacts.
posted by kaybdc at 6:50 PM on May 23, 2011

After a lifetime of severe myopia (-9 in both eyes now) and glasses since I was six, contacts since I was 15, I gave in and got bifocals at about age 45. For the first year I stayed with my contacts and used the bifocals only at night for reading, the way I'd done with my regular glasses. I bought cheap magnifying glasses at the drugstore to wear over my contacts for work and reading menus and stuff like that. Eventually that got to be a pain and I just went with the glasses - progressives, no line - full time and I love them.

Probably because I wasn't wearing them full time it took me a while to get used to them on a day to day basis. They were great right away for just being at home but it took a few months before I was entirely comfortable with them. Driving was the worst - I couldn't drive at all in my glasses for the first year and had to put contacts back in for every road trip. Once I started wearing them full time, though, it only took a month or so for me to feel comfortable driving and now I don't notice them at all. I haven't tried the progressive contacts and I doubt I will bother.

I didn't get super expensive lenses or anything; just the ones they offered at the optometrist. The pair I'm wearing now I got at Sam's Club and I must say I was pleasantly surprised; they had a much wider selection of frames and all the bells and whistles on the lenses that my other optometrist had for literally half the price.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:03 PM on May 23, 2011

I got bifocals when I was 48. First pair were progressives; tried for weeks to get used to them, never did. I read a lot and the effort required to move my head as I scanned across the page was so annoying. Finally, I asked my eye doc for the other kind and they were instantly wonderful. Love them, wear them all the time. Love reading again.
posted by buzzv at 7:21 PM on May 23, 2011

prescription of -6.5 in both eyes, and was just prescribed for bifocals last saturday. trying progressive lenses now, but i'm a little more into the idea of haughty little reading glasses perched on my nose.

(i told my mother all this and she was all "oh thanks, i don't feel old at all.")
posted by patricking at 7:30 PM on May 23, 2011

oh, and i accidentally deleted my age: 41 as of april of this year.
posted by patricking at 7:31 PM on May 23, 2011

I got my first pair of progressives at 39 and a half. The difference between the near & far corrections isn't very pronounced, but the folks at the eye center recommended starting early while the difference is small so it would be easier to adjust to. (As the fitter pointed out to me, "Given your parents' history and your own personal history, it's not whether you'll wind up in progressives or multifocals, it's just a question of when.")

It took about a week for me to get used to them. Now, a bit more than a year later, I don't even notice the difference between the less-corrected sides and the fully-corrected center, and I adjust for near/far without even thinking about it. I'm pretty satisfied with them.
posted by Lexica at 7:43 PM on May 23, 2011

Late 40s when I got them. Nearsighted and astigmatic. Adjustment fairly easy. Hardest part, of all things, was walking down stairs - would sometimes look through wrong part. Have progressives now.
posted by jhiggy at 7:53 PM on May 23, 2011

1. 46. Graduated lenses, or some such nonsense.

2. It's been two months and I'm still infatuated with the feeling of swimming.

3. The warranty is over. I'm stuck with this.

4. I'd love to hear about options. I'd like my old glasses back now.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 7:53 PM on May 23, 2011

Monovision contacts have worked perfectly for me since my mid-forties. Although my optometrist said that some people have problems with this approach, I didn't notice any need for an "adjustment" period at all--just clear vision, near and far, from the moment I put them in. If this approach works for you, it's very effective and convenient.
posted by Corvid at 7:58 PM on May 23, 2011

I got bifocals at 44 or so; had no trouble adjusting at all. The only thing I noticed is that now when I look down at a book I can read it.

I'm farsighted.

Mine must be way weaker than some here, though. If I look at something across the room and then tilt my head back, that thing just gets a little blurry [about the same as if I didn't have my glasses on at all], it doesn't swim around.

For Mr. Yuck:
Before I got bifocals, when I was reading I just put a pair of drug-store cheaters on over my regular glasses. You should be able to do something similar if you're really having trouble with the multi-focals. You may want to take them to maybe a different optical shop; perhaps the lenses are not ground or centered quite right?
posted by chazlarson at 9:19 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just to clarify, the difference between "progressive" and "multifocal" is just that progressive lenses have a smoother gradient between the different corrections? So progressive lenses are a kind of multifocal lens, just without the jumps/lines between the bifocal, trifocal or whatever sections?
posted by mediareport at 9:27 PM on May 23, 2011

I started needing bifocals at about 46. I wear contact lenses almost exclusively. I have one eye for distance and one eye for up close. It was very easy to get used to and works great.
posted by fifilaru at 10:29 PM on May 23, 2011

mediareport: yes, that is the difference --- 'progressives' don't have a visible line between the different corrections. (Note: whichever you go with, progressives or with the visible gradient between corrections, its best to *stay* with: I've talked to a couple people who said swapping between them is harder than the original move to bifocals.)

I'm extremely near-sighted; I got my first bifocals (progressives) at age 50. It was weird at first, but I got used to them within a couple days. I have two pair of glasses, the regular clear lenses and a pair of prescription sunglasses; the regular glasses are bifocals, but I've kept the sunglasses as distance-correcting single-prescription only, as I don't need them for reading and such.

One of my sisters was extremely FAR-sighted, unlike the rest of the family; she was wearing tri-focals by age 40.
posted by easily confused at 2:47 AM on May 24, 2011

I have worn reading glasses since 2001. Two years ago, at 42, my distance vision started to go funky. I wear progressives. Being used to reading glasses, it was a little funky to switch to progressives - took me about a week to get used to them.
posted by plinth at 3:16 AM on May 24, 2011

Everyone's eyeball lenses grow less flexible with age--sooner or later, more or less. I was 43 when I got bifocals. Walking down stairs was an adventure for a few weeks, but I definitely adapted. By 51 I requested three different pairs of progressive bifocals! My two driving bifocals are for arms' length and distant focus, and usually stay in the car. One is plain, one is rather dark and polarized. The computer/reading bifocals are for the nearer work where I spend most of my day. I'm thinking that for the next iteration, I'll get faint tinting on the computer specs.
posted by gregoreo at 3:55 AM on May 24, 2011

I had old fashioned line-type bifocals in kindergarten and for a few years after that before transitioning to single-vision lenses. I don't remember having any trouble with those old bifocals.

I'm 40 now, and single-vision lenses aren't working so well for me anymore. A year or so ago I tried progressive bifocals and couldn't stand them. When I'm out walking around, I tend to move my head relatively little but scan left and right with eyes moving around a lot. This sort of scanning habit simply doesn't work with progressives; in the lower half of the lens, you can only focus properly in the center. I felt like someone had clapped me in eyeball cuffs.

I gave the progressives back and got 2 pairs of single-vision glasses for the same price -- one for outdoors/driving, and one for indoor use. It's an imperfect solution, but one I can live with for now.
posted by jon1270 at 5:24 AM on May 24, 2011

1. 41
2. No more difficult than adjusting to an updated prescription.
3. Two. My first pair were really too short for progressive lenses.
4. Don't know.

I love, love, love my bifocals. I regret not getting them two years earlier. It is like being a super hero with super duper micro vision. I recently purchased mono-vision prescription sunglasses, which seems like the best choice there. I also discovered Zinni Optical. Not to sound like an advertisement here, but having several pairs of $30 glasses to choose among is really nice.
posted by Classic Diner at 5:28 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just got them last year when I was 46 and got progressive lenses. It took some time to get used to them but now I wear them all of the time.
posted by JJ86 at 7:34 AM on May 24, 2011

I was 35 when I got progressive bifocals. Once it was clear I needed help with my reading, progressive bifocals were the first thing I tried, and they worked great. They didn't take much longer than a "normal" new prescription for me to adjust to -- I have complex astigmatism, so I'm sort of used to things being wonky for a week with new glasses. I love love love them.

I've considered trying contacts + reading glasses instead, for a few reasons -- it's a pain to have to get sunglasses that cover my glasses, I do a lot of microscope work, vanity, it would be easier to adjust my prescriptions for distance/reading if the systems were independent. But the progressives work very well on their own terms.
posted by endless_forms at 7:51 AM on May 24, 2011

I got distance glasses when I was 42. At 48, I got my first bifocals. I asked for mega-magnification [2.5x] rather than smooth transition. I need to peer at tiny things, like threading needles or reading the effin' small print.

The standard for "lined bifocal" glasses is really ugly, I requested 18 mm half circles in the lower center of my glasses-- so that I had to self consciously tilt my head back and point my eyeballs thru the half-circles to read small print or tweezer out splinters. The half-circle is unusual and not all lens-grinders will do it.

At 50, I got some progressive bifocals. I still can't wear them all the time, I get dizzy. I never use them for driving. I use my single vision distance glasses with polarized lenses to drive. I also have single vision polarized glasses set at middle distance for computers.

SAFETY ALERT!!!! I've known people to mis-step and risk serious injury because of depth-perception problems with progressive lenses. It is important to move your head down, not look down with your eyes.
posted by ohshenandoah at 11:15 AM on May 24, 2011

I had perfect vision until I woke up on the morning of my 40th birthday. Presbyopia!

I've never been able to adjust to progressive or bifocal lenses to the point where I can comfortably walk in them because of depth perception (I tried for more than a few months - to go down stairs is to put my life at risk). Glasses work best if I'm stationary and using a computer of reading a book but my best results for general purposes have been with multi-focal and mono-vision contact lenses plus a pair of OTC reading glasses handy for when the print is particularly small. Currently going mono-vision with a +3.00 in one eye and a +1.25 in the other. +3.00 for reading and the +1.25 for 5 to 20 feet. After that I'm fine without correction.

Seems plenty of people can adjust to progressive lenses to the point where they can move around in them but I haven't been one of them.
posted by Carbolic at 11:42 PM on May 24, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, all, this has been very helpful.
posted by mediareport at 3:31 PM on May 25, 2011

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