Will progressive lenses narrow my world view
June 4, 2013 8:23 PM   Subscribe

I know it takes time to get used to progressive lenses, but after a day with my first pair I don't know if I want to get used them. Please help me understand what will change as I adjust and what is a permanent part of living with progressive lenses. I'd like some perspective before going back to the optometrist.

I like the idea of progressive lenses. I like the idea of looking down for reading, and looking ahead for distance vision. I was sold on the concept.

The reality, though, is that I can only see clearly when I am directly facing what I'm looking at. My peripheral vision is pretty much useless. It's distorted, blurred, and it has color diffraction. I don't like that. I like being able to look at something without turning my head (and possibly my body as well).

For example, let's say I'm facing 12:00 and Mrs. alms is at 3:00: If I turn my head to 2:00 and then move my eyes the rest of the way to look at her, that's not sufficient. She's still distorted. I have to actually turn my body so that I can be directly facing her before she becomes clear.

Is this just something I'm supposed to get used to, having eyes that are effectively fixed in their sockets, like bird eyes or cat eyes or a horse with blinders? Or will I learn to see clearly with my peripheral vision as I adjust to these things?

I'm also disappointed that I can't see the ground at my feet clearly without tilting my upper body as well as my head. But that's at least an understandable tradeoff. The loss of side peripheral vision is not something I was expecting, and may not be something I'm prepared to give up.

If it's not a matter of adjustment, could this substantially improved with a different set of lenses and frames? The pair I got already has pretty large lenses, and I believe good quality material. I don't actually know who produced the lenses (except that they have Crizal Avance coating), but I got them from an optometrist recommended by my best-of-Boston(tm) ophthalmologist's office, so I was presuming they'd be good quality.

I'm prepared to throw in the towel on this, but I'd just as soon keep them if there's a way to actually see the whole world through them and not just a 15 degree slice.
posted by alms to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Welcome to middle age and presbyopia! I got my first progressives about nine years ago (I'm 58 and was very near-sighted[-11 in my left eye]). Stumbling up the stairs, turning my head a lot to get a good focus and the occasional feeling of mild vertigo disappeared within three weeks. Stick with it. It really does get better. Small-ish lenses close to the eyes help a lot and keep the frames as thin and light as possible. IANAO[ptometrist].
posted by HarrysDad at 9:02 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Give it a few days. I used to have progressive lenses and they simply do just take some getting used to. But honestly I went back to bifocals for my next glasses and am happier with them (I'm pretty nearsighted so frankly a lot of times I just take my glasses off for computer viewing.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:13 PM on June 4, 2013

I got progressives last year and never experienced peripheral distortion or diffraction (your Rx may vary).

I would go back and talk to the eye doctor.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:25 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

It took me a month (in my early 50s) to get used to progressive lenses. They felt totally weird and I really thought they'd be impossible to see with. After a month of misery I finally adjusted and they were great for the next 15 years. So I'd say persevere.

Fwiw my aging eyes don't seem to manage with progressives so well now, and I've gone back to single-vision with alternative pairs of specs for computer, reading, etc.
posted by anadem at 9:55 PM on June 4, 2013

Ah, the joys of gettin' old..... it took me about a week to get used to mine, but once I did, I've had no trouble with them. (Had 'em about 9 years now.) Yeah, your peripheral vision is limited, but what you're experiencing is totally normal.

The thing with any bifocals, whether progressive or the ones with the visible lines, is that each of the two prescriptions is now using less than half the lens area, where you've been used to one prescription using the *whole* lens. Your distance vision prescription is on top, the near-vision on bottom, and there's a tiny area on each side that --- because of the requirements of shaping those two curves into one lens --- is basically waste space you can't see out of.

(I haven't gotten there yet, and hope I never do!, but my oldest sibling tells me TRI-focals are even more fun.....)
posted by easily confused at 2:43 AM on June 5, 2013

The peripheral distortion can have everything to do with how large or small your frames are.

The progressive part isn't a straight line across the bottom (like an old fashioned bi-focal) but a round dot at the bottom center of your frame. So if you have a larger frame, the areas on the bottom to the side of the dot, will distort.

Or, if your lenses are very narrow, you'll have other issues.

I have to be very careful and picky with my frames to accomodate the progressive, prism nightmare that is my prescription.

Also, welcome to aging. My vision now sucks and I can't get my eyeliner on straight. Boo!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:54 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have exactly this problem and I have never really gotten used to it in 10 years of using progressives. The problem remained about the same whether I used fancy zeiss lenses or cheap mailorder glasses. I'm not sure why the lenses can't be molded into the proper shape to give sharp vision throughout the field of view. I often switch to non-progressives when driving or reading.
posted by DarkForest at 6:00 AM on June 5, 2013

The trick to progressives is to use as large (tall) a lens as possible (or as personally aesthetically tolerable) The taller the lens, the more spread-out the focal range is. If you opt for a trendy, narrower frame, you'll find it far harder to find focus on any given spot, as the effective range is narrowed considerably.

I've been wearing progressives for a long, long time now, and the toughest part for me is when sitting at a computer screen. For whatever reason, the focus point for the particular distance never seems to coincide with a comfortable eye/head/neck alignment. The last time I got new glasses, the "computer focus" point was such that I found myself spending the entire day with my neck craned upward, trying to find focus along the lower part of the lens.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:27 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I dropped in to say it depends on the size/shape of the glasses and also on the strength of your prescription -- I recently found out that trendy small glasses with my strong correction already create the problem you describe, even without additional zones, because the lenses start to bend so quickly on the sides that I have a fishbowl effect that means I basically wouldn't feel safe to drive. Am working with my optician to find a combination of lens type and frame that will let me drift trendier than my previous frames without reducing me to 10 degrees of useful visual field. You may be having similar problems for tangentially related reasons.
posted by acm at 6:44 AM on June 5, 2013

I just got progressives (tri-focals!) for the first time. It took me close to six weeks to adjust. Just as I was about to give up - Wham! my brain adjusted.

The others are correct about making sure the lens is tall enough to handle the different zones.

Good luck!
posted by michellenoel at 6:46 AM on June 5, 2013

I was prescribed progressives (trifocals!) when I was a teenager! I know, crazy right? I had them for something like 7 years of my life, through the learning-to-drive stage and everything. They were a nightmare, and I'm not at all sure what my doctor was thinking at the time. Eventually some time in college when my eyes got discernibly worse twice in one year, I switched back to single-focus lenses, and it was like a weight had been lifted. I massively prefer them.

That being said, there were definitely differences in the progressives that I wore over the years. Lens shape, as the posters above say, makes a big difference. Also, and this is a tricky one, glasses with ear pieces that did not slip at all so things were never ever-so-slightly off until I pushed them back up my nose. People complain about lack of peripheral vision, but I honestly can't remember a time when I had peripheral vision, not really. There was definitely one pair of lenses where they got the mid-range right but the distance prescription wrong, because by the time they got to that in the exam, I was tired and stressed. When they redid the lenses it was much better overall, because I suppose I did not realize how much I used the distance bits. I was constantly annoyed that the close-range bottom part was not larger, so at one point I swapped from trifocal to bifocals with just close and middle range, and an extra distance pair for driving. But then I switched back; at this point the reasons have been lost to time.

My point in all of this is: Give it a few weeks, a couple months if you can stand it and have determined it's not the prescription that is an issue. Go back to your eye people and talk frankly about all of your concerns and wishes. There are glasses that will work for you. You might look into an array of single-focus glasses for various purposes, or different shaped frames. But don't just give up on having eye strain and not being able to see what you want to see. I don't think progressives are all they're cracked up to be, but luckily they're just one of many options.
posted by Mizu at 7:26 AM on June 5, 2013

I went from no glasses to progressives and it took me a few weeks to get used to them. Including a humorous incident with me freaking out about a steep slope my husband expected me to walk down and why wouldn't he hold my hand to help me, then I took my glasses off and it was basically a trick of the shadows and my glasses. That doesn't happen anymore and I find I just tilt my head now up and down a bit to find the right focal point without thinking, you do get used to having to move your head to keep things in focus and it stops being a big thing you have to consciously do.

I did get myself a pair of prescription sunnies, with just my distance prescription on for driving as i can see well enough to see the car dials and I find that helps, the gradient made that difficult for me to drive.
posted by wwax at 8:35 AM on June 5, 2013

My optho told me " point your nose" when she gave me my prescription...but she also told me the loss of peripheral is a result of lattice degeneration.

Derail: does getting a prophylactic retina fusion restore this? Have any mefites had it done before a retina tear?
posted by brujita at 9:50 AM on June 5, 2013

Progressives are a compromise solution that gives poorer peripheral vision and a narrower field of view than regular bifocals. On the other hand, progressives provide a smoother range of focusing distance. Only you can decide which you prefer.
posted by JackFlash at 10:02 AM on June 5, 2013

There are a lot of different brands of progressive lenses. Good ones make a huge difference. You can't help losing some peripheral vision, but with a good quality lens, it shouldn't be that much. Your optician should be able to tell you about different brands and styles. If they can't, I'd say return the lenses and go to a better optician.

Here's a little info on brands.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 3:15 PM on June 5, 2013

Nthing "give it time". I remember thinking I'd made a mistake in getting them when I first did, two-ish years ago. Now, I'm completely used to them and very, very much appreciate being to adjust my focal distance on the fly.

Also (having just tested it by turning my head from side to side repeatedly while looking at the screen as I type), based on my experience, with time you'll find that your vision on the periphery is nowhere near as badly out of focus as it currently feels.
posted by Lexica at 8:58 PM on June 5, 2013

I'm not sure why the lenses can't be molded into the proper shape to give sharp vision throughout the field of view.

Basically, it's mathematically impossible to create a progressive lens that's sharp everywhere. For example, look at image 2 in this article. These are typical progressive lens patterns, with the white regions showing the areas with sharp vision, and the darker regions showing ever more distortion. In general, you have distance vision in the top half of the lens (usually across the whole lens), then a narrow corridor where the prescription changes through intermediate, and then a somewhat wider area for near vision at the bottom.

This is why there are so many different (and often very expensive) types of progressive lenses. Since it's impossible to design a perfect one, each design has a different set of trade-offs, and you often need to try more than one before you find something that works for you. You do need to give it some time, since progressive lenses take some adjustment. But if things haven't gotten better in a couple of weeks, go back to your optometrist or optician. Your glasses may just need some adjustment, or you may need to try a different brand or model of progressive lens.
posted by klausness at 12:46 PM on June 8, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for all of this great info. There's clearly a lot more to progressive lenses than "up for distance, down for reading".

After a week I'm still adjusting to my glasses, and still not particularly liking them. I'll give it some more time and I'll talk with my optician. Maybe there's a progressive lens that I'll like. At this point, though, I'm inclined to go with separate glasses for reading and distance.
posted by alms at 8:30 AM on June 10, 2013

« Older Hazardous waste: it's a gas!   |   I'm cheap. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.