Adjusting to progressive lenses
August 8, 2017 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Progressive lenses are making me dizzy and nauseous and miserable. How do I make them work for me?

So I got glasses with progressive lenses about a month ago and they are basically the worst. I wear them every day for at least a few hours, and am still getting dizzy if I try to wear them for anything other than sitting around and reading.

I thought the problem was that they slide down my nose (I got the high index lenses but should have gotten the ultra high index), thus shifting my focus. So I ordered these and the dizziness/nausea got way worse.

Possible complicating factors here are that a) my prescription is super duper extremely bad (-12.5) and b) I spend most of my day playing with little kids and picking up after kids and thus bending over, running around, etc.

Is this fixable? I'm really frustrated. I have contacts but am wildly irritated by reading glasses and I'd like to be able to just wear my real glasses instead if I can.

(If there is a previous AskMe about this I apologize -- I scrolled through four pages of Google results on bifocals and progressives and didn't see it. You people are my people. My middle-aged, blind-as-a-bat people.)
posted by gerstle to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked to your optometrist about this problem at all? It may not be the progressive lenses that are the problem -- maybe your prescription is wrong. Or maybe the frames just don't work for you. I had a similar problem with my non-progressive lenses when I got a pair of frameless glasses -- they made me dizzy and nauseous at times. My optometrist remade the lenses twice, no luck. Switched back to glasses with frames and I was fine. But I've also gotten glasses a couple times with the wrong prescription -- the lenses were switched or just cut wrong. So I'd go back to my optometrist first to see if they can help.
posted by possibilityleft at 10:01 AM on August 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't really have any advice except to suggest you go back to the optometrist. I just got progressives a couple of years ago and it only took me a day or two to get used to them. I did find I have to wear them all the time. I tried going back and forth between contacts and the progressives and that didn't work for me.
posted by interplanetjanet at 10:04 AM on August 8, 2017

Do go back to the optometrist, but I'm going to say that just wearing them a few hours a day and then switching back to your old glasses is pretty much a prescription for never getting used to them at all. What has to happen with progressive lenses is a certain amount of brain training, where your brain learns to compensate for the different focal lengths. You're OK when you are reading with them, because you're just using that part and not going back and forth between the distances as you would in most other activities. The general advice with these lenses is to wear them from morning to evening, all day, every day, for 2-3 weeks. Some people (me being one) get used to them in a few days. Others take longer. But all day is the key, and you haven't been doing that.

All that said, given your activity with kids, you and your optometrist may conclude that having separate glasses for separate activities will be better for you, especially if you just can't get through the training period.
posted by beagle at 10:13 AM on August 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

My husband just went through this. His vision isn't bad (he's probably at about a -3, but I'm a -10, so I feel your pain) and he needed bifocals and the eye doctor talked him into no-line bifocals. The day we went back to pick them up, the optometry assistant (or whatever the title is of the person who fits your glasses) said he wouldn't recommend no-lines for a person's first pair of bifocals because they can be so hard to get used to, but that husband should try them. He tried them for a couple days and had the same thing as you -- dizzy, headaches, etc. We took them back (they were from Target) and Target replaced the no-lines with regular bifocals, which my husband loves. I guess they make him look older (if anyone notices something like bifocals on another person), but he doesn't care. He can finally sit in bed at night and read without having to put on different glasses so he's happy! I'd take them back and see if you can get regular bifocal lenses instead.
posted by jabes at 10:14 AM on August 8, 2017

My mom had this problem and she ended up with monovision contacts (and now in her older age will be getting monovision lens replacement when she gets cataract surgery so . . .wooo science).
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:21 AM on August 8, 2017

I got progressive lenses from Shuron. Hated them. They took them back free of charge and sent me regular distance prescription lenses in the same frames.

Loves me some Shuron!
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 10:33 AM on August 8, 2017

I got mine last summer. I'm seconding beagle's advice above - you just gotta wear them all the time, not just a few hours, and try not to think about it. One trick is that you have to move your head more in the direction you want to see, not just your eyes. Don't look down when you're doing stairs - that messes me up still. If I move my head too fast, I'll see blurs on the sides, but that's about it.

Also, wherever you got them, the tech should have sat down with you and gone over how your glasses will fit on your nose and make sure they sit properly on your face. All these little things matter and combined make for a better experience with progressives.

Good luck.
posted by NoraCharles at 11:09 AM on August 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

I wear trifocal progressives with a really strong prescription and astigmatism. There definitely is a break-in period of about a month (especially if these are your first progressives), but you have to wear them all. the. time.

A complicating factor is the size of the lens. Progressives don't work well in narrow frames.

If, after a month of wearing them constantly, you're still experiencing dizziness and nausea, go back to your optometrist/ophthalmologist and have the prescription checked. Lens makers make mistakes sometimes.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:28 AM on August 8, 2017

Yes - what Thorzdad said. I'm on my second pair of progressives and getting a lens with more real estate (height - from top to bottom of the lens) helped a lot.
posted by pantarei70 at 11:32 AM on August 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

After getting used to my progressive lenses, I noticed that I felt really insecure of my footing when hiking on uneven ground. Some basic research revealed that this is a problem: depth perception is compromised if you're constantly changing the height at which you're focusing, and they actually found an increase in falls in older people with progressive lenses. Single-vision lenses were better for hiking, I think, or something like that.

So, I don't know about your specific situation, but it is worth taking seriously.
posted by amtho at 11:39 AM on August 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

My housemate just got her first set of progressives yesterday. Her major complaint is that nothing is sharp and clear except right in front of her focus; everything to the sides is blurry. This means that to look at something to the side by just looking sideways, she has to move her head, too. Now, I have progressives and I don't have that problem at all; everything in the same plane is sharp. That said, I got a pair of medium-distance only so I could read and work on the computer and use the whole of my vision, so I can look up down sideways no problem. She's going to go back to the store and see what's the problem with the sides being fuzzy.
posted by MovableBookLady at 11:41 AM on August 8, 2017

If nothing else works, try getting a set of unifocal lenses such that one eye is corrected for good distance vision, and the other for good close vision.

My correction is about the same as yours (-12), and I did this inadvertently by mixing two sets of contacts and found that my depth perception was unimpaired both near and far.
posted by jamjam at 12:11 PM on August 8, 2017

There are definitely different designs of progressive lenses. Some are better for your activities and some are worse, some fit better in smaller frames than others, some are made to include "wrap" better for wrap-around frames or wider lenses. Talk with your optometrist. And them staying on your nose is pretty important for having the prescription be correct for you. Think about using a magnifying glass and moving it closer or farther from a piece of paper - it is the same way with your glasses being higher or lower on your nose.
posted by jillithd at 12:31 PM on August 8, 2017

Okay, I have been going about this all wrong, then. The first few sites I found googling around said to wear them an hour or two a day to start and gradually get more comfortable with them, and that has not been working at ALL.

I'll wait till September when I'm not spending all my time at the lake and the park and running around like a crazy person and then go 100% glasses for a month and see how I do. (I can't go back to the optician because I ordered them online so as to spend half a zillion dollars, rather than a full zillion dollars -- probably a mistake.)

Thanks very much, metafilter, I really appreciate the help!
posted by gerstle at 12:51 PM on August 8, 2017

You should be able to walk into any optometrist and they can measure the prescription of your glasses. They should have a machine and it takes no time at all. And they will do this happily because they may be able to sell you a new pair of glasses if it turns out the glasses are not your before you spend a month trying to train your brain to use these glasses make sure they should work for you.

Also, if fit is still not right get that looked at as well. Have you compared the size of the new glasses to an older pair that fits well? There should be numbers on one of the arms of the glasses. If the new pair has very different numbers - more than a couple of millimetres different - there is a good chance the frames will never fit you well. Experience has shown that I can wear glasses of 135 & 140 mm arm length - in theory. But the 140 ones will always slide down my nose and never fit well. Did you get any satisfaction guarantee? If so, use it.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:13 PM on August 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I can say that I can't even really get used to the bifocals -- the problem is that things are always in the wrong place: when I go down stairs, the stairs (bottom of frame) are out of focus; when I read a magazine, most of the page (middle or top of frame) is out of focus. Progressives are supposed to help with some of this, but I think you get more depths of possible focus at the expense of having just a tiny line of each. For me, at least, regular contacts + reading glasses is going to be the way to go, as long as I'm all over the place during a day...
posted by acm at 2:05 PM on August 8, 2017

I would also recommend checking exactly how you normally hold your head.

My first pair of varifocal glasses never worked for me - I felt dizzy all the time, and it actually wrecked my depth perception for a few months afterwards. I worked out that what had happened was the optician marked the changeover point when I was looking straight ahead, but my resting position is actually with my chin slightly lifted, so that I ended up looking through the wrong part of the lens most of the time. When I explained this to my regular optician, he double-checked that the lens gradient on my replacement pair started a little bit lower than normal, and I adjusted to them within a week.

Once I was conscious of the problem, I also got into the habit of tilting my head up for close-up objects and down for distance vision, to be sure that I was looking through the correct part of the lens.
posted by Azara at 3:01 PM on August 8, 2017

There are a lot of different brands of progressives, and different "models" (I'm sure that's not the right word, but I don't know what it is) within the brands, and they really are different. If your optometrist isn't knowledgeable about them, you might have more success with a good optician. Not a lens place in a mall, or a chain. I had a terrible time adjusting to progressives for several years, until I found an optician who got me a pair I could live with. And the new, high-end ones: rear-surfaced, free-form, or digital surfaced, are a lot better than the older, and less-expensive ones. They're so worth the money.

Also, my very good optician recommends very strongly against high-index lenses for me. He says the optics aren't nearly as good as regular plastic for people with strong prescriptions. Mine are -7, not as bad as yours, but it really sounds like whoever made you your glasses is not helping you. I'd suggest returning them (if you can), and going somewhere else.

MeMail me if you want - I spent a lot of time fighting with my progressives, and learned a fair amount in the process.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 3:31 PM on August 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Re where and how to look, the best tip I got was to point your nose at what you want to look like.

Also nthing the measurements. My Jose is kind of flat and all my glasses slip, but it became very noticible once I went progressive.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:04 PM on August 8, 2017

Took me a couple of months to get used to mine, and my biggest issue was/is that the part of the "progressive" that corresponds to the distance to my computer monitor was further down the lens than I wanted, and I had to look down my nose to be comfortable. I still don't know if I love them.
posted by rhizome at 4:08 PM on August 8, 2017

I would also suggest making sure that the glasses are perfectly 100% in line. When mono lenses are out of alignment, both eyes are looking through the same script, but when progressives are out of alignment, each eye will be looking through a different perscription (e.g. left eye reading, right eye distance).

I suggest being very careful with how you handle your specs - remove your glasses with both hands, lay them into the case each time you take them off; also be careful when playing with the kids (pillow fights, etc.), reaching behind large furniture, wherever you might bump your head enough to knock your glasses but not enough to hurt yourself.

And I'll second everyone above - be sure to have large enough frames and move your head, etc. Also it's harder to read in bed or lying on your stomach.
posted by philfromhavelock at 4:29 PM on August 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had a pair of progressives for several years and loved them. Then I got a new prescription last and nothing has been the same. I got a pair from Zenni and never, ever got used to them. Since Zenni is inexpensive, I wasn't out much money, and went to Sears for a different pair.

It turned out that Zenni and Sears have two completely different kinds of progressives. Zenni's take a relatively narrow area of in the center of the lens for grinding out the progressive area. Sears (and I suspect my older progressives) take a much wider part of the lens.

The Sears lenses aren't perfect. I feel that the far distance portion of the lens is higher than my old lenses, and I need to hold my head differently for distant object to be in the right part of the lens. I've gotten used to them, though, and accept that not in the distance has to be perfectly sharp all the time.

The rest of the lenses are pretty good. And it did take time to get used to them, even the Sears lenses, even after years of wearing progressives.
posted by lhauser at 9:13 PM on August 8, 2017

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