I hate my new progressive lenses, is what I see normal?
February 20, 2019 8:42 AM   Subscribe

I’ve been having trouble seeing up close for a awhile and finally saw an eye doctor a few weeks ago. I apparently needed both far and near correction, so they recommended progressive lenses. I just picked up my glasses yesterday. They are awful and I can't get anything done with them on. I know that it is supposed to take time to get used to them, but I’m wondering what that really means.

The area of focus seems really small, and when I move my head to shift focus, it is like a wave of distortion going across my vision. Every time I want to look somewhere else, I have to spend time finding the “sweet spot” where what I want to focus on isn’t out of focus. And since moving my head in any way brings on a wave of distortion, this is crazy making.

I spend a huge amount of my workday going back and forth between set of paper plans and my computer. With the waviness and tiny focus area, I can’t work with these glasses on. Since I feel like mostly my vision is "fine" this seems like I’m being asked to adjust to a much worse condition than what it is like without the glasses. I’ve been reading advice that sounds insane – “move the paper, not your head” is not a possible thing when I’m reviewing 300 page plan sets! Additionally, all the advice says to wear them all the time, but I don’t ever plan on wearing them all the time.

I guess the my questions are: Will the area in focus always be small? Will the wave of distortion ever not be so disorienting? Or are these the wrong glasses for me, should I see about bi-focals instead?
posted by Sabby to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
When I first got my progressives I was convinced that they made a mistake in the location of the focus area. My optometrist convinced me to give it a week. Now I love them. Hopefully you’ll have the same experience. I like them a lot better than bifocals.
posted by shrabster at 8:48 AM on February 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

Possible the glasses weren't made right and it's worth taking them back and have them checked. Some people never can be comfortable with progressives or need a lens with more vertical room to have enough space to focus. I've had progressives for almost 20 years with no trouble but neither of my parents could wear them at all.
posted by leslies at 8:48 AM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yes, I think those things will go away but the only way to know is to continue wearing them for at least a week (as much as you can, if not all day). How I know this: when I was younger, my prescription changed a lot and every time I got new glasses, it looked like the walls in the room I was in were curving in at the top. That would stop in a couple of days and it wouldn't happen again until I got another set of new glasses.

Give them a chance! You might really like them in a few days.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:49 AM on February 20, 2019 [5 favorites]

made the switch to progressives myself, and a couple of pieces of advice:

1) sensitivity to distortion goes down as your brain learns to filter it out and your habits adjust (ex: not looking head up and eyes down while turning your head).

2) prescriptions can be adjusted for your particular environment (the size of the near and far focal areas and their position relative to the centerline / your horizon)

3) progressives are really dependent on measuring the location of your pupil correctly, and getting that right when making the lenses. if this is off you may feel extra strain in one eye. good news: it can be fixed.

so shorter version: give it a week, go back for a follow up to see if the prescription or glasses need to be adjusted.
posted by zippy at 8:49 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

To add to the helpfulness above....it really helps to get used to pointing your nose at what you're looking at rather than swiveling your eyes about. Give it at least a week, likely two!
posted by london explorer girl at 8:53 AM on February 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

I totally felt like you do the first day I had my progressive lenses. I was googling all about the focus area being too small, and should I switch to some other type of glasses, and is it possible they made a mistake, etc etc.

By day two or three I didn't notice distortion at all and I have been consistently 100% happy with my glasses.
posted by wyzewoman at 8:58 AM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Progressives aren't perfect for every use. They're sort of the making the best of all worlds solution. I have prescription reading glasses for close reading (although I don't really use them any more, but they're very helpful for jewelry making or something I need to get very close to). I take off my progressives for, say, lying in bed reading my phone as it's difficult to get the glasses in the right position to be able to access the reading part of the lens in that position. I wear my progressives all the rest of the time, however. Computer use, tv watching, driving, walking around; all good. It was hard to get used to going down stairs, actually. Took a few days before it stopped feeling like the ground was much too close. Make sure your lenses are tall enough.

It's important that you understand how to correctly use your progressives. Talk to your optometrist, mine was really helpful with tips for how to quickly adjust to them. And after a while it just becomes automatic. I think the effort to adjust to progressives is worth it. But if you give it a couple of weeks and just can't do it, consider getting separate distance glasses and reading glasses. With online services like zennioptical.com, it's easy and cheap to have these.
posted by clone boulevard at 9:03 AM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

For my (recent) first pair of progressives, I swallowed hard and paid for the premium, "custom," $$$ lenses. I have to say that they've worked well--no dizziness, no weird transitions as I move my eyes about. I did trade off a bit of distance vision for better task vision. But a lot of my friends have needed several days to adjust.
posted by praemunire at 9:05 AM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

It took me a month or longer to get used to them, and my vision still isn't what I'd call particularly sharp, even after 4 months of wearing them. I have crap peripheral vision now. I have to turn my whole head to look at something, or lift my head up to where I hit that sweet spot where I can read stuff farther away. Also, when I look at my phone for long periods of time (for instance, like when I read an ebook), it takes a few seconds to readjust when I look up to focus on something else. If I wasn't so nearsighted, I'd have kept my old regular glasses, even if I did have to push them up and down my nose to see clearly.

I think my mistake was going to some cheap place to get them. I got hardly any instruction other than "it will take time to get used to them" from the person fitting the glasses (who was not the optometrist). I also don't feel like the optometrist listened to me when I said that I didn't have sharp focus when he was doing the testing. But maybe that's how progressive lenses are.
posted by cass at 9:09 AM on February 20, 2019

How big are the lenses? When I had my first pair of progressives made I went with frames like I normally wear, rather small. I realized the "sweet spot" was, in fact, quite small. I'm much happier with the replacement pair tha have larger lenses.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:09 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Your post is ME - and so timely! According to my optometrist, I don't officially need glasses - and even the technician stated that it's really just a question of when I finally decide that I want to see with more clarity and not put up with the small issues I've been having.

I found that within one drive around the block that my neck hurt, and I went back in for an adjustment on where the glasses sit. Ok... but I still had to move even my cell phone left and right to read the entire width of it, and the point of focus was so tight that I struggled to find that sweet spot. Also, doing this hurt my neck just to hold it at that sweet spot. Then, I realized that I couldn't just glance down at my dashboard in the car without tilting my head down much farther than I would normally need to do (to find that mid-range miniscule focus) - which I felt was dangerous, and again, my neck was really feeling the pain. And, I couldn't just glance at ANYTHING without turning my head - which again hurt my neck and I didn't like the way that the Progressive lenses just generally put blinders on my vision so that I could ONLY look directly at something, in such a tiny filed of vision, or it would be blurred.

My solution: I went online to Clearly.ca (closest online glasses to my location), put in my prescription (had to call to ask how to make the Rx NOT be for Progressive lenses - and the answer to that is simply to remove the "Add" or additional magnification. I had my distance only prescription glasses within a week and they are amazing! I can see through the entire lens, and I really don't need much magnification - so I can even read things with them, just because I have more clarity that fixes my astigmatism.

My optician is going to be changing the original frames' lenses to be bifocal office lenses that have a mid-range on the top, and reading distance on the bottom (most places will offer a return/exchange time period for glasses). These, I will be able to use the entire width of the lens, just a difference in magnification from top to bottom.

~ If I hadn't known someone who has the same issue with Progressive lenses, I wouldn't have known what could be done or what would be best for me. He's much happier with his office bifocals and regular distance glasses than he ever would have been with Progressives.

~ Oh, you don't have to order online, but if you do - try to have a well fitting pair of glasses to select from something that you can filter to fit you properly... I was so pleased with the delivery to my door and the cheap pricing with good quality that I ordered a pair of prescription distance sunglasses (should be here next week)!
posted by itsflyable at 9:20 AM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm wearing a pair of "reading/computer" glasses as I type this because I really just can't properly focus on text with progressives. Overall, they're mostly okay, but if I have to read anything they just really don't work.

I thought maybe I just got a bad pair or wrong lenses, and took my first pair back and went to a second optical shop and got a completely different pair (different frame, different lens manufacturer, etc.). It was the second shop that told me I really should invest in reading glasses and since it didn't cost me any extra (through one of those second pair free promotions), I got them. I'm glad I did because I'd be unable to work if I relied solely on the progressives.

The distance distortion does get better, unless, you're like me and find that going down a store aisle (like say a grocery store) with high shelves full of products of varying colours and patterns a bit of a visual challenge. (It's worse the faster you go.) You might also find sports a challenge if you have to do something like catch a ball that is moving closer to you.

Progressives aren't great. As mentioned upthread, they're kind of a "best of all the bad options" solution, but in general, you should be able to (mostly) adjust to them.
posted by sardonyx at 9:23 AM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd just like to say that Progressive lenses are definitely NOT for those people who have had head/neck/shoulder injuries.

Yes, I could see with perfect clarity when I found those sweet spots, but I started having immediate and lasting neck pain trying to use them all day every day, as they tell you to do.
posted by itsflyable at 9:25 AM on February 20, 2019

You will get used to wear the progressive lens. However you may want to look into getting a pair of computer glasses. These will have only two areas of focus for middle distant (looking at the computer) and close (reading papers). I found with the normal progressives I was tilting my head up to look at the screen and was having neck issues, With the computer glasses I could look straight at the computer. I was not even aware I was tilting my head up until I got the computer glasses and realize the relief on my neck.
posted by tman99 at 9:26 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

I hated my progressives too - walked into doorways, etc but then I got progressive sunglasses and started wearing them while driving every day. I became accustomed that way and it made wearing my regular progressives much easier.
posted by 41swans at 10:15 AM on February 20, 2019

Nthing the recommendation to get progressives tuned for computer/reading. You lose some sharpness for distance vision, but I find that even on my bike, I can see street signs well enough.

It's also possible that the optometrist just screwed up, or that your glasses didn't have enough height for a large enough computer "sweet spot". I got my first progressives several years ago, and they were fine. I went back to the same place for my second pair and wound up with the ability to read only.one.line.of.text on the computer with my head held still. Those glasses got returned pronto. The distance vision was amazingly clear, which was fun, but I could not use them at work.
posted by maudlin at 10:17 AM on February 20, 2019

Yeah, progressive bifocals take some getting used to. At first, I felt like I was a bird - having to turn my head all the time to see. Just weird.

Now I don't even think about it anymore. Not really.

(As I tip my head back to see through the bottom of the lenses, just to finish typing this out.)
posted by strelitzia at 10:25 AM on February 20, 2019

N’thing that it can take several weeks.
posted by spitbull at 11:08 AM on February 20, 2019

I don't even have progressive lenses, but when I started wearing glasses I felt like I looking out of a fishbowl and felt nauseous for a few weeks. Went back to the eye doctor twice to make sure they hadn't screwed up because nobody warned me it would be that bad.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 11:42 AM on February 20, 2019

I had trouble adjusting to my first pair of progressives, but switching to a larger (both taller and wider) lens and frame helped a lot. It will give you a bigger field of mid-range vision, which is important if you're doing a lot of looking from up-close to computer. The diagram on this page shows why wider lenses are helpful--you are losing a lot of focus area on the sides, so small lenses have very little mid-range.

I generally wear my progressives all day, every day; I get distance only in sunglasses since I pretty much only use sunglasses when driving or walking around outside.
posted by assenav at 11:53 AM on February 20, 2019

Like you, I needed glasses for the first time in my life when my near vision degraded due to presbyopia. I went to get my eyes checked and the optometrist determined that I would benefit from a significant near vision correction, but needed only a very small distance correction.

He suggested that the easiest solution would be a pair of pharmacy reading glasses, but because of my job as an OR nurse, part time reading glasses are not an option--my hands are often in bloody or otherwise dirty gloves, and it would be prohibitively time-consuming to take my gloves off, wash my hands, and put glasses on every time I needed to see something up close. And when I'm scrubbed in I can't touch anything not on the sterile surgical field.

So I tried progressive lenses. I got fitted with a pair that were not my aesthetic preference but were big/wide enough to give me big enough fields of vision. I wore them faithfully every day, the whole day, despite the constant vague feeling of motion sickness. I got the frames adjusted multiple times. I walked into doorframes, tripped down stairs, and stepped on the cats for a month before I gave up. I just could not get used to them.

Now I wear monovision contact lenses, and they are a dream come true. I pop my lenses in each morning and I see perfectly well at all distances without thinking about it. My only complaint is the cost--my finicky eyes insist that the only comfortable brand is the most expensive daily disposables available.

I defer to successful progressives wearers about how long you should keep trying, but if it turns out that progressives aren't for you, ask your optometrist about monovision.
posted by jesourie at 2:18 PM on February 20, 2019

I've gone through several pairs trying to find some I like and I'm finally happy with them. Some things I learned.

* "Premium" progressives have a wider sweet spot. I ended up getting some from eyebuydirect.
* It might help to have taller lenses (like 28 mm or so) to allow more room for the different focal lengths.
* I think it is really important that they get your PD (pupillary distance) correct.

My "Add" is +1.5. If it's a lot more than that, I imagine the distortion on the sides will be bigger.
posted by tracer at 2:51 PM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Haaa, "give it a week," haaaaar!
It takes forever. FOREVER. I can stand mine, now, but it was not weeks, it was months.
posted by Don Pepino at 3:26 PM on February 20, 2019

There are a lot of different kinds of progressives. The premium ones, in my opinion, are more than worth it. A good optician can help a lot.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 5:47 PM on February 20, 2019

I dunno how happy I am with mine. They are kind of an improvement but at the same time I literally see better with my glasses off my face to read--with the glasses on there are weird glare issues I don't enjoy dealing with. I was expecting the progressives to put me back to "wears glasses all the time like I have been doing since age 5" status, but not really. It's been several months.

I have heard stories from other people who have gotten their glasses redone over and over and over again because they were not happy with them, but I don't want to spend $300+/pop on that, so I assume at this point it's the best I can do and just deal with it. That doesn't sound like a reasonable strategy for you if you are so badly off, though. But at the very least, you're probably going to have to see if you can adjust to them within like, a week or so before complaining to anyone.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:53 PM on February 20, 2019

I got progressives after wearing glasses for 30 years (myopia, astigmatism) and just wanted to nth the idea that you need to give it more time.

After a week, I still was having issues (visual distortion when moving etc) By week two it was getting better so I persevered. By week three everything had nearly gone back to normal and now - a couple of years on - I think they're great.

Two things helped - I got frames that had a much larger lens than my previous ones (and I eventually moved to the expensive rimless ones - very much worth the money IMHO), and I paid for the thinnest lenses possible plus all the coatings. Expensive, but I think it helped cut down on the visual artifacts and distortion.
posted by ninazer0 at 7:03 PM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

i have 4 pairs of frames with progressive lens glasses. i found that the frames with the largest lenses are the easiest to wear and give me acceptable vision especially at work. my rimless give me the sharpest vision of all my frames especially while driving -going back and forth from reading/computer and distance with the rimless is sometimes challenging.

i just recently went to mono vision contact lenses-- which i really love
posted by prk60091 at 7:21 PM on February 20, 2019

I wore progressives for four years and gave up on them. They never worked right. My biggest issue was the vastly increased halo effect they caused when driving at night, but I also had problems with them while working on the computer monitor. And, like others upthread, I had to remove them to read. So all in all, I began wondering why I was enduring a product that provided so very little benefit but so many drawbacks.

Next time I had my eyes examined, I asked for a straight vision prescription, no progressives, no bifocals. I explained my issues with the ophthalmologist, who agreed, but wrote me another prescription for bifocals in case reverting to straight vision lenses didn't work out.

The first time I drove with my new, single-vision lenses I practically wept with joy.

Dropping the progressives was the best move for me.
posted by Lunaloon at 5:24 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

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