Adventure of a near and far sighted lady
June 7, 2008 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I just got reading glasses progressively bi-focaled into my regular distance glasses, for the first time ever. This was necessary according to my doctor but I can't figure out how to use them. I'm asking you all if there's a way to know if it's me or if it's the glasses.

I never had a problem doing computer work for long periods of time before, but the new glasses make it alot more annoying. I've been getting progressively stronger distance glasses over the years but I've never had this much trouble getting used to them.

Nothing on the computer is as clear as it was before, and also it's that I feel like my eyes and brain have to work harder than they did and my brain is like "Nope, don't have the patience for this crap." I feel like the way older people always complain to me that they can't look at the computer screen for too long or their eyes go wonky. I never experienced this before (I'm 24).

I went to the doctor in the first place because my old glasses broke, and I told the doctor about problems I've been having with concentrating and data entry accuracy (putting in $45.64 rather than $46.46 etc.) When we were doing the eye exam with the thing you look through, the reading prescription that I tried seemed like a good idea at the time. But these glasses are just making the original problems worse. I've tried angling my head so I'm looking through the bottom half reading section but that makes everything really blurry. The top half distance section is where I have the "have to work too hard" difficulty.

When I go back to the doctor next week, I'm going to tell him about these difficulties but I don't know what I'm talking about and I was wondering if anyone else has experienced similar difficulties. What does this sound like to you?
posted by amethysts to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The first time I tried progressive lenses I could not adjust to them and reverted to multiple, single-vision pairs.
A couple years later I tried them again and was successful.
I asked my doctor why this was and he said 1) progressive technology keeps improving and 2) I needed a stronger correction.
Progressive lenses are good for general wear but may not work well for some tasks, computer work, playing the piano, or even reading because the "sweet spot" is so small.
The center of the lenses give near perfect correction but the peripheral vision suffers.
You may need a wider field of vision. If you are frequently turning or tipping your head then consider single vision or lined bi/tri-focals for prolongued use at one distance.
Try giving them a week, by then you should know. Glasses are supposed to eliminate eyestrain and improve vision. You may not be a good candidate for them now, but try them again in 2-3 years.
posted by swarkentien at 12:16 PM on June 7, 2008

My optician was very honest in telling me that progressives don't always work for everyone. My experience was exactly like yours; I couldn't focus on anything. I may try them again in the future, as I really like the idea of not hauling round two pairs of specs.
posted by punilux at 12:34 PM on June 7, 2008

Learning to live in progressives can be tricky. There is a narrow sweet-spot that you have to find. It took me forever to get used to them.

You say you had progressives fitted to your reading frames? Are these full-sized frames or those half-sized frames that people normally call reading glasses? If the latter, I'm betting that's part of the problem. On a half-height frame/lens, the focal areas of the different areas would be terribly small. Maybe un-usable.

I've also discovered that there is a real quality difference between labs that make the lenses. Back when I had good vision insurance and could afford my independent optometrist and the lab they used, my progressives worked well and I never had a problem with the lenses not matching the prescription.

On the other hand, when I had crappy vision coverage that forced me to use LensCrafters, I had nothing but trouble with things like 1) the prescription being bungled in the first place, and 2) the lenses not matching the prescription (once they got it right).
posted by Thorzdad at 12:45 PM on June 7, 2008

Make sure you have them close to your eyes. It will enlarge the sweet spot. There exist higher end models of progressives, like the Definity, which have a larger sweet spot.
posted by caddis at 1:03 PM on June 7, 2008

I tried and abandoned progressive lenses recently. (And traditional bifocals after that!) I learned in the end that they did not work for me as they are not for someone a) moving about in a room a lot (wood shop) and b) had too small sweet spot in mid-range vision (where the sweet spot is the smallest -- I did not know it at the time but I use that mid-range quite a bit more than I would have expected -- maybe the average successful subscription for progressive lenses is for someone who drives a lot and then sits and reads a lot. Not me.)

It bears repeating, progressive lenses are not for everyone. I gave them a two-week trial period, although could not go more than about 4-6 hours a day with them, and, even then, could still not kick the old habit of simply removing them at the dining table, etc.

Short answer: it's not you.
posted by Dick Paris at 2:15 PM on June 7, 2008

Yes, to all the above. The lab makes a big difference, as does the progressive brand. Cheap ones, and ones made by places like Lenscrafters are a lot more likely to make you miserable than good (and unfortunately expensive) ones. Fit is very important too. Go to an optician who understands the difference between brands and will talk with you about what you need.

Also, you should be sure to get a good lens material, that is, plastic, not polycarbonate.

That all being said, a lot of people don't end up with progressives, or end up with progressives AND reading AND computer glasses. Progressives are a compromise, no doubt. A lot of people don't want to compromise that much on how they see.

Here's more info, with links to even more.

Good luck. Presbyopia's really sucky.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:41 PM on June 7, 2008

Thorzdad may have hit on one of your key problems: Small, small frames like everyone (under age 50) wears.

I work at a computer 8-12 hours a day with a few interruptions (on some days, no breaks). I wear progressive lenses and have to ask opticians for the biggest, roundest frames they've got -- even tried some men's frames when I couldn't find anything in women's section I liked. Even so, my current frames aren't as big as I like, but I'm getting used to them.

Perhaps if you try bigger frames, which would have bigger lenses and a larger focal area...
posted by Smalltown Girl at 5:28 PM on June 7, 2008

Hmmm... thanks for your helpful responses everyone. I'll be much more prepared now when I go see the doctor.

I did go to Lenscrafters like I always do, just because I don't think about my glasses/can't afford to replace them till I break them and it becomes an emergency that needs to be resolved today...(they gave me a set of "loaner lenses" for the distance only that I used till my fancy lenses were ready a week later) I do have faith in this doctor though as the owner of the multi-location practice who i've seen before and not just some random mall doctor. And I can't exactly afford to get fitted out at a brand new place now that I've shelled out for these.

I purposefully tried to get the biggest frames that also looked decent. I could have gotten the really huge kind but I'm a young girl and this sort of thing matters to me somewhat; so I did the best I could on that.

Any other suggestions etc. would be greatly appreciated!
posted by amethysts at 6:19 PM on June 7, 2008

Just got progressives two weeks ago myself, and so far the only thing I've done is nearly fall over once-- and I'm not sure if that was the progressives, or the tequila.

My opticians got me Varilux Panamic lenses, partially because my scrip is very heavy and partially because I require polarized lenses, even indoors. The lenses seem to have a pretty good sweet spot and not much distortion to them, and I'm quite pleased-- but, yeah, they're expensive.

My opticians did give me a few tips on getting used to them, too:

* You're going to get dizzy now and then with them as your brain adapts to the new setup. You're going to get headaches. That will go away.

* The ground looks like it's coming up towards you when you look down with progressives. It's not. Don't trip and fall.

* Aim your chin at things you're trying to read. Every set of lenses has a different sweet spot for reading, but start by aiming your chin and adjusting your head up and down until you get the hang of it.

Also, Wikipedia says that swapping back to your old glasses when you have headaches/ dizziness will make your adaptation period that much longer.

(Note: I don't agree with all the subjective judgments in that Wikipedia article, by a long shot, and it's certainly not upholding Wikipedia's attempts at objectivity. For instance, I have some pretty crazy eye misalignment on top of the progressives, and even so, I don't have to "move [my] head back and forth like [I] was watching a tennis match" to read a piece of paper.)

Also, take your glasses to your local nice independent opticians and ask them to check the scrip for you. There's a nonzero chance that Lenscrafters has screwed it up, and it that case, with documentation of that fact, you could force them to eat the cost.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:06 PM on June 7, 2008

I took me a couple of months to get used to my first progressives. I love them now though and am glad I persevered.
posted by anadem at 8:31 PM on June 7, 2008

I had the "fishbowl" effect for a few days, but it soon disappeared. I will say, my optician (I did NOT purchase from the opthamologist) suggested since it was my first pair that she give me more near (reading) area (just a bit).
posted by 6:1 at 9:42 PM on June 7, 2008

I purchased my first pair of progressive lenses about 8 years ago. They worked perfectly for me, right out of the gate. The prescription was written by an eye doc who I had been seeing for a few years, and I had it filled by an independent optician who was recommended by the eye doc. When I first went to the optician he asked many questions about how they would be used. As you, I also sit in front of a computer display for most of my working day, so that was very important for him to know. Once the glasses were made, the only instruction I got was that, in order to get used to them I should keep my eyes pointed forward and move my head rather than move my eyes all of the time. I adjusted to the lenses and had no problems after a day or so.

Fast forward 5 years. I noticed my vision had gotten worse (note, I am much older than you), and I went back to my eye doc for an exam. Sure enough, she wrote a new prescription, and since I was experimenting with buying glasses online she wrote the bifocal prescription, but in addition gave me a prescription specifically for computer use and another for reading glasses, noting that the computer prescription was written for a slightly different focal distance than the reading glasses.

Coincidentally, by this time the optician who filled my original progressives prescription had retired, so I decided to try the online shops (Zenni optical). The result was nowhere as good as my earlier glasses. The view corridor (what I believe others refer to as the "sweet spot") was quite narrow, thus these glasses are not good for working at the computer. My solution was to try the computer-specific prescription, and though this means I have to keep track of another pair of glasses, it works like a charm. The bottom line for me is that a correct prescription for no-line bifocals, filled by an optitian who really knows his or her stuff is the best of all worlds, but in the end it's still a bit of a compromise, especially if your central field of vision is a computer screen for a good part of your day.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:57 AM on June 8, 2008

I got my first pair of progressives 2 or 3 months ago. For driving, I loved them instantly - could see distance *and* the dashboard! For reading and computer use, not so much. I went back to my doctor and got another prescription (single vision) for computer use, and continued to use my (single v.) reading glasses.

That made the transition work for me, wearing the progressives for general wear, and using the single visions when my focus was limited. Recently, I've not been grabbing for the single vision lenses as often. I used my old reading lenses and got cheapies on-line for the new computer glasses.

Seconding suggestion for a computer-specific prescription.
posted by jaruwaan at 1:02 PM on June 8, 2008

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