Updated on 

November 12, 2021

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Progressive Lenses

Article Summary

  • Progressive lenses create clear vision at all distances
  • A progressive lens has no line, making for a smooth transition
  • Wearing progressive lenses may come with a learning curve
  • Progressive lenses can be expensive
  • These lenses are not for everyone (other options like single-vision lenses and bifocals are also available)

What are Progressive Lenses?

Progressive lenses are multifocal lenses that correct near, far, and middle vision with a seamless transition in magnification from top to bottom. 

The prescription changes across the lens, so you can see at all distances clearly with a single pair of glasses.7

You might need progressive lenses for a variety of reasons. Some of these include:

  • As you get older, your eyes change and your vision may get weaker
  • You spend a lot of time reading small fonts or staring at a computer screen, which can take a toll on your natural vision
  • You have trouble reading fine print, big street signs, or other things

How Progressive Lenses Work

A progressive lens has three sections. Unlike bifocal and trifocal glasses, there is no visible line that separates the sections.

With progressive lenses, you look through the top section of the lens to see things that are far away. The middle section of the lenses clarify objects in the middle ground. The bottom section helps you see objects that are close up.

Progressive lenses change slightly in prescription throughout the lens. This makes for a smooth, gradual shift instead of a harsh difference in section.

Who Should Use Progressive Lenses?

You should use progressive lenses if you have trouble seeing at all distances. If you have astigmatism, progressive lenses may be for you. People who have astigmatism may have both nearsightedness and farsightedness.1

You may not need progressive lenses if you can see clearly up close but not from afar (myopia). 5 

You may not need progressive lenses if you can see objects at far-away distances but not ones that are up close (hyperopia).2  

There are other types of lenses that are specific to these vision issues. However, people with these types of vision may still opt for progressives for convenience.

Pros and Cons of Progressive Lenses

Like all types of lenses, there are pros and cons of progressive lenses:

PROS

Here are a few benefits of progressive lenses:7

  • Correct all-distance vision issues in a single lens
  • Have various lens powers (multifocal lenses)
  • Offer a seamless transition without lines
  • You don’t need to purchase multiple pairs of glasses
  • Help you save money since you only need one pair
  • Help you see clearly


In general, vision correction can help:

  • Alleviate other symptoms like headaches
  • Reduce your risk of injury
  • Make day-to-day tasks like reading and driving easier

CONS

Here are a few downsides of progressive lenses:7

  • Require you to look in a specific part of the lens to see clearly at different distances
  • Can be expensive (since they correct multiple types of vision problems)
  • Can take time getting used to
  • No visible line to help guide you through the lens power (you have to train your eyes to look out of the right portion of the lens to see objects at different distances)
  • Any type of glasses can cause some peripheral distortion

Tips for Adjusting to Progressive Lenses

Getting used to wearing progressive lenses, like all corrective lenses, may take some time. This is especially true if you are not used to wearing glasses at all.

It can take weeks or even months to get used to wearing progressive reading glasses. Here are some tips for adjusting to progressive lenses:

  • Wear your eyeglasses often so you get used to the feeling of them.
  • Pick a pair of progressive glasses that you like wearing and feel confident in.
  • Get a pair of glasses that fit properly. The better your glasses fit, the more likely you are to wear them.
  • Make sure that your lenses are fitted. Have them professionally fitted so that your eyes can more quickly adjust.
  • Point your nose toward the object you wish to focus on by looking straight ahead. Then, adjust your chin up or down to find the clearest spot.
  • Take breaks from wearing your progressive lenses if you develop headaches, eye strain, or eye fatigue.

If your eyes never adjust to your new glasses or they are causing you more harm than good, consult your eye doctor. Progressive eyewear is not for everyone. There may be another option that is better for you.

How Much Do Progressive Lenses Cost?

Glasses themselves can be costly. In fact, prices range from about $8 to upwards of $600 for people who do not have vision insurance.3

Your vision insurance may or may not cover the cost of prescription glasses. Some insurance plans may pay up to a certain amount.

How much your glasses cost you depends on a few factors:

  • Where you buy them (your geographic location)
  • From whom you buy them (an eye doctor, an eyewear store, online, etc.)
  • The brand of glasses you buy
  • The materials you choose
  • The lens type you choose (progressive lenses tend to be more expensive) 
  • Any add-ons that decide to purchase with your progressive lens

For example, at Warby Parker, a progressive lens starts at $295. Premium progressive lenses may cost more.6

Are They Right for You?

There are many different types of eyeglasses to choose from. An eye exam from your optometrist can help determine the best type of eyewear for your needs.

There are four other main types of eyeglass lenses. They include:4

  1. Single-vision lenses. Single-vision lenses have the same prescription power across the entire lens. They are used for correcting myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), and/or astigmatism.
  2. Bifocal lenses. Bifocals are eyeglasses that have two lenses to fix both nearsighted and farsighted vision. There is a dividing line, called a “transition zone,” between the two types of lenses in bifocal glasses.
  3. Trifocal lenses. Trifocals are made up of three different lenses. They correct not only myopia and hyperopia, but also presbyopia, which is the inability to focus at near. Trifocals have a distance, intermediate, and near vision zone. Bifocal and trifocal lenses both have visible lines.
  4. Prism lenses. Prism lenses can correct eye conditions like vertical heterophoria. This is when the lines of sight in each eye are slightly misaligned vertically. Prism lenses also help correct strabismus (eye turn) and diplopia (double vision).

You also have the option to choose your lens material for your eyeglasses. Some lens materials include:4

  1. Polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is a light and impact-resistant material that is better than plastic in these ways.
  2. Plastic. Most frames are made of a CR-39 plastic, a high-index plastic, or Trivex. CR-39 is a thermal-cured plastic polymer. Meanwhile, Trivex is a newer plastic material that is as safe as polycarbonate.
  3. Glass. Glass lenses are ideal because they tend to be scratch resistant. They also tend to cost less than plastic and polycarbonate. However, they can break easier and generally weigh more.

You also have the choice of certain add-ons, like protective coatings for your lenses. Here are some of the coatings that you can put on your lenses.4

  • Anti-reflective coating. Anti-reflective coating helps reduce glare to prevent eye strain.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) coating. Ultraviolet coating helps protect your eyes from the sun's UV radiation. Some materials like polycarbonate, Trivex, and other high-index lenses already have 100% UV blocking properties.

Find an eye care professional or talk to your eye doctor about what type of eyeglass lenses are right for you. 

7 Cited Research Articles
  1. Boyd, Kierstan. “What Is Astigmatism?American Academy of Ophthalmology, 1 Oct. 2021.
  2. Farsightedness.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 June 2020.
  3. How Much Do Eyeglasses Cost?CostHelper.
  4. How to Choose Eyeglasses for Vision Correction.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 27 June 2020.
  5. Nearsightedness: What Is Myopia?American Academy of Ophthalmology, 25 Oct. 2021.
  6. Progressives.” Warby Parker.
  7. Pros and Cons of Progressive Lenses.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 4 Dec. 2020. 
Melody Huang is an optometrist and freelance health writer. Through her writing, Dr. Huang enjoys educating patients on how to lead healthier and happier lives. She also has an interest in Eastern medicine practices and learning about integrative medicine. When she’s not working, Dr. Huang loves reviewing new skin care products, trying interesting food recipes, or hanging with her adopted cats.
AnnaMarie Houlis earned her B.A. in Journalism & New Media with a double minor in Creative Writing and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies from Gettysburg College. She spent several years as an editor at the helm of New York City's lifestyle scene before transitioning into full-time freelance writing from all corners of the globe. A full-time traveler, AnnaMarie's work is inspired by her fieldwork in communities around the world and grounded in extensive, expert-backed research. Her mission is to empower readers everywhere with the knowledge and resources they need—for their eye health, included.
https://www.visioncenter.org/author/annamarie/
Author: AnnaMarie Houlis  | UPDATED November 12, 2021
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Medical reviewer: Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.

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