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In the past, if people who sported bifocals wanted to view an object at an intermediate distance (more than normal reading distance but less than 20 feet away), they had two options:
When trifocal glasses entered into the optical industry, people could enjoy intermediate vision without the need to move.
Trifocals are multifocal eyewear that offer different lens corrections. Visible lines divide the lens into three segments, including:
Eye care specialists recommend this type of multifocal glasses for individuals who suffer from eye conditions like presbyopia (farsightedness caused by aging of the eye) and cataracts.
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The are two main types of trifocal lenses available, including:
Trifocals can provide vision correction for some eye conditions, including:
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.1 million Americans aged 40 years and older are estimated to have at least a cataract in one eye.
Trifocal lenses offer both advantages and disadvantages. Some of those benefits include:
Some of the drawbacks include:
Trifocals and bifocal lenses are similar in that both types usually have lines to distinguish different ranges of vision. As the name itself suggests, bifocals correct distance vision problems in two segments (bottom half for reading and top half for far vision). Trifocal lenses, however, offer three viewing zones for better, overall sight.
Both can also harness stronger lens power in certain segments to view objects better in the intermediate segment or near a range of vision. For example, a specialized pair of glasses called double-D bifocals let wearers glance through the extreme upper or lower part of the lens. This means that those wearing double-D bifocals do not have to move their heads to achieve better sight.
Eye care professionals may recommend the usage of bifocals or other multifocal lenses to treat myopia in children. Previous studies have demonstrated the use of such lenses contributes to minimal reductions in myopia progression.
Trifocals have noticeable lines that run across lenses. This can lead to an “image jump.” This occurs when there is a sudden change in both clarity and the perceived position of an object in sight.
Unlike trifocals though, wearers of progressive eyeglasses do not have to worry about this problem. Progressive lenses do not have lines and are much more gradual from one prescription segment to the next. Also, because there are no lines, progressive lenses tend to have a more aesthetically-pleasing look than trifocals.
In terms of costs and adjustment, progressive lenses are at a disadvantage to trifocals. For example, progressive eyewear is more expensive than trifocals because of its all-in-one design. Individuals who purchase progressive lenses will have better sight at different ranges of vision without any obstruction caused by lines.
This can, however, be problematic at the beginning. No visible lines means no visual guidance for the eyes.
Individuals will have initial difficulty adjusting to progressive lenses while performing different tasks. Because of this, some may experience nausea or feel off balanced during the learning period.
Multifocal contact lenses are available for those not interested in wearing trifocal eyeglasses regularly. It is important to speak with an eye care professional beforehand to determine if such contact lenses are the most suitable option.
As with any type of contact lenses, there is an increased risk of developing an eye infection.
Similarly, contact lenses may contribute to dry eye in older adults. Dry eye is a common condition, in which an individual cannot produce enough tears to lubricate the eye. It can lead to discomfort and affect vision. It may also weaken results of eye surgery (corneal, cataract, and refractive).
Trifocal lenses are more expensive than average single-vision lenses. Costs of trifocals will vary according to an individual’s prescriptions and needs. For example, progressive lenses that offer three different vision ranges can amount to $260.
This price can be even higher with material customization and additional coatings like anti-scratch or anti-reflection.
If you are considering buying trifocal eyewear, it is important to consult your eye care specialist and learn more about the costs, benefits, and alternatives.
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“Alcon's Trifocal IOL Makes U.S. Debut.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 29 Aug. 2019, www.aao.org/headline/alcon-s-trifocal-iol-makes-u-s-debut.
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“Common Eye Disorders and Diseases.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 June 2020, www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/basics/ced/index.html.
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