Evidence Based

Trifocal Eyeglass Lenses

What Are Trifocals (Eyeglass Lenses)?

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:

  • To approach the object and look through the near segment of the lens.
  • To step farther back from the object and look at it through the distance segment of the lens. 

When trifocals entered into the optical industry, people could enjoy intermediate vision without the need to move. 

trifocal glasses

Trifocals are multifocal eyewear that offer different lens corrections. Visible lines divide the lens into three segments, including:

  • Distance vision. This could include driving or looking at a whiteboard.
  • Intermediate vision. Card playing and staring at the computer screen fall within this range of vision.
  • Near vision. Close-up reading is a common example.

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. 

What Vision Problems Can Trifocal Eyeglass Lenses Correct?

Trifocals can provide relief to many eye health conditions, including:

  • Presbyopia. Between the ages of 40 and 60, individuals may need to change their eyeglass prescriptions to compensate for sight deterioration. The eye’s natural lens no longer retains flexibility and is unable to focus at near. Although there is no cure for presbyopia, wearing trifocals can help lessen the likelihood of eye strain and headaches. 
  • Cataracts. Aging or other factors like diabetes may lead to a clouding of the eye’s lens. When the lens is not clear, objects and surroundings may appear blurry, distorted, or less colorful. However, a trifocal intraocular lens (IOL) placed during cataract surgery can resolve cataracts. Implanting this artificial lens replacement may even lower the chances of needing glasses post surgery.
cataracts scaled e1598035826129

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. 

Pros and Cons of Trifocals

Trifocal lenses offer both advantages and disadvantages. Some of those benefits include:

  • Three different ranges of vision
  • Better focus at a distance of an arm’s length
  • Easy adjustment from standard bifocals or other eyewear 

Some of the drawbacks include:

  • Visible lines across the lenses
  • Limited customization options
  • Possible need to change eye prescription with age 

Trifocals vs. Bifocal Lenses

Bifocal Lens - Vision Center

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.

Trifocal Lens - Vision Center

Both can also harness stronger lens power in certain segments to view objects better in the intermediate or near 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 vs. Progressive Lenses

Trifocal Lens - Vision Center

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.

Progressive Lens - Vision Center

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: Do They Work?

Rigid Gas Permeable Contact Lenses

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). 

Cost of Trifocal Eyeglass Lenses

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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Author: Anthony Armenta | UPDATED July 28, 2020
Medical reviewer: MELODY HUANG, O.D. | REVIEWED ON July 23, 2020
Resources

*od †od. Myopia Control with Bifocal Contact Lenses: A Randomized... : Optometry and Vision Science. journals.lww.com/optvissci/Abstract/2016/04000/Myopia_Control_with_Bifocal_Contact_Lenses__A.6.aspx.

“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.

Bizer, Wayne F. “What Is the Difference between No-Line Bifocals, Progressive Bifocals and Trifocals?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 1 Mar. 2018, www.aao.org/eye-health/ask-ophthalmologist-q/bifocals-trifocals-differences.

“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.

“Dry Eye Syndrome PPP - 2018.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 13 Nov. 2018, www.aao.org/preferred-practice-pattern/dry-eye-syndrome-ppp-2018.

“How to Get the Best Eyeglass Lenses.” Consumer Reports, 2016, www.consumerreports.org/eyeglass-stores/how-to-get-the-best-eyeglass-lenses/.

Kitchen, Clyde K. “Fact and Fiction of Healthy Vision.” Google Books, Google, books.google.es/books?id=x7sAAwAAQBAJ.

“Pros and Cons of Progressive Lenses.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 29 June 2020, www.aao.org/eye-health/glasses-contacts/pros-cons-progressive-lenses-computer-glasses.

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