I started working in optometry practice as a 16 year old edging lenses to fit frames, and found myself needing glasses a year later. My first pair of glasses were standard single vision glass photochromic that darkened in the sun, which looking back over nearly thirty years reveals how far lens designs have developed. The same type of sun darkening lenses are available in lighter and safer plastic with far more options available to make the lenses thinner, scratch resistant, and anti-reflective.
Continued technological development, however, is most noticeable when considering progressive lenses that provide correction for distance and near in the same pair of glasses, without the visible line that is seen with bifocal lenses. Thirty years ago I had enough focussing power in my eyes to not need near correction. Going on to qualify as an optometrist I always knew this wouldn’t last, and true to form, when I reached the grand age of 44 my arms started to become too short!
Having been involved in and around optometry practice for my entire working life, and listened to various patient complaints about adapting to progressive lenses, the inevitability for needing progressive glasses for myself was something I dreaded. The arrival of this least anticipated day was announced by Katie who having unpacked the order was excited to see what my new glasses looked like, so I put them on to oblige, fully expecting to whip them off immediately to revert back to my trusty single vision glasses. But wait, I thought, I can actually see with these! What’s all the fuss about!
My next first person lesson in progressive lenses was delivered two years later when I required stronger reading power at the bottom of the lenses. Now I could notice the blur when I moved my head around, that I had heard countless patients tell me about. My previous ‘first’ progressives were pretty mild in strength, and I know from my optics training that higher near add powers bring with them bigger distortions. But I had also been trained to advise patients that given a few days of adaption the distortions will largely disappear. Now I was experiencing this for myself I failed to see how this would work!
True to form my vision did settle down and over a period of 3-4 days I found things less distorted and now a few weeks on fail to notice the distortions at all, and only notice blur when I look into the distance through the near vision part at the bottom of the lens (when lifting my chin right up), which is supposed to happen. My new lenses were designed to give me a wider field of intermediate distance vision to help me see my two computer screens without moving my head too much, which they do so I’m glad I stuck with it for a few days to let them settle in.
Progressive lenses – the main points:
- The latest evolution of progressive lens design means that lenses are custom made for the individual to suit their viewing requirements.
- Previous to this designs were developed for specific tasks so the most appropriate design was selected based on the user’s requirements.
- Go back some more and it was a choice between hard (wide field of view but heavy distortions) or soft (narrow field of view but milder distortions) designs.
- The older types of progressive lenses are still available and often sold with the same description as the newer designs but at reduced prices – as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.
- Newer designs can be tailored towards the tasks you do most. In my case this is for computer use where I need a wide intermediate corridor to take in my two screens, but for others this might be biased towards closework or distance vision for driving.
- As I found first hand, progressive lenses can feel really odd to start with, particularly as the near addition power increases, but in most cases people adapt within a few days.
- But, this should only take a few days and if they still feel odd after three to four days you should return to your optometrist for advice.