Do You Need Varifocals? Find Out Here

Varifocals, or progressives, are a type of multifocal lens that can correct vision at different working distances. Learn more about them and how they're used to correct vision in this article.
Do You Need Varifocals? Find Out Here

Last update: 12 January, 2024

Vision is considered to be the most dominant of the senses and plays a critical role in human interaction and engagement with the environment. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that at least 2.2 billion people worldwide experience vision impairment. This includes some common eye problems such as refractive errors, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma.

Moreover, uncorrected refractive errors are considered to be the leading cause of moderate to severe vision impairment worldwide and are the second most common cause of blindness. This has increased the demand for corrective eyewear to prevent the further rise of vision impairment. One of the most promising and sophisticated is varifocal lenses.

What are varifocals?

Varifocals, sometimes called progressives, are a type of multifocal lens that can correct vision at different working distances. Essentially, varifocal lenses provide multiple prescription strengths within a single lens. This is extremely beneficial for those who need to address different vision correction issues, as the varifocals make it easy to transition seamlessly using the lens. Additionally, unlike bifocals, the different prescriptions are less obvious with varifocals and don’t give away the eyesight condition.

These lenses also allow a wearer to only wear one pair of glasses even if they need different corrections for long-distance, intermediate-distance, and near-sightedness. While it may take some time to adjust to seeing through the correct parts of the lens for different distances, most can adapt after several days of consistent wear.

Who needs varifocals?

A woman looking at her glasses.
People who experience vision problems and need two or more eyeglass prescriptions can benefit from varifocals.

Generally, those who experience vision problems and need two or more eyeglasses prescriptions benefit greatly from varifocals. However, the most common demographic that needs varifocals is older adults since they are vulnerable to developing presbyopia. As an eye condition, presbyopia is defined as a disorder that affects individuals because of the natural aging process. Age greatly affects the health of the eye, which loses its ability to focus on nearby objects due to loss of elasticity and flexibility in the lenses.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, varifocals are the best solution to presbyopia since they comfortably allow wearers to see clearly at all distances. Furthermore, varifocals can also address other existing vision correction issues an individual may have. For example, if they’re already wearing glasses because of myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism, these can be corrected alongside presbyopia as they age.

This article may also interest you: Get Rid of Scratches on Glasses with These 6 Tricks

How do doctors prescribe varifocals?

A doctor looking at a woman's eyes.
An optometrist will usually conduct an eye test to determine if a patient will benefit from an updated prescription before suggesting varifocals.

Before suggesting varifocals, an optometrist will usually conduct an eye test to determine if a patient will benefit from an updated prescription. However, if you suffer from two or more vision correction issues simultaneously, you are likely to be a candidate for varifocal glasses. This is because if varifocals were not an option, you would need to have two or three pairs of glasses with you to see across different distances properly. Not only can this become confusing, but it can become increasingly inefficient, especially when driving, reading, cooking, and other vision-dependent activities.

In line with this, there are some considerations to keep in mind when getting varifocals. Patients who are already wearing glasses prior to getting varifocals may need to change frames since not all frame types are compatible with these lenses. Some frames have a small surface area, which limits the space available for the different prescriptions. An eye doctor can help you find compatible frames, but it’s important to find ones that are big enough to house different prescriptions at once comfortably.

Additionally, technology has also found a way to make varifocals work as contact lenses, which can be an option provided for you by your doctor. However, it’s important to note that not everyone may benefit from wearing contacts since it can lead to dry eyes and infections if not maintained properly. While artificial tears for dry eyes help greatly with lubrication when wearing contacts, it’s still important to consult with a doctor about wearing contacts and whether it’s the most suitable option for your ocular health.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.