If you’ve been considering trying varifocals (or are just curious), this article is for you. Here we explain everything about varifocal lenses, including how they were first developed, the different types, and the pros of cons to using this lens.
Varifocal lenses provide continuous vision for all distances in a single lens, and correct presbyopia.
The first patent for varifocal lenses (which are technically called Progressive Power Lenses - or PPL) was created in the early-20th century. However, it wasn’t until 1955 that they were made commercially available by Irving Ripps at Younger Optical, who developed the ‘Younger Seamless Bifocal’. As the name suggests, they were based on a bifocal lens and had a basic design.
Modern varifocals can be described as having three ‘portions’ of vision within a single lens:
As a result, they have an element of peripheral distortion, which is completely normal due to their design. Higher-quality varifocals manage the distortion better by moving it towards the edge of the lens and providing a greater field of vision and ease of use for wearers.
Basic varifocal designs are often described as ‘one size fits all’ as they are made under the assumption that a prescription is only spherical. This means that it can be difficult for people with stronger prescriptions to adapt to basic varifocals, especially those with high astigmatism. However, modern ‘freeform’ lens designs offer a much better, more ‘tailored’ experience thanks to a computer-aided design and digital manufacturing process.
As there are numerous lens design options out there, choosing the best varifocal lens can be a difficult decision. We currently offer 3 types:
Elite HD features multi-aspheric, Freeform lens technology including a special aberration filter to greatly reduce distortion at the edge of the lens.
Binocular balancing calculations are made to create the smoothest power transitions throughout the lens. Elite HD offers a 30% improvement in field of vision compared to a conventional lens.
In Supreme HD varifocal lenses, Digital Ray Path technology takes account of the specific frame, prescription, and optical centres, producing a lens that greatly reduces unwanted aberrations, improving field of vision at all distances.
Excellent for desk, tablet, and reading distances where they offer a 20% wider field of view than Elite HD, Supreme HD are our recommended lenses for all wearers.
The main advantage of varifocal lenses is that they allow the wearer to see at all distances with the same pair of glasses. For the majority of people they are the most convenient way to resolve the problem of needing different corrections for long distance, intermediate, and near. Once the glasses are on there’s no need to take them off, carry more than one pair of glasses around or swap between pairs.
However, for some people the blurring of images in the periphery of the lens, the limited field of vision for middle and near distances, and the head movements that they have to make to see through the correct parts of the lens for different distances are difficult. Adapting to varifocal lenses can take a little while for many new wearers, but most adapt to them after several days.
If this is your first time with varifocal lenses, it will take a bit of time to get used to them. Generally, it can be anywhere between a couple of days and a couple of weeks - maybe even longer for some. If you are still struggling to adjust to your new varifocal lenses, we offer a 120-day tolerance guarantee to give you more time to get used to them. You have until the end of these 120 days to return them if you aren’t satisfied with your varifocal lenses.
Here are some things to be aware of when wearing varifocals for the first time:
If you have worn varifocal lenses before, you should know what to expect and how to use the lenses. However, there are many suppliers of varifocal lenses and the exact design we use may differ a little from what you currently wear. As a result, there may be a settling-in period as you adjust to your new lenses. If your prescription has changed, this may also take some time to adjust to.
Be careful of stairs, kerbs, and other objects at your feet while you adjust to your new varifocals, and make sure you are comfortable wearing them indoors before you drive in them.
If you have any questions, our dispensing opticians will be happy to answer them.
Bifocal lenses are ideal for wearers who spend a lot of time viewing two separate distances. They are made up of two parts, usually with a main lens for long distances and a smaller segment at the bottom of the lens for reading.Varifocal lenses are more complex and are ideal for people who need to see clearly over multiple distances. The lens power is optimised for long distance at the top, and increases in magnification towards the bottom of the lens, which is used for reading. There will be a point on the lens that is useful to see at all distances.
The best varifocal lenses are the ones that provide the widest possible field of vision at all distances and the smoothest progression from long distance to reading. Generally, the more expensive options in a suppliers’ range offer the most quality.
All of our varifocals use a modern ‘freeform’ lens design which provides an excellent field of vision, meaning even our cheapest varifocal lens option is the equivalent of a mid-range option from a high-street optician. This is just one of the advantages of buying varifocals online with Glasses Direct.
Most first-time wearers get used to varifocals in 2-3 days of continuous wear. It’s important to wear them as much as possible when you first receive them, even if they feel a little strange at first. Getting used to varifocals is a new skill and first-time wearers have to learn how the lenses work as well as the head movements needed to see sharply at different distances.
Once we get to the age of around 40 our eyes start to lose their ability to focus clearly on near objects, and this is the time that most people realise the benefit of having additional magnification for reading. Reading glasses are an option in this instance, but they’ll only help for reading at about 40-50cms, and objects at a long distance will still appear blurry. This is why varifocal lenses are the best option, because they enable the wearer to see clearly at all distances using just one pair of glasses.
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