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. They are often described as having 3 ‘portions’ of vision: long distance at the top of the lens, reading at the bottom, and intermediate in the middle.
Varifocal lenses are technically called ‘Progressive Addition Lenses’ (PAL), or Progressive Power Lenses (PPL), but are commonly known as varifocals. The first patent for the varifocal lens was in the early 20th century, though they weren’t launched commercially until 1955, when Irving Ripps at Younger Optical developed the ’Younger Seamless Bifocal’. As the name suggests it was based on a bifocal lens, and the design was quite basic.
All varifocal lenses have an element of peripheral distortion, which is due to the way the lenses are designed, and is completely normal. Better lenses manage this distortion better and move it further towards the edges of the lens, thus improving the field of vision and ease of use for wearers.
Basic lens designs can be described as ‘off the peg’ and one size fits all. This is because these lenses assume a prescription is only spherical. This can make it difficult to adapt to for higher prescriptions, especially for those with a high astigmatism.
Modern ‘Freeform’ lens designs offer a much better experience. Freeform lenses use computer-aided design and a digital manufacturing process to provide a more customised result. Think of them like an off-the-rack suit that’s then been altered to fit by a tailor.
The increase in lens design options can make choosing the best varifocal lens a difficult decision. Most opticians will offer a broad range of varifocal lenses and we currently offer 3 types of varifocal:
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. This generally takes anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. It may even take longer for some people.
Varifocal lenses provide continuous vision for all distances in a single lens. They are often described as having three ‘portions’ of vision: long distance at the top of the lens, reading at the bottom, and intermediate in the middle.
When you put varifocal glasses on for the first time, there are several things to be aware of:
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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