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Shopping for Progressive Lenses

Progressive lenses, or no-line bifocals, are worn for the correction of presbyopia. Many people who require the use of a bifocal prefer progressive lenses because they give a more youthful appearance and are more functional. The lenses contain no visible line and progressively increase in strength as you move your eyes down the lenses.

All Progressive lenses are not the same. They differ in price, depending on brand, size and function. Progressive lenses must fit precisely. Even with a perfect fit, however, many people have trouble adjusting to progressive lenses. Below are four types of progressive lenses.

1. Standard Progressive Lenses
If you are looking for an alternative to bifocals or trifocals, standard progressive lenses will work for most people, and fit most budgets. Although the price of standard progressive lenses is higher than regular flat-top bifocal or trifocal lenses, they are still quite affordable. Depending on brand name, standard progressive lenses range in price from $175-250 for the base lenses.

Standard progressive lenses will give you a fairly wide reading area, but require a certain sized frame to allow enough vertical height to give a smooth transition from distance vision down to reading. If too short a frame is chosen, the most useful reading power may be cut off when the lenses are manufactured.

2. Short Corridor Progressive Lenses
Gone are the days of having to sacrifice fashion for progressive lenses. Slightly more expensive than standard progressive lenses, short corridor progressive lenses are designed to fit into smaller frames. Because of their size, however, it takes a skilled optician to fit them properly. You may have difficulty adapting to short corridor progressive lenses because the "corridor" for reading vision is not very wide, causing distortion when you look outside of the corridor. If you look down to read, make sure you look straight ahead, not out to the sides.

3. Computer Progressive Lenses
Computer progressive lenses, also known as "office lenses" or "near variable focus lenses", are designed for use in an office and are intended to provide clear vision at around 16 inches to 6 feet. Computer progressive lenses are great for people needing clear vision at intermediate and near distances such as painters, artists, dentists, librarians, hair dressers, mechanics, draftsmen, and editors.

If you use a computer more than 4 hours per day, these lenses are ideal and help alleviate visual fatigue, or computer vision syndrome. These lenses also allow for better posture, making it easier to hold your head in a more natural position.

4. Premium Progressive Lenses
Premium progressive lenses are often referred to as "free-form design" or "wave-front technology." Premium progressive lenses provide a much wider, distortion-free reading area. Vision is often clearer, as these lenses are usually 100% digitally surfaced or ground. This customizes the prescription for you as well as the frame you desire. Instead of compacting a lens design, as with a short corridor progressive, the lens is totally customized so that all ranges of power fit nicely into any frame. As expected, these lenses are more expensive than standard or entry level progressive lenses.

Source: Troy Bedinghaus, O.D., Guide
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