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How do bifocal reading glasses work?
2021-12-30

How do bifocal reading glasses work?


Bifocal lenses have two zones. The top part of the lens helps you see things in the distance, while an area in the bottom half of the lens is designed for reading. 

This lower portion of the bifocal lens reduces the effort it will take for your eyes to focus on receipts, smartphone screens, menus and other nearby objects. 

Why bifocal reading glasses?


These types of lenses are typically prescribed for adults age 40 and older to correct presbyopia, which is the inability of the eyes to focus on close-up items. Presbyopia is different from farsightedness. This condition is a normal part of aging — even healthy adults with perfect vision experience this vision loss as they grow older. 

Presbyopia is treatable with glasses. And while the problem grows gradually worse over time (until around age 50-55), it won’t completely rob you of your vision. If you also need correction for distance vision, bifocal readers can offer the correction you need. The bifocal prescription combines your single-vision correction with a new correction for reading.

Bifocal reading glasses aren’t only for adults, however. In some cases, doctors prescribe bifocals to children who have trouble focusing and suffer eye strain when reading. Children and young adults who need prescription glasses typically are recommended single-vision lenses. These lenses correct the wearer’s nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism.

How do I use bifocal lenses?


Bifocal reading glasses require the wearer to look up through the distance portion of the lens when focusing on a faraway object. When reading or focusing on something within 18 inches of your eyes, you look down and through the bifocal segment of the lens.

One warning: Bifocals require a period of adjustment. You’ll have to get used to things such as walking down stairs — bifocal readers might force you to adjust the angle of your head. However, most people eventually grow accustomed to wearing bifocals all the time.

Types of bifocal lenses


To find the best bifocal reading glasses for you, you’ll need to know a bit more about the types of lenses and frames available. Bifocal lenses generally are designed the same way. A small area in the lower part of the lens corrects your near vision. The rest of the lens enhances your distance vision.

Bifocal lenses are sold in an array of shapes and sizes. Smaller, narrower lenses can function well with weaker prescriptions. For stronger prescriptions, you may need larger lenses as it takes more space to accommodate the entire prescription. If you choose a bifocal lens that’s too small, you could experience a prism effect or optical distortion.

In bifocal readers, the segment of the lens devoted to correcting near vision takes one of several shapes:

A half-moon — also known as a flat-top, straight-top or D segment

A round segment

A narrow rectangle, also called a ribbon

The full bottom half of a bifocal lens, called the Franklin, Executive or E style

Your eye care practitioner can guide you to the lens design best suited to your vision needs.

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