Progressive Lens

Considering options. Caiaimage/Chris Ryan

A progressive lens is a corrective lens used in eyeglasses to correct presbyopia. A progressive addition lens gradually and seamlessly changes in power to provide clear distance, as well as intermediate and near vision with no visible segments or demarcation lines. Progressive lenses are often referred to as invisible, no-line bifocals. Many people prefer the look of progressive lenses over bifocals, as they appear to be single vision lenses.

In other words, nobody will realize that you are wearing bifocals.

Also Known As: No-line bifocal, PAL (progressive addition lens ), varifocal lens

The first progressive lens was released to the market in 1959. It was developed by Bernard Maitenaz and was called Varilux. Varilux is a well known brand that belongs to Essilor International. Often people, mistake the word "Varlilux" for progressive. It is a similar mistake people making when calling a generic tissue "Kleenex." However, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of different progressive lens designs and several different companies that develop them. 


Progressive lenses provide the most natural vision possible. With progressive lenses, reading power gradually increases as you look down the lens. Because of this, not only do you have clear distance and near vision, but clear intermediate vision as well. A progressive lens is the lens of choice for the best cosmetic appearance.

There is no demarcation line in a progressive lens, so the lens looks just like a single vision lens. Many mature people enjoy this feature because it gives a more youthful appearance.


Progressive lenses require careful placement by an optician. A good optician, however, will be able to place the lens correctly for proper distance viewing.

Incorrectly locating the lens can cause problems  including narrow fields of view, clear vision in one eye only, on-axis blur, and the need to alter the natural head position in order to see clearly.

Also, progressive lenses are usually priced higher than bifocal and single-vision reading glasses due to the increased manufacture and professional service costs. However, many people find the added expense of a progressive lens well worth the money, as it is generally considered much more attractive for the wearer. 


Progressive lenses have a bad reputation of being difficult to wear. However, the majority of those stories exist because the initial designs that were developed in the 1960's were designed without the aid of computers. Truthfully, they were a little tough to adapt to at first.  As computer technology advanced, so did progressive lens designs. In today's world, doctor's offices collect information so that progressive lenses are customized to your own anatomy, the chosen eyeglass frame and the prescription itself. Most people adapt fully within a few days and after a few weeks, most say that they don't even know they are wearing a multi-focal lens. 

Saying that, there are a few types of people that seem to have a little tougher time adapting than others.

People that have been significantly nearsighted or farsighted and have worn glasses for a large portion of their lives, seem to adapt to progressive bifocals extremely fast. People that seem to have a more difficult time are those that have had good distance vision all of their lives and have only had to wear glasses when they reached their mid-forties for small print. Often times, they have already taken upon themselves to purchase over the counter readers or "cheaters." They throw them on or off or wear them on the end of their nose half of the time. These types of people are not used to any visual compromise at any distance for most of their lives.

When the doctor recommends a progressive lens for the first time, they are just unwilling to live with any peripheral areas that are a bit out of focus. To them, it seems very abnormal. However, it really depends on their motivation. If they have a personality that are open to new ideas, they usually do quite well. The average accommodation period varies from a few hours for some individuals up to around two weeks. Side effects often occur during this time and can include headache and dizziness.

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