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When Progressives Fail

Cases of failed progressives and lessons learnt.

Have you tried progressives but to no success? Are progressives lenses uncomfortable for you? Are you having issues adapting to progressive lenses? What could go wrong when you get such glasses?


The advantages of progressives in a nutshell

- Convenience. We feel this should be the primary consideration and motivation. If you don't want to carry an extra pair of reading glasses out and switch your glasses around, progressive lenses can stay on your face and allow you to see both far and near.

- You probably wouldn't lose it. Because you aren't constantly changing between glasses, and so it's less likely to leave it at the hawker centre / food court / cafe / restaurant table.

The disadvantages of progressives in a nutshell

- Smaller usable areas. In a single vision lens, the whole lens is for far or for near vision, while in a progressive lens, there is both the powers, and everything in between. So each of the areas are smaller.

- Adaptation. Like riding a bike for the first time, you'll need to learn how to use it, and when you buy a new bike, you'll need time to get comfortable with the that new feeling. And yup, there will always be non-adapt cases.

P.S. progressive lenses are also known as multifocal lenses or varifocal lenses. Some folks call them invisible bi-focals. In general, people use these terms interchangeably.


Haiyaa, why the progressives don't work:

Initial reluctance to use progressives

Presbyopia, a.k.a 'old flower' catches all of us, but not everyone wants to accept it initially.

So, some folks may have single vision glasses that are adjusted to be a compromise between distant and near vision. Some may even have multiple pairs of glasses, such as one for clear distant vision ('full power'), one for clear near vision (reading glasses), and one as a compromise between far and near vision.

At this point, the wearer may already be struggling with near vision. There may be an expectation of having the equivalent feel of the single vision distance glasses AND the reading glasses. This, needless to say, is not physically possible, since the areas of both far and near on a progressives would never be as wide or large as a single vision lens.

Solution: start wearing the progressive lenses when you first experience issues with near vision. With a lower "addition" or "presbyopia power", there is minimal distortion, swim, and other effects, which makes adaptation easier.

Lesson learned: START EARLY.

Unsure of what to get

Practitioners would advise on what they feel is best for the wearers, based on their feedback on their current and previous glasses.

One lesser known type of lens is an office lens, or workspace lens. For customers who spend much time on the desktop and mobile phone, this can be much more comfortable than a progressive lens as the areas for intermediate and near work are significantly larger. We have written about office lenses (scroll down to "office lenses" in that article).

It can happen, although not common, that a customer will first want office lenses, and then call a couple of days later to change it to progressive lenses. We think this may be a fallacy of value - "if we do a progressives, it is more worth it than an office lens, since there is more use for it" - they have failed to take into account the usable areas of the lenses.

When this happens, it causes the expectation of being able to see near as well as office lenses, yet also have the area for distant vision like a normal progressive lens. Of course, this is impossible to achieve since those are two different lens types / designs.

This creates a mismatch between the product and the wearer's expectation. Furthermore, in the above case, the progressives would end up being the same as the previous glasses (albeit slightly better since it's customised) and not fully solving the initial issues presented by the wearer.

Solution: Listen to the practitioner's suggestions, and think about what you really wish to solve, if they create a match, and if it does, stick with it and give it a try.

Lesson learned: DON'T SELF SABO.

Change in Prescription, especially for First-Time Progressives Wearers

Similar to the wearer who may be reluctant to use progressives at first, someone who has a change in prescription will have to get used to BOTH the new prescription and the progressives. This adds a layer of challenge, made worse if the wearer tends to have difficulty adapting to a new degree.

This is why it is important to regularly get your eyes tested and change your glasses accordingly. Even if your prescription does not change, lenses will degrade over time and be less clear. When you use your glasses for too long, changing to a new pair might make things 'too clear' even with the same degree, as the lenses are new.

We like to advice wearers that if you have a change in prescription, wear the new glasses rather than trying to rely back on the old glasses, which then results in having multiple pairs of glasses, all with different degrees! If you prefer to keep the prescription the same, tell it to your optician or optometrist, and they will be able to advise accordingly - if the change isn't large then it may be alright to just "follow back" the old prescription, which means you will now have glasses that are of the same degree that can be worn interchangeably.

Solution: Check your eyes regularly, especially if you're already not seeing clearly.


Expectations and Imagination

(No) thanks to some advertisements promising you everything, consumers can come in looking for magical glasses that can adjust and adapt to whatever they are seeing, in perfect unicorn vision. Also, it must be fast, cheap, and guaranteed success! Too bad, the closest to a unicorn is the narwhal and it doesn't fly around on a magic carpet. Progressives aren't binoculars or microscopes, nor are they alive and can auto-focus for you. Progressive lenses have both pros and cons, and although customisation of the lenses seek to make the lenses as suitable for the wearer's requirements as possible, they are never 'perfectly perfect'.

Excessively high expectations can also happen when a progressive wearer loses their progressive glasses. Since it can be a lot more inconvenient without the progressives, they may imagine how wonderful it used to be, creating a false impression and expectation of the 'perfectness' of progressives.

Realising and accepting that every new pair of glasses needs adaptation, and more so for progressive lenses, and even more so if we do not know the previous prescription (hence it could have changed significantly) will usually resolve the issue.

Solution: Manage your expectations.



What to do if you still can't seem to get used to progressives?

1) Try a different design

By customising the progressives to your visual needs and according to the feedback on the vision and comfort in the failed pair of progressives, the subsequent pair can be done with the aim to best resolve the issues that you faced.

2) Use two pair of glasses instead

Single vision far, and single vision near. Minimal adaptation required, especially if you've worn these before.

3) Use a specific single vision lens for a purpose

If your issue with the progressives is mainly on, say, near work, why not try to use a single vision reading glasses for near, and the progressives as a general use - like when you're shopping or our for lunch.

4) Check out office or workspace lenses

If the issue is with a limited area for your desktop, mobile phone, or writing materials, office lenses that have a prescription specific for your workspace (e.g. up to 1m for the desktop and close up to 35cm for paperwork) can help a lot better than standard progressive lenses!

5) Take note of your typical visual space

A few of us might have some kind of workspace that's markedly different, perhaps a monitor that's placed at a non-typical location, or have lifestyles that require extra consideration when doing the progressives. Your practitioner can only help you if they know about these, so don't be afraid to tell them about it.

Got a question about progressive lenses? Come talk to us.


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