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Understanding How Varifocals Work

Perhaps you have heard of varifocals, but not totally sure what they do, or if they are right for you. No problem! We’re here to help.

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In this blog, we’ll look at the benefits of varifocal lenses and what makes them different from single vision or bifocal lenses.

How do varifocals work?

Varifocals are a single lens, that blends from the distance prescription at the top of the lens, to the intermediate prescription in the middle, down to the reading prescription at the bottom of the lens.

The top portion of the lens is ideal for long distance activities, for example, watching the television or driving.

The intermediate portion works well for looking at objects at mid-distance, for instance, your computer screen or car dashboard.

The near portion is essential for reading and close up precision work, such as sewing.

Both the intermediate and near portions have a slightly narrower field of vision than the long distance portion, although this improves based on the lenses quality.

The benefits of varifocals

Continuous enhanced vision

Unlike bifocals, where there is a definitive line separating distance and near visions, varifocals offer a seamless transition, giving a continuous vision for any prescription type.

Successfully corrects presbyopia

Presbyopia is an eye condition that can affect anyone over the age of 40, as the eye becomes less able to focus on near objects, which if left uncorrected, can cause constant discomfort.

Although reading glasses help people with presbyopia to focus on magnified words, this only helps with reading at about 40-50cms; any objects in the background will still appear blurry. Varifocals prevent discomfort and enables the wearer to see clearly at all distances with just one pair of glasses.

How to adjust quickly to varifocal lenses

It may take some time to get used to wearing varifocal (progressive) lenses, as the peripheral distortion at the edge of the lenses, known as ‘soft focus’, can initially affect your peripheral vision.

For most people, it will only take an hour or so to adjust, but for others, it may take several days to one month to feel completely comfortable.

However, there are some things you can do to speed up the adaption process, including:

Adapt your head and eye movements

You’ll need to make some slight changes to your head and eye movements and positioning, to see objects clearly at different distances. Thankfully, these movements will feel natural once you get used to how a varifocal works.

Image by drobotdean on Freepik

Instead of moving your eyes to look at an object, turn your head towards and move it vertically until the object glides into focus.

To look into the distance:

To use the distance portion at the top of the lens, we recommend keeping your head in a natural position and looking straight ahead. You will need to turn your head to look left and right.

To use the intermediate portion:

You should keep your eyes fixed on what you are looking at and slightly lift your chin, to use the intermediate portion, near the middle of the lens.

For reading:

To use the near portion at the bottom of the lens, look down and slightly lift your chin.

Be cautious around stairs, curbs and anything by your feet, as this magnified portion will cause them to appear blurry. To avoid this, we recommend looking through the less magnified top part of the lens.

As you get used to your new lenses, you will become less sensitive to this area of the lens.

Fortunately, our expert team will fit you with a good quality lens, suitable frame and correct measurements, so it shouldn’t be necessary to do all of these things.

Wear continuously

Don’t be tempted to switch between your old glasses and your new ones. To help you adjust quickly, you should wear your new varifocals throughout the day.

Before wearing your varifocals for driving, we recommend you master the head movements and can centre your lens in the direction you want to look in.

Correct placement

You should feel comfortable wearing your varifocals. For optimum vision, they must be sitting correctly where they were fitted on your nose.

Our trained dispensing opticians will help you get the right prescription and fit. Book a free varifocal consultation at your local branch today.


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