Types of Progressive Lenses

Shopping for No-Line Bifocals

Progressive lenses, or no-line bifocals, contain three prescription strengths that are blended at each transition point so that the eyes can easily change between them. This differs from traditional bifocals or trifocals, which have two or three strengths, respectively, that abruptly change in each lens.

Progressive lenses are helpful for near-sighted people who go on to discover that they not only need continued help seeing things that are far away, but that they now need help seeing things that are close-up as well. Called presbyopia, this often comes with age and makes it harder to read small print.

In addition to the vision benefits of progressive lenses, many prefer them simply for aesthetic reasons. While traditional bifocals have a visible line across the center of the lens (trifocals have two), progressive lenses look like regular lenses.

This article discusses five different kinds of progressive lenses that are available and any challenges you may have adapting to them. Use this information to have a discussion with your vision care provider about what is best for you.

1

Standard Progressive Lenses

Progressive Lenses
Peter Dazeley Collection/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Standard progressive lenses will work for most people. They will also fit many budgets without breaking them.

The price is higher than regular flat-top bifocal or trifocal lenses. Still, they are quite affordable. Depending on the brand name, these lenses will range in price from $175 to $250 for the base lenses.

Benefits:

  • Comparatively affordable
  • Give you a fairly wide reading area

Disadvantages:

  • May not work with all frames

Standard progressive lenses require a certain frame size so there is enough vertical height to provide—and allow for a smooth transition between—all three strengths.

If you choose a frame that's too short, the most useful power for reading may be lost during the manufacturing process.

2

Short Corridor Progressive Lenses

Short corridor progressive lenses are designed to fit into smaller frames. They offer an option that reflects both fashion and function.

Because of their size, it takes a skilled optician to fit them properly.

They are slightly more expensive than standard progressive lenses and range from $250 to $400.

Benefits:

  • Can be used in small frames, which may be extra helpful for those with a narrow face

Disadvantages:

  • May be difficult to adapt to and cause some distortion

The "corridor" for reading vision is not very wide with these glasses. If you look down to read, make sure you keep your eyes centered and not out to the sides.

Recap

Progressive lenses can help people who have become far-sighted and can't read as well or do other close-up work. They offer the benefits of bifocals with added features to support better vision. Basic styles of these lenses are quite affordable. Depending on your budget, you may want to consider other styles of progressive lenses too.

3

Computer Progressive Lenses

Computer progressive lenses are also known as "office lenses" or "near variable focus lenses." They are meant for use at short ranges and designed to provide clear vision at around 16 inches to 6 feet.

If you're at a computer more than four hours per day, these lenses are ideal. They help reduce visual fatigue, or computer vision syndrome.

Computer progressive lenses are great for people working at near and intermediate distances. These lenses also allow for better posture, making it easier to hold your head in a more natural position. The price is generally in the $150 to $250 range.

Painters, artists, dentists, librarians, mechanics, hair dressers, and editors are just a few of the people who may want to try computer progressive lenses.

Benefits:

  • Greatly improve visual comfort and eye strain
  • Reduce the neck discomfort caused by the head positions you need to hold when wearing a regular progressive lens

Disadvantages:

  • Are only meant to be used for computer work; regular glasses are needed at other times
4

Premium Progressive Lenses

Premium progressive lenses are often referred to as "free-form design" or "wavefront technology." Premium lenses provide a much wider, distortion-free reading area. Vision is often more clear because these lenses are usually 100% digitally surfaced or ground.

These lenses are designed by computer, with small changes to allow both eyes to work together. They often allow for the fact that you have a dominant eye.

This means both your prescription and your frame are better customized for you. Instead of compacting a lens design, as with short corridor progressive lenses, they allow for all ranges of power to fit nicely into any frame.

As expected, these lenses do cost more than standard or entry-level progressive lenses. The prices will range from $600 to $800.

Benefits:

  • Custom-designed to fit both your chosen eyeglass frame, prescription, and eye anatomy
  • Generally much easier to adapt to
  • Have much less “swim effect," or dizziness with head movement
  • May sometimes feel like you're not wearing a multifocal lens at all

Disadvantages:

  • Comparatively much more expensive
  • Co-pays usually much higher (even with vision insurance)
  • Can only be purchased through a provider that has the technology to take digital measurements needed to make these lenses
5

Ground-View Progressive Lenses

Ground-view progressive lenses are good for active people who like outdoor activities such as golf. These lenses have patented technology that greatly reduces any lens distortions. They give you a “ground view” that is meant to be quite close to natural vision.

These lenses range from $350 to $550.

Benefits:

  • Offers another area at the bottom and sides of the lens to allow for better vision when looking down at the ground, using the computer, or driving

For example, golfers can look down past the reading part of the lens to another zone. It provides clear vision at an intermediate length, to better see where the ball is on the ground. A regular progressive lens may cause that area to be blurry and not in focus.

Disadvantages:

  • Tend to cost more than standard progressive lenses, though the price is often lower than premium progressive lenses
  • Only available from a few manufacturers

Recap

It may cost a bit more, but digital technology makes it easier for you to have progressive lenses that are a custom fit. Premium lenses are made based on the data from your prescription, the frames you want, and even your own unique eye anatomy. A "ground view" lens may offer near-natural vision for a busy, active lifestyle.

6

Transitions Progressive Lenses

People sometimes confuse "transition" lenses with progressive lenses. Transitions is simply a brand of a photochromatic lens. These lenses darken on their own when they are exposed to ultraviolet light. They provide shade for the eyes. When you walk back indoors, they quickly change to clear again.

Photochromatic lenses are generally anywhere from $80 to $150 above the regular price for a progressive lens.

Benefits:

  • Make it easy to have just one pair of glasses for both indoor and outdoor activities

Disadvantages:

  • Sometimes do not darken as much as you might like when you're on the road due to UV protection added to windshields by some car manufacturers

Summary

People who are ready for bifocals due to age-related changes in vision may want to try progressive lenses. If so, they have a few more options than they once did. The available lens styles offer "better optics" in terms of style, at the same time that they address specific vision needs.

If you need a smaller frame but don't want to lose the lens fields that help with reading, you can try short-corridor progressive lenses. If it's in your budget, you may opt for premium lenses that give you a custom fit. Or you may go with a "ground view" lens that works best for your active lifestyle. Check with your eye care provider to find out which style of progressive lenses is best suited to your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many types of progressive eyeglass lenses are there?

    There are five types: standard, short-corridor, computer, premium, and ground view.

  • Do I need large frames for progressive lenses?

    Maybe, if you're opting for standard progressive lenses. If you want a smaller eyeglass frame, you may be able to have them custom-fit with short-corridor progressive lenses. They are designed to provide optimal vision with small frames.

  • What are some alternatives to progressive lenses?

    Aside from switching back and forth between glasses with different prescriptions or opting for regular bifocal or trifocal lenses, there are a few options to consider:

    • Multifocal intraocular lenses, a type of lens used in cataract surgery
    • Laser blended vision surgery, a type of LASIK surgery
    • Multifocal contact lenses
    • Clip-on lenses with each of your prescriptions
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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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