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Progressive Lenses Explained: Pros, Cons, Options

Posted June 19, 2021 by vintandyork

Looking to find out what progressive lenses are and how can you use them for crystal clear vision? In this guide, we’ll answer any question you have on the topic.

You’ll learn everything about how these ingenious pieces of engineering work, who needs them, when to wear them, and a few of the biggest progressive lens pros and cons to consider. So, whether you’re hearing about progressive lenses for the first time or are an experienced user with some specific questions, this guide has you covered!

progressive lenses comparison
Him: Swinger frame ; Her: Bearcat frame

What are progressive lenses (PALs)?

Progressive lenses are a type of optical glasses lens used to correct distance, intermediate (computer usage), and near (reading usage) at the same time. To work like this, they use multifocal lenses, as in the picture below:

progressive lenses eyewear

what are progressive lenses eyeglasses
Swanky Eyeglasses with Progressive HD Lenses

They are also called Progressive Addition Lenses (PALs) because the distance prescription is at the top and gradually increases in power to your full reading prescription as you move down the lens.

A progressive lens is an amazing piece of engineering, allowing multiple vision fields to be incorporated into a single lens without any clear distinction between the fields themselves.

The power in the lenses “progressively” changes from far to intermediate to your full reading power. This is why progressive lenses are often referred to as “no-line” bifocals or trifocals.

You should think of progressive lenses as no-line bifocals. Progressives make the transition between prescriptions much smoother, eliminating that obvious line between the sides of the lens with different prescriptions. This technology helps you see better in more instances.

How much do progressive lenses cost?

The price of each kind of progressive lenses can vary greatly.

PALs tend to be pricier than others because you’re in effect getting three lenses in one. The costs are determined by several factors, many of them mentioned well throughout this guide. One of the biggest factors is the type of progressive lenses you get.

Digital PALs are more expensive but are more personalized and specific to your measurements, which is key to providing an optimal visual experience. Traditionally surfaced and occupational lenses tend to be less expensive than digital lenses, but more expensive than “basic” PALs that have narrower corridors towards the bottom.

The amount your progressive lenses cost depends on a few factors, including your prescription, the brand of frames you choose, and other factors. However, you have to remember that a single pair of progressive lenses can replace multiple pairs of glasses, which could save you money in the long-run.

Reference the following progressive lens comparison chart for more information on cost.

progressive lenses pros and cons

Cost comparison between the main types of progressive lenses:

  • Progressive Digital Lenses: $225
  • Progressive High Index Lenses: $300
  • Progressive Sunglasses Lenses: $265
  • Progressive Digital Lenses Photochromatic: $345

All Vint & York optical frames can be fitted with these progressive lenses – just add your favorite frame and be sure to select “Progressive Lenses” during the checkout.

Complimentary anti-reflective and anti-scratch coatings are included with all progressive lens purchases.

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what is the difference between progressive and bifocal lenses

Polycarbonate lenses have a moderate price and are thinner, lighter, and more durable than plastic. All Hi-index lenses will increase the price by a couple hundred of dollars, but they compensate with incredible durability and the fact that they are lightweight, thin and have optimal optical clarity.

Our progressive lenses are available in
1) polycarbonate material for lighter, thinner and impact-resistant wear (starting at $225)
2) High-Index material for even lighter and thinner lenses. We recommend this option for stronger prescriptions (starting at $300)

Now, something to consider is if you have a high or complex prescription, then customized digital progressive lenses are definitely your best bet. Anyone with a lower prescription can try on different lens types and see what suits their needs. At the end of the day, when it comes to progressive lenses, you get what you pay for.

Which brand of progressive lenses is the best?

This is a matter of opinion, Doctors and opticians will have their own personal preferences based on patient experience or personal experience.

The industry recognizes Varilux & Carl Zeiss as the industry leaders in PAL technology, however, Varilux is widely credited as being the industry standard. It’s the most prescribed brand and has higher adaptability rates.

However, labs and lens manufacturers have created private-label and house PALs that are comparable. Essilor, the manufacturer of Varilux, also manufacture private label PALs that are made using much the same technology as Varilux.

Vint & York offers premium Progressive Lenses products from ZEISS, SHAMIR, VARILUX and many more. Drop by our store to find your perfect fit – you can find us in the heart of Nolita.

best progressive eyeglasses
The Fitzgerald eyeglasses with progressive lenses

Progressive Lenses Advantages

If you are still wondering if progressive lenses are the better option for you, you’ll want to check out these advantages and disadvantages to make an informed decision.

One of their instant advantages is that the design of progressive lenses blends the prescription. There is no image jump or visible line on the lens. This enhances your comfort with your lenses and is a safer option when doing things such as driving.

That’s not to mention that more lenses and frames mean more maintenance and more money.  That is just not as convenient. With progressive lenses, you don’t have to take them off when switching between things such as working on a computer and driving.

Even if you don’t use a computer, anything with an LCD or LED screen can be damaging to your eyes. So, you want that intermediate correction. Progressive lenses can correct distance, intermediate and reading focus within one lens. It’s like killing three birds with one stone.

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Progressive Lenses Disadvantages

One of the few progressive lens disadvantages it that there are occasionally problems with HD progressive lenses when walking up and downstairs.

Since the reading correction is at the bottom, the stairs may seem like they bounce. However, it’s all about adapting to your progressive lenses. With progressive lenses, problem often disappear in about two weeks, so it’s important to give it time when you’re adjusting to a new pair.

You may also have an issue with the materials, coatings, adjustments, and position-of-wear, rather than with the progressive lens itself. Some people also feel like they just don’t like progressive lenses and that they’re too hard to get used to. Progressive lenses aren’t for everyone. A small percentage of people are unable to adapt to them, and in these cases, bifocals are a better alternative.

How do progressive lenses work?

Progressive lenses are ”multifocal” lenses that give a seamless progression of many lens powers for clear vision across the room.

Observing how progressive lenses are made and how they work is a great way to examine the unique characteristics of each. So let’s get into what all types of progressive lenses do.

However, this type of progressive lens is becoming obsolete, because it isn’t as accurate as other options now available. The corridors (the part of lenses that corrects your vision) are narrower.

Progressive lenses let multiple vision fields to be added to a single lens, and “progressively” adjust for distance, intermediate, and reading.  Even if you wear over-the-counter readers, progressive lenses can be made for you.

progressive lenses eyeglasses

To wear them is often described as watching a movie on the latest HD flat screen release, instead of on an old tube television set.

You can also think about it this way: It’s like having three sets of lenses in one; all without ever having to change your eyeglasses.

Digital progressive lenses

Progressive lens designs give the best optical view when the wearer’s optical needs are considered. Digital lens surfacing is mostly relevant to progressive prescription lenses.

The major difference between digital and traditional is the ability to customize regions of a digital lens to suit an individual. A digital surfacing lens ensures the most precise prescription based on the shape of your face, how you prefer to wear your frame and the position of your eyes.

These Digital progressive lenses have a wider area for distortion-free reading and sharp distance vision. An additional benefit of getting the digital progressive lenses is gaining a high clarity vision in the intermediate distance area (between reading and distance). This increased vision is very useful for computer use and other everyday activities.

At Vint & York all our progressive lenses are custom-tailored with your actual specifications, measurements, frame shape and size and other factors.


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Digital free-form lenses

Other kinds of progressive lenses are digital free-form.

Digitally finished lenses are computer engineered for optimum clarity and accuracy. They are often recommended by doctors as opposed to the prior because they come with many benefits. One of them is that these lenses are specifically surfaced for your prescription, frame dimensions and position-of-wear.

are progressive lenses good for computer work

These are all important factors in proper eyesight correction because of how the lenses are designed. Since the same eyeglass frames may sit higher on your face, and lower on someone else’s, specifications and measurements need to ensure your optimal comfort and optical experience.

They also offer wider and more accurate channels and corridors, which means that you’ll have better peripheral vision. Besides this, digital free-form progressives have also the technology to decrease the blurriness around the edges the peripheral view.

Our Progressive Lenses are developed with Digital Freeform technology – the most advanced on the market – and our laboratory is equipped to handle all types of prescriptions and produce the most accurate true digital free-form progressive lenses. Our progressive lenses go through a rigorous quality control process and are stamped with “V&Y” watermark upon passing the test.

Progressive Lenses vs. other types of lenses

Alas, the inevitable progressive lenses vs bifocal debate. Fortunately, it can be broken down in a simple way.

Progressive lenses vs. Bifocals 

progressive lenses vs bifocals

How do progressive lenses differ from ordinary bifocals?

Bifocal lenses provide a distinct near and far viewing area, but no intermediate area (3-20 feet away). The different viewing areas are separated by noticeable lines that can be awkward, abrupt, and frustrating to the wearer.Progressive lenses have no image jump, featuring a continuous field of vision. 
With the rise in computer usage, most people need intermediate correction as well as distance and reading.

Progressive lenses are the only ones that can offer three corrections within one lens. Other benefits include a wider field of vision and an easier adaptation. So, bifocals tend to be more of an alternative or second best option.

Varifocal lenses, also known as progressive lenses, are used when you have two prescriptions, one for distance and one for reading. Varifocal lenses work by having a gradual change in strength from the top of the lens to the bottom and multiple focal points in between. The upper part of the lens contains the distance power, the middle of the lens has the intermediate ranges and the lower portion, the reading part.

what is the difference between progressive and bifocal lenses

Progressive lenses vs. Trifocals

The line is eliminated by a more natural transition and a better optical experience. There is also a lens known as the blended bifocal which is the equivalent of a progressive lens. What most people need to know is that it corrects distance and near, not intermediate. As for anyone wondering if progressive lenses are the same as varifocals, this is a European term used to describe progressive lenses. They also offer two corrections.

What do progressive lenses look like?

To the naked eye, progressive lenses look like most other lenses. Only trained optical technicians and opticians will be able to identify them.

But even though they might look like any other lens, there are some big differences that set them far apart. They are multifocal lenses used to correct distance, near sight and intermediate sight for when you’re using the computer or looking at a screen.

how do progressive lenses look like

Most progressive lenses will have laser etchings in the lens that are virtually invisible to the wearer and can only be seen using a special “identifier.”

These laser etchings will notify the optician of the added power (which is the strength needed to correct for reading), the starting point of the additional power, and the lens material and the manufacturer of the lens.

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What can progressive lenses help with?

To answer who needs progressive lenses or who should get this type lenses in one short sentence isn’t possible. They help with so many things and there are also many optical conditions treatable with the incredible engineering of these lenses!

Most people could benefit from a little “boost” in near vision, it can increase dependence on the magnification and most doctors would recommend waiting until presbyopia has begun.  

You don’t have to be diagnosed with a condition to take advantage of the technology infused into progressive lenses. If your vision is blurry when focusing on something, PALs could be all you need.

It comes down to whether you need sight correction for distance, intermediate or near, and what you do. Let’s see:

No line bifocal sunglassesprogressive no line bifocal sunglasses

Why have several pairs of glasses for different activities –  reading, computer use, distance, television watching, when you can have progressive glasses?

When the sun is up, you definitely need a good pair of progressive sunglasses to block UV rays and also take care of your vision.

For Presbyopia

Progressive lenses are often prescribed for people suffering from presbyopia, which usually affects people over 40.

Presbyopia usually occurs at around age 40, when people experience blurred near vision when reading, sewing or working at the computer. You can’t escape presbyopia, even if you’ve never had a vision problem before.

Even people who are nearsighted will notice that their near vision blurs when they wear their usual eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct distance vision.

why choose progressive lenses for presbyopia

This is why progressive lenses are ideal for patients who have presbyopia – a vision condition marked by a decrease in the ability to focus sharply on nearby objects. As we age naturally, our ability to see nearby objects and objects in the distance can decrease.  

Progressive lenses address separate visual needs in one lens. And it is also why progressive lenses are ideal for patients who have presbyopia.

Rather than a line separating these areas, they are “blended” together within the progressives, often with the middle portion of the lens serving as intermediate vision correction when necessary. 

For Myopia

However, as this study reveals, progressive lenses are also used to reduce the progression of myopia.

For Astigmatism

Progressive lenses can correct astigmatism but are not solely used for astigmatism correction. Astigmatism is when the eye is no longer spherical, but more football shaped.

That sends light to different parts of the eye instead of at the center. It is fairly common with most glasses-wearers but is not dependent on any other factors (like myopia, hyperopia, or presbyopia).

How do progressive lenses work with High Prescriptions?

Patients with higher prescriptions can still benefit from progressive lenses. It’s usually not the design that will determine the type of lens that will work for the patient, but the lens material.  

The industry standard has mostly moved away from using glass lenses because they are significantly heavier than more modern materials and can make wearing glasses uncomfortable.

CR-39 Plastic works well for low prescriptions and has an optical clarity comparable to glass.

prescription rx eyewear

Polycarbonate has become the industry standard for lenses.

It’s thinner, lighter, more scratch-resistant, and shatter-resistant, as opposed to CR-39 and glass. Patients with higher or more complex prescriptions will benefit more from hi-index (which is available in multiple indexes, 1.67 is what we use, but the highest index is 1.74, and is the thinnest material available).

Hi-index lenses have a higher optical clarity than polycarbonate and are high-tensile, which is great for drill-mounted or rimless frames.

The difference in thickness between 1.67 and 1.74 is marginal, but the price difference is significant. However, the availability of lenses in certain prescriptions may limit which material a patient can get. Someone with a -12.00 may only be able to get a 1.74 in a certain lens type.

Why wear computer progressive lenses?

If you have a desk job that involves a lot of computer work, your doctor may say that you need computer progressive lenses. These lenses will improve your vision when you’re focusing on things in the intermediate zone, providing more comfort at the computer.

To decide when to use progressive lenses can be summed down to whenever you need to focus on something, whether you’re reading, on the computer, sewing, driving.

progressive lenses for computer

When should you wear PALs?

PALs are recommended for people needing correction for distance and near.

There are contact lenses that can correct for presbyopia, but not as accurately as PALs.

Typically, contact lenses that correct for presbyopia are more of an approximate correction. Patients who can’t or prefer not to use contact lenses should use PALs.

How to measure progressive lenses

The way you fit a progressive lens is one of the most important factors, because it will measure the seg height of the area on the lens to which the progressive adds more power. Improper measuring can disrupt your sight, making the intermediate channel start where the distance channel should be.

If the seg height is too low, you’ll find it hard to look through the intermediate and near channels.

There is more to proper fitting as it also includes taking measurements of the distance between the frame and the eye, as well as the curvature of the frame and angle of the tilt while on your face.

How small or tall can these lenses be?

If you want a smaller progressive lens with shallower lens depth that can also be an option.

However, it’s not recommended for first-time wearers, because adapting to them can be more difficult. Most opticians will recommend at least 30 mm of lens height/depth.

the right frame for progressive lenses

If you already wear progressive lenses and want to switch from a smaller to a larger frame, your eyes will have to readapt.

This happens because the near channel will now be lower than what it was with the smaller frames, and vice versa if you were to switch from large to small frames.

The right frame for Progressive Lenses

Unfortunately, not all frames fit progressive lenses.

Experienced progressive lens wearers know that not every progressive lens design fits every frame. The result: you may need to compromise the quality of your vision, as areas of the progressive lens may be removed when your lenses are being inserted in the frame. Check with your optician and choose from metal, classic, geek-chic or colorful frames that meet your needs.

right frames for progressive lenses

The fact is that your new glasses will have multiple viewing ranges that must rest in a comfortable area. There are measurements called “minimum fitting heights” that help ensure that your new frame style allows you to read, watch TV, drive, and do other day-to-day activities comfortably. At Vint & York, we carry some of the best frames for progressive lenses that allow you to get all the amazing benefits of this technology, without compromising style or your personality.

You may also have adaptation difficulties, if you switch from a small to a larger frame, as you will have to relearn how to move your eyes through the various ranges of vision. This happens as the near vision zone is suddenly lower down the lens and this is something your eyes have to get used to.

At Vint & York, you will surely find something exciting to wear. You may also want to consider getting sunglasses with progressive lenses to further assure your comfort, style, and vision while out and about.

Adjusting to your new progressive lenses

Here are some tips to adjust to your new progressive lenses faster:

  • Patience is necessary when first wearing PALs (progressive addition lenses).
  • When first wearing PALs, avoid using older glasses or single-vision glasses, which can delay the adapting process.
  • Wear them as much as possible. Allow at least two weeks for adapting and bear in mind that any dizziness, nausea, or headaches should be communicated to the dispensing optician. Always allow the dispensing optician an opportunity to troubleshoot your PALs, they will generally know more about glasses.
  • If there are any difficulties, let your optician know, and don’t drive until you’re fully comfortable with the lenses.

Tips and tricks for first-timers

  1.  Practice the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes spent staring at a screen, take 20 seconds to glance at something 20 feet away.
  2. Wear them as often as possible and avoid wearing other glasses (especially older prescriptions or single-vision).
  3. Try to always point your nose and chin at what you’re looking at, whether it’s a book, computer screen or traffic. If you’re working on a computer, adjust the chair height and level of your screen to give you optimal comfort.
  4. Doctors recommend becoming a “head-turner” as opposed to an “eye-mover” when wearing progressive lenses. Lower your eyes, not your head, when reading. Don’t look through the sides of the glasses, as peripheral vision is distorted through PALS.

If you are experiencing headaches, dizziness or nausea, it doesn’t mean that it’s time to give up on PALs. When progressive lenses don’t work, it could just be that a measurement is off, whether in the fit or prescription. Solving this issue could be as simple as adjusting the type of PAL that you’re using (the frame or the height that the progressive begins adding more power).

If you’ve tried progressive lenses before and had trouble with them, many doctors recommend that you try them again a few years later.

Since the technology is always improving, adapting to progressive lenses may be much easier with the latest changes.

If all else fails and you still find that using progressive lenses is not for you, bifocals or trifocals are excellent alternatives that Vint&York can help with.

tips and tricks for progressive lenses first timers

Should you order progressive glasses online?

Since progressive lenses rely on precise measurements for the best results, some online retailers will not provide them.

All fitting details are based on your face shape, size, frame design and the interaction between them. So, without taking measurements when wearing the frames, your entire vision could be off.

The best advice you can get when buying progressive lenses is to ask questions and feel comfortable speaking with your optician and then make the purchase online.

You can also receive personalized recommendations based on your lifestyle and preferences. You should trust your optician and have an open line of communication with them. They can help you with recommendations that will suit your lifestyle and preferences.

 If you have questions about whether or not a specific frame style can be fitted with progressive lenses, please reach out to us. Our opticians are always available for personalized over the phone consultation – call us at (800) 846-9915 and we’ll be happy to help!

progressive lenses eyewear

Keep in mind that everyone’s eyes are different and no two are alike. What might work for a friend or relative, might not be the best solution for you. Let your optician know how frequently you will be using your glasses, the activity you perform most when wearing your glasses, and voice any concerns. 

The days of having to switch out eyeglasses for different purposes are gone. The mind-blowing technology of progressive lenses has changed the game and you can now choose from a wide collection of stylish frames to match with your progressives!

Find your perfect frame & lenses option


There’s no better time to stop by Vint & York and shop our incredible selection of progressive lenses or prescription glasses. We offer progressive lenses and prescription sun lenses in our Soho store and online.  

So, stop by today at 247 Elizabeth Street, try on some lenses and enjoy a better sight!

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