What Is the Difference Between Bifocals, Trifocals, and Progressive Lenses? - Art of Optiks
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What Is the Difference Between Bifocals, Trifocals, and Progressive Lenses?

Many people need to wear glasses as they get older. Age-related farsightedness, or presbyopia, naturally occurs as we age. Our eyes start to have trouble focusing on things that are close, which is why some people might need multifocal lenses.


Bifocal lenses, such as bifocals for lazy eye, are split between two different corrective abilities: the top of the lens helps to see things that are farther away, while the bottom of the lens aids in seeing things that are close.

This simple design has not changed much since the bifocals’ original creation. The lens is split, often with a visible line, between these two corrective powers. The part of the lens responsible for correcting near-vision can come in several shapes and sizes. It can take up the entire lower half of the lens or only a small rectangle. The placement of this lower lens on the bifocals is optimal for aiding in reading or seeing details in items close to the viewer.

This bifocals design combats the core issues that come with presbyopia – mainly, difficulty seeing things that are close, such as books or menus. However, the bifocals design is limited since there are only two parts of the lens. The intermediate area of vision is not accounted for in bifocal designs, meaning the wearer might still have trouble seeing objects from a few feet away.

Bifocals might not be practical for some people, as this type of lens does not offer more than two corrective abilities, and the lack of an intermediate area might make them impractical for performing some tasks. Instead, another type of multifocal lens may be best.


Trifocals were invented to combat the shortcomings of bifocal lenses – mainly, the lack of an intermediate viewing area, but they aren’t as comprehensive as progressive lenses.

Trifocal lenses offer a design similar to bifocals but trifocals combine three corrective powers instead of two. The upper lens on trifocals corrects far vision while the bottom of the lens corrects near vision. A small intermediate area is added just above the lower part of the trifocals lens to aid in seeing things in the intermediate zone – including objects that would be about an arm’s length away, such as computer screens.

As with bifocal lenses, trifocals also have visible lines separating the three different sections of the lens. Both bifocals and trifocals lack a smooth transition into the corrective parts of the lens, which might be an issue for some people.

Progressive Lenses

Progressive Multifocal Glasses Lenses

Progressive lenses are the most advanced of all multifocal lenses, even more so than trifocals. These lenses do not have any visible lines separating the corrective sections and account for more than just two or three corrective powers. Progressive lenses have sections for far vision, intermediate vision, and near vision, but progressive lenses also include corrective abilities for all the areas in between. The improved design in progressive lenses means a smooth transition between the different corrective areas of the lens, which can be preferable to some people.

The design of progressive lenses can be thought of as a gradient. The strength of the corrective lens increases as you go from the bottom to the top of the lens. This design offers the most natural progression of sight correction and eases the eye strain sometimes caused by the abrupt transitions in bifocal and trifocal lenses.

As technology continues to advance, progressive lenses are improving. Some brands account for the different prescriptions each eye might have. These innovations diminish some of the issues that people might have with their current progressive lenses, including blurry peripheral vision, which can cause motion sickness.

Scheduling an Appointment

Vision changes occur as we age, but we must accommodate these changes with new bifocals, trifocals, or progessive lenses. If you are starting to have trouble seeing at different distances, it is best to schedule an appointment with an optometrist as soon as possible. If you’re interested in getting vision therapy, there are a few key details you should know beforehand.

An eye doctor can determine what issues you are dealing with and what corrective procedure is best for you. He or she will help you decide what type of multifocal lens will work best for you.

You are not restricted to wearing multifocal glasses; some places offer multifocal lenses, though you will need to schedule an exam specifically for this. If multifocal contacts are available, your eye doctor can perform a separate exam to determine if these contact lenses are a viable option for you.

Minnesota residents can schedule an appointment at our Edina or Wayzata locations to talk to an optometrist about the options regarding multifocal lenses and contacts. We’re happy to help you find what is right for you.

Choosing Glasses or Contacts

Consulted With An Eye Doctor

Once you have consulted with an eye doctor and come to the decision that multifocal lenses are right for you, you have the option of getting glasses or contacts. Which to choose is what you personally prefer. We offer both options, including many frames for bifocals, trifocals and progressive lenses, to ensure you can find something that works for you.

Glasses might be more convenient for some people who don’t like the idea of contact lenses. They can be more comfortable, easy, or fun to wear than contacts, and we offer a variety of frames.

Our luxury eyewear collections are created with rare and precious materials. Each collection offers unique and handmade frames, ensuring there is a style for everyone. Just be sure you know how to avoid common eye emergencies, like those that arise from sleeping in your contacts. Don’t be afraid of contact lenses. With some easy travel tips, keeping your contacts safe will be simple.
If glasses are less convenient for your lifestyle, or you want to have the option of wearing contacts when you feel like it, we offer multifocal contact lenses as well. We offer contact lens fittings at both locations to ensure that you can get the corrective lens option that works best for you.

Contact Art of Optiks today so we can help you continue on your journey to clearer vision.

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