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The Truth About Varifocals

Chances are, if you know anyone who knows anyone who's tried varifocals, you've heard the horror stories!


We've heard everything from "my next door neighbour's cousin didn't get on with varifocals" to "I don't want varifocals, they're for old people!", but the most common thing we hear is...


"I didn't get on with varifocals when I tried them 15 years ago."


My reply to this statement is always, "would you be happy with the mobile phone you had 15 years ago?" and the answer is, resoundingly, no!


Technology is always improving and varifocal innovation is no exception.


This blog will address any reservations you have about trying varifocals, and answer the most common questions we hear in practice.





Will I get on with varifocals?


This is probably the most common question we are asked when recommending them to our clients for the first time. Varifocal lenses seem to have built themselves up a bad reputation with the general public and I am here to tell you that trying them for the first time should not be feared and instead celebrated! Maybe celebrated isn't the right word, as after all the need for varifocals comes as a result of age related changes happening in the eye; and no one likes being told they are getting old!


Why do I need varifocals?


Varifocals will often be recommended after an optometrist has found a prescription for both long distance vision and close (reading) vision. This happens due to age related changes to the lens in your eye, at (on average) about 45 years old. Up until this point without you knowing or thinking about it the lens in your eye changes its shape to allow you to focus on close objects, when the lens loses this elasticity in becomes more rigid meaning it can't change shape, therefore making it harder for your eyes to focus on close objects. Think about it by using the analogy that it has changed from a Fruit Pastel to a Werther's Original!


No, they're not for "old people" and, no, they won't have that line across the lens (they're bifocals)... they look like your regular lenses, and they will be an awful lot more convenient than having to take your glasses on and off all the time!


How varifocal lenses work:


Varifocals incorporate all elements of your prescription conveniently in to one lens, seamlessly blending from far distance vision to reading vision (not forgetting about everything we need to see in between). This gradual change in strength allows the wearer to have clear vision at all distances by simply moving their eyes up and down the lenses. Unlike bifocals, varifocals do not have a visible line separating the different prescription strengths.




Now you have a better understanding on what varifocals are and how the work, its time to answer some of the questions you may have after hearing horror stories from friends and family members, or even from a past personal experience of using them before modern technology improved the way lenses perform.


  1. "Will I have to move my head around a lot to get clear vision?" No... as long as you choose a modern, great quality varifocal lens design. Better quality varifocals have a much more generous field of clear vision pushing any potential distortion zones to areas of the lens you will not notice it. The best option is to opt for a personalised/bespoke lens. Not only will you get a generous field of view but the lens will be tailored to your unique facial measurements, viewing behaviours and how your chosen frame fits and sits on your face.

  2. "Will I notice blurring when I change for distance to reading vision?" Not if you select a modern and better quality varifocal lens design. The "blurring" or zones of distortion are inevitable with varifocals as the lens blends from distance to middle to near vision. However, designers of great quality lenses have cleverly moved these zones to areas of the lens where it will not be noticed by the wearer. To avoid potentially noticing this distortion zone it is always advisable to focus on moving your head to look at something rather than just the eyes.

  3. "I tried them 15 years ago and I never got on with them. Will this happen again?" Technology has moved on so much in this time and lens manufacturers are always investing in ways to improve their designs, making varifocal lenses better for wearers. Therefore, it is absolutely worth giving them a second chance, if after trying them and they are still something that you can't get on board with your optician should have what's called a "non-tolerance guarantee" which means you can change for different lens options if you wish!

  4. "Will I be able to see my computer screen with varifocals on?" Yes you will be able to see your computer screen clearly but if you are spending a large portion of your day looking at a screen you may benefit from a separate task-specific pair of occupational (office) glasses. Varifocals are great "all rounders" but when a lens shares space between various prescriptions it will never feel as comfortable as one pair designated to a specific task. A little bit like a pair of trainers... great all rounders, but if you're climbing a mountain you'd be more comfortable in a task-specific pair of walking boots!

  5. "Will they make my eyes lazy?" Simply, no. Wearing glasses doesn’t make your eyesight worse or your eyes lazy. In fact, quite the opposite, NOT wearing the prescription you have been prescribed is what can make your eyes worse! Glasses weakening eyesight is a common myth. In a previous blog, Hayley debunked this claim and explained why wearing glasses will only improve your eyesight.


Top tips for varifocal wearers!


  1. Getting advise from a dispensing optician when choosing a frame to ensure the frame size and fit is appropriate for varifocals. They will also be able to accurately measure you up for the lenses.

  2. Opting for bespoke lenses with personalised measurements.

  3. Allow yourself time to get used to the way varifocals work, wear as much as you can so the eyes and brain can adapt.

  4. Don't swap back to old glasses during the adaption period. This can be up to 2 weeks but most people will feel comfortable within a day or 2.

  5. Focus on becoming a "head mover" rather than an "eye mover".


Book with your local independent optician today to discover how varifocals could enhance your life!

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