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Learn about Bifocal and Progressive Reading Glasses

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Eric Buensuceso on 1/20/21

What Are Bifocals?

Bifocal reading glasses are a convenient solution that eliminates the hassle of constantly putting on and removing standard single-vision readers. With these non-prescription bifocals, you can access a magnified segment at the bottom of the lens for reading. At the same time, the top portion remains clear and uncorrected to maintain your natural distance vision.

Types of Bifocal Lenses offers three distinct multifocal lens choices: lined Bifocals , Progressive (no-line) lenses , and Computer Progressives . We aim to give customers the flexibility to select the option that best suits their needs.

What Are lined Bifocal Lenses?

Lined Bifocals
  • Most of the lens remains clear and magnification—free
  • Small crescent at the base of the lens makes it easy to read small text
diagram of a bifocal lens

Benjamin Franklin is often credited with inventing the bifocal lens. While some historians disagree, it’s generally accepted that he was among the first to wear the specially—designed glasses.

Bifocals are actually the combination of two different kinds of lenses. In reading glasses, the larger lens does not change what the wearer sees at all, while a second, smaller lens is inset and offers the magnification, or diopter strength.

Over time, technology has improved bifocal lenses, but the basic design remains the same. Most of the lens allows you to see the world normally, while a small crescent adds the reading strength you need, where you need it. Bifocals allow you to comfortably shift between reading and looking at something in the distance, such as watching a favorite show on your TV.

What Are Progressive No-Line Bifocals?

Progressive No-Line Lenses
  • Top of the lens remains clear
  • Strength of magnification gradually increases, giving you multiple focus points
  • No-line design makes them ideal for sunglasses
diagram of a progressive no-line lens

In 1907, Owen Aves of England received a patent for progressive lenses. These specs offered a new take on Benjamin Franklin’s idea of having different magnification strengths in a single pair of glasses. Unlike traditional bifocals, however, progressives don’t have two lenses manufactured to fit in the frame. they are comprised of a single lens that changes magnification gradually.

This unique design means that the lenses have three levels of magnification. With reading glasses, the top is clear, allowing you to see things normally. Towards the middle, you get an intermediate magnification, gradually increasing in strength as your eye travels to the bottom of the lens. Since progressive glasses allow for multiple focus points, they can feel more versatile.

Another benefit of progressive lenses is their sleek, no-line design. Traditional bifocals are instantly identifiable thanks to the outline of where the two lenses meet. With progressives, the transition is seamless since there’s only a single lens, making these virtually indistinguishable from single-vision designs.

What Are Computer-Style Progressive Lenses?

Computer-Style Progressives
  • Top of the lens provides partial magnification, ideal for viewing text on a computer monitor
  • Bottom of lens offers full magnification for reading small text
  • Special anti-reflective coating helps limit the glare and additional strain artificial lights can put on your vision
Progressive Lens Diagram

When searching for the best reading solution for your computer or desk work, a computer lens may be just what you need. Unlike progressive reading lenses that include an uncorrected distance portion, computer lenses offer 60% of the lower magnification strength in the distance portion. This feature enables a straight-on panoramic view of your desktop screen, effectively minimizing neck strain and unnecessary head movement. The lower section of the lens offers magnification for close reading. For enhanced comfort, computer-style progressive lenses will include an anti-reflective coating that eliminates eyestrain from glare from your computer screens and fluorescent overhead lighting.


The eyewear mentioned above is designed for generic use and does not include prescription lenses.


Bifocal Readers FAQ

Can I buy non-prescription bifocals for reading?

Yes, you can purchase bifocals without a prescription.

How do bifocal reading glasses work?

Bifocal reading glasses have proven to be highly effective. They provide optimal vision for near and far distances, making them an ideal choice for individuals who require constant wear throughout the day.

Who invented bifocal readers?

Bifocal reading glasses were invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1784.

Can I drive with bifocal reading glasses?

Driving with bifocal reading glasses is safe. The magnification segment of these glasses is positioned near the bottom of the lens, which allows for clear-distance viewing at the top.

Can I buy bifocal reading sunglasses? offer a wide selection of reading sunglasses, including those from top designers, ensuring that you have the best options available to you.

How much do bifocal readers cost?

Budget collection bifocal readers can be found from $29. The cost of designer reading glasses with bifocal lenses can vary significantly based on the brand, ranging up to a few hundred dollars.

Is it hard to adapt to bifocal readers?

Adapting to bifocal readers can be relatively straightforward for some individuals, while others may find it more challenging. The length of the adjustment period can vary from person to person, depending on their level of dedication. However, with consistent effort and practice, most people can successfully adapt to bifocal readers and experience their many advantages.

Is it hard to adapt to progressive lens reading glasses?

The transition to progressive reading glasses may necessitate a brief period of acclimation. The duration of this adjustment phase varies from person to person, spanning anywhere from one day to several days and occasionally up to a week. We provide a pamphlet outlining the most effective techniques to facilitate this process. After completing this adaptation period, it is rare for individuals to revert to alternative forms of reading glasses because progressive readers offer the closest approximation to restoring natural vision.

Is it hard to adapt to reading sunglasses with progressive lenses?

Adjusting to reading sunglasses can vary from individual to individual, but it is not significantly more difficult than adapting to regular reading glasses. The sunglasses’ tint can ease the adaptation process, particularly for those new to progressive lenses. The time required for this adjustment phase varies from person to person, ranging from one day to several days and sometimes up to a week. We offer a pamphlet outlining the most effective techniques to aid in this process.

Are progressive lens reading glasses the same as all-day readers?

All-day readers function similarly to Progressive lens reading glasses. These glasses are specifically designed for individuals who require reading glasses throughout the day but don’t need prescription lenses for distance vision. With clear uncorrected distance vision, they don’t provide any magnification or correction for distant viewing.

The reading corridor, positioned at the bottom of the lenses, is where the magnification is concentrated for close-up reading activities. This feature enables wearers to view objects at a near distance comfortably and without straining their eyes.

Why don’t my reading glasses work on my computer?

Standard single-vision reading glasses are often ineffective when used with a desktop monitor due to the difference in distance requirements. Reading glasses are measured for close-range tasks like reading a book or menu, typically within 14”-18”, while a desktop computer monitor range is 22’-36”. Thus, lower-strength diopters or magnification are required to ensure sharp visibility on the screen. Computer lenses reduce magnification to 60% in the central viewing area while maintaining full power in the lower half of the lens. This unique design makes computer lenses ideal for desk work, where clear vision at different distances is crucial. With computer lenses, you can experience enhanced visual clarity and comfort while performing tasks on your computer.


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