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When I was just four years old I was prescribed with my first pair of glasses and now at fifty six I am still a wearer - heaven knows how many pairs I have got though in those years!
At first I wore single vision lenses which were suitable for both close work and ordinary living but, as I got older, my vision deteriorated. I needed stronger glasses for close work which would have been too strong for general wear so I was told that I needed two separate pairs of glasses. Well I was horrified at the idea of having to keep swapping glasses during the day - I had seen my grandmother do that when she was alive and the idea did not appeal so I asked for alternatives.
I knew that bi-focals were available but I had always thought that they looked a bit odd with that line across the lens where the two strengths meet. I was told that vari-focals (sometimes called progressive lenses) may be my best bet.
Apparently the original patent for vari-focals was granted in 1907 but this was for lenses which were shaped to get the progressive strengths. The modern lenses were patented by a company called Varilux in 1953. These have improved over the years with advancements in computer technology and are now the same size, shape and weight as a standard lens.
So what are they?
Well instead of having just two strengths of lens with a marked change as you would with bi-focals, vari-focals have a graduated or progressive change of lens strength down the whole lens so there aren't any distinct or sudden changes as you look through the lens.
The big advantage for me is the fact that I only need one pair of glasses. I look through the top down to the middle as I look into the distance and this part of the lens isn't too strong. I look through the middle to lower part, which is a bit stronger, for near work such as working on the computer. The bottom part of my glasses is the strongest which is the bit is use for close work such as reading, knitting etc.
The fact that the strength gradually changes down the lens means that you don't get the 'image jump' that you can get with bi-focals.
I was told when I ordered my first pair that I might have problems getting used to them. In fact my mother had tried using them and just couldn't get on with them at all and she had to have bi-focals which were ideal for her.
When I first wore my new vari-focals I remember that they did feel odd and as I moved my head I was conscious of things moving in and out of focus but that sensation disappeared within twenty four hours. I have been wearing vari-focals for at least fifteen years now and I never even think about the fact that I wear them!
My eyes are (almost) always looking through the correct strength of lens for the situation that I find myself in and, as such, my eyes are always comfortable and my vision is the best that it can be.
I used the word almost in that last paragraph as there is one case where I do find difficulty wearing vari-focals. That is when I am shopping and need to read a shelf edge label on a high shelf! I find myself having to tilt my head back in order to look through the bottom of my lens where the 'reading' strength is!
There is a slight distortion at the outer edges of the lenses but, as I never look though this part of the lens, it does not pose any problem to me.
The vari-focal lenses are obviously more expensive than single vision lenses as they cost more to produce but for me they are well worth the money. Mind you mine are always a high price because I have photochromic, vari-focals which means that they change colour to compensate for the level of light so that my eyes remain comfortable at all times.
I can't give you information on the actual cost of vari-focal lenses as it would depend on your prescription.
As I said earlier my lenses are always fairly expensive but I would not change back to singe vision lenses. I find my vari-focals comfortable to wear and my eyes are always looking through the correct strength of lens for the circumstances. I found them easy to get used to and now never even think about the fact that I have different strengths in my lenses.
I am definitely a fan of vari-focals!