They are pure magic. A brilliant feat of technology. Optical’s gift to 40+-year-old humankind. I’m talking about progressive lenses, of course. Their accuracy, ease of use, downright joy to wear have advanced lightning-fast over the last 15 years.

 

Magic, really?

What makes progressives so enchanting? As we age, we lose the ability to see up close. Yes, all of us. That’s because, with use over the years, the eye’s natural lens thickens, becoming less elastic. So as we mature, we can’t zoom in and out clearly on our own.

We could buy readers in a couple different powers, one for the computer, another for reading. One in each power for each room in the house, plus for the bag we take out and about. That solution works, as long as we don’t mind digging them out of said bag, finding where we left them in the room, and putting them on and taking them off all day.

Fortunately for us, now we can enjoy clear vision at all the distances we saw effortlessly in our youth, with just one pair of eyeglasses: progressives!

 

Knowledge is power

… But only if we know how to use these mighty lenses. That skill can require a little, well, focus – to learn a new way to see. Don’t stress; it’s a short learning curve. Practice will bring clarity.

First, a basic explanation of progressive lens design. With this foundation, you’ll be seeing far and wide in no time.

 

Progressive lens design: a very brief primer

Progressive lenses have 3 general regions:

  1. The top 1/3 of the lenses let you see at a distance – for driving, movies and TV, walking up and down stairs, and recognizing faces at the party or across the kitchen.
  2. The middle 1/3 brings into focus images on your computer and other objects at mid-range.
  3. And the bottom 1/3 makes reading, seeing your smartphone and doing your needlepointing crisp (yeah, you seem like the needlepointing type ;-).

Those three regions describe the vertical variation that gives progressive lenses their name: the lenses progress from correcting your distance vision at the top, to your mid-range vision in the middle, to your near vision at the bottom.

 

So what does it all mean?

In short, see clearly at all distances by moving your eyes up to see far away and down to see close up.

If you move your eyes left and right without moving your head, your vision will be blurry. The best correction – the “progressive corridor,” the “sweet spot” of your lenses – extends from the top to the bottom of your frame, inside the vertical lane that is aligned directly in front of your pupils. So, keep your eyes in that lane.

Don’t move your eyes left or right. Move your head instead.

 

Step-by-step: using your new progressives

Now you’re ready to practice living in your new progressive lenses. Here are your instructions:

  1. Make sure your frame fits your face well. It shouldn’t slide down your nose or sit crooked horizontally. If it doesn’t fit well, visit your friendly optician; most will gladly adjust for you.
  2. Point your nose at an object you want to see.
  3. Next, move your eyes up and down until you can see that object clearly. Got it? Great! Let’s do it again.
  4. Move your nose to find another object of interest.
  5. Now move your eyes up and down to find the spot in your lenses that lets you see clearly at the distance of your new object.
  6. Repeat Steps #4 and 5.

 

Crucial tips for an easy transition

Adjusting to this new system can be frustrating, even vexing, in the beginning. Like the piano, ping pong, and crossing your eyes, the more you practice, the faster you’ll become an expert. Then you won’t have to think about these pesky steps. Like driving. Or walking. No kidding.

That said, don’t torture yourself. If you feel your eyes straining or if you start to get a headache, take your glasses off for a while. As soon as you feel better, put them back on and practice more. Be patient, be good to your eyes, and they’ll be good to you.

 

Safety first

Be safe on steps! They are a good distance from your head, so lower your chin to your chest and look through the tops of your lenses. On steps, feeling like you’re in the fun house is no fun!

With a little perseverance, you will adjust to your magical new progressives. I hope you love them.

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