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An eye on varifocals

                                       february 2011


An eye on varifocals

VarifocalsChanging eyesight goes hand in hand with getting older and by the time one reaches 50 or 60, most people need some assistance with their vision. A common change is that our ability to change focus to read small print diminishes and we need glasses for reading; but there are many other changes in our eyesight that can lead to us requiring different prescriptions for different activities.

For instance, driving clearly required good long sight; watching tv or working on a computer may require a slightly different prescription from the one required to read small print. A common occurrence is people who have had short sight through their lives requiring reading glasses as well.

Bi-focals was the initial word used for the start of glasses with varied vision. Varifocals were the next development and have been around for quite a long time now. Basically they offer a subtle “flowing” change between different prescriptions for different distances in one single lens; meaning you can have two or more prescriptions incorporated within one lens and you don’t have to keep changing glasses to obtain your best possible vision.

They work because the power in the lens is gradually changed from the top to the bottom. They are designed so that when you look straight ahead, you look through a portion of the lens that has been made for distance vision. When you read, you usually lower your vision a little; and varifocals work on this by putting the prescription for your reading vision in the lower portion of the lens.

In the early days of bifocals and varifocals, this caused problems with an area of distorted vision between the two different strengths. Today things have moved forward dramatically and modern varifocal lenses often incorporate several different strengths for optimum vision in all activities. The glasses can also be adapted to your life style; for instance they can come with wider areas for reading; or larger areas for distance. There still has to be a small area of vision that will be skewed because of the change in power, especially on the sides of the lens.

Getting used to varifocals is a very individual thing. Some people take to them immediately; others need time to adjust before they feel totally at ease with their new eyesight. Initially, some people report that their peripheral vision can be distorted or other similar problems, and this is often easily corrected by adjusting the position of your head and the part of the lens you are looking through. Only minor corrections are needed and before long, you don’t realise you are doing it and the varifocals can feel totally natural.
Varifocals can now be made for small designer glasses in a range of shape and styles depending on the required prescriptions.

Today you can even get varifocal contact lenses, and some reports indicate the vision through these can be really good without any real distortion anywhere.
It is always worth talking to your optometrist to find out the latest developments and whether there is something that could be useful in your specific situation.

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