On the list of unavoidable suffering, well behind death but only slightly ahead of taxes, you’ll find bifocals. For most of us, bifocals serve as a warning shot that middle age is hot on our heels. It’s a rite of passage that 95% of Americans over the age of 45 have experienced and in the next few years nearly 78 million baby boomers will join the Bifocal Club.
The eye condition is called presbyopia. The word is Greek for “old man’s eyes” but the roots of the condition actually start much earlier than the name implies. As teens, our eyes stop growing, but the lens in the eye continues to generate new cells. As a result, the lens gets progressively denser as time goes by. This increased density results in a stiffening of the lens. By the time we reach our mid forties the lens is so stiff that it can no longer make the transition from distance vision to near. Many of us will try to put off the inevitable by holding the newspaper further away or pushing the computer screen a little further back. Eventually, however, we find ourselves at the eye doctor’s office holding our first bifocal prescription.
Treating Presbyopia with Eyeglasses
Like our grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers and mothers, most of us will fight their emerging presbyopia with eyeglasses. Unlike our parents and grandparents however, many of us want nothing to do with unattractive bifocal lines. This cosmetic concern has made no-line bifocals, more accurately known as progressive addition lenses (PALs), the new clear-cut lenses of choice, but there’s more to PALs than just a pretty face.
“What consumers want,” notes Carol Norbeck, spokeswoman for the Vision Council of America, “is to see as if they never got old. That’s a tall order but progressive lenses are coming closer and closer to that goal”. Our parents’ traditional lined bifocals had two distinct prescription zones. You were either looking through the distance portion or through the reading segment, and when you passed from one zone to the other the image would suddenly change in size. This is called image “pop”. Functional? Yes, but it didn’t feel anything like normal vision. Today’s progressive lenses, by contrast, offer a gradual transition from distance to near prescription. The lens provides clear vision at distance, near and points in-between with no image pop.
In PALs introduced in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the trade-off for the lineless design was a pair of bothersome blur zones on either side of the transition corridor. Today, these older designs are called “hard progressives”. More recent lens designs, called “soft progressives” utilize advanced mathematical formulas and computer graphing to create a much more subtle visual transition from distance prescription to reading prescription. The blur zones have been greatly reduced and pushed to the periphery of the lens where they are safely out of the normal field of vision. The result is vision that feels very natural.
Shawnee Optical Consumer Tip: In today’s optical marketplace hard PALs often sell along side the newer soft designs at surprisingly similar prices. Make sure you are being fit with a soft progressive lens. If your optician doesn’t know the difference find another optician.
To learn more about proper eye care, eye wear and Shawnee Optical, please visit our website at www.shawneeoptical.com.