Your life and eyes 3 min read

Understanding how varifocal lenses work

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Varifocal lenses are also known as progressive lenses, learn how these lenses correct your vision and help people see at all distances through one lens.

What are varifocal lenses?

Varifocal lenses are a common type of corrective lens that were first invented in 1959 by ourselves. Generally speaking, they are designed to let you see clearly near to far and everything in between, with different parts of the lens optimised for the various distances required. Varifocal lenses are a solution for a natural condition known as presbyopia; an age-related process that affects your ability to see objects close up. It is common in those aged 40 and over.

Varifocal lenses are also known as progressive lenses, offering two prescriptions in one lens to help with both reading and distance vision correction.

Glasses lenses stacked on top of each other

What are the different types of varifocal lenses?

There are a number of different types of varifocal lenses that you may or may not have heard of. For instance, you may have a primary pair of varifocals that is suited to your main needs, such as for the computer or for sun protection. Your primary pair can depend on how you spend the majority of your time, making sure you’re wearing the right pair of glasses to suit your visual needs.

Driving varifocals are another popular type, as driving can often require the need to see clearly both up close for the dashboard and dials, and into the distance for other cars, street signs and recognising hazards. Our Varilux Road Pilot lenses are well suited for this particular need.

If you spend a lot of time using digital devices, you might wish to choose a specific pair of varifocal lenses optimised for screens. This can have a positive impact on your visual and postural comfort, as well as making it easier to read smaller characters. Varilux Digitime is a great example of lenses to help with this.

Why you might need varifocal lenses

As you get older, the crystalline lens of your eye usually becomes stiffer and loses its elasticity, which means you will struggle to see things up close. This occurrence is known as presbyopia.

As presbyopia is an age-related condition, it’s not something you can prevent and is perfectly normal. As you reach the age of 40, you may begin to notice changes in your vision. This is likely to be the onset of presbyopia. However, you should always see your local optician if you notice anything different in your eyesight.

You might notice blurred vision, particularly when looking at objects close up, or even poor vision in dim light conditions. If you are developing presbyopia, you will probably find yourself holding objects at a distance to see them better. Other symptoms might include headaches, eye strain or having difficulty adjusting your vision between different distances.

comparision of a normal eye to a eye with presbyopia

How can varifocal lenses help?

Varifocal lenses are a modern solution to a vision problem that has been around centuries. Previously, people opted to wear bifocals to deal with both a reading and a distance prescription. Bifocals are designed with a sudden change between distance vision and near vision and have a visible line across the middle of the lens separating the prescriptions. This can sometimes result in disorientation as the wearer moving from distance vision to near vision or vice versa.

Varifocals, on the other hand, offer a much smoother and gradual change, making it much more comfortable. Previous designs required a tilt or movement of your head to see through the correct part of the lens.

Newer progressive lenses, such as  Varilux X series, have been created to combat this. Designed to adapt to your busy, on-the-go lifestyle, Varilux X series is a new generation of varifocal lenses that create a seamless visual experience.

What glasses can I have with varifocal lenses?

Modern varifocal lens designs allow wearers to pick from a wide range of frames, even small lens frames. Your dispensing optician will be able to determine whether a short designed varifocal lens is required for a small lens frame or if a standard varifocal lens design is needed. This allows you to pick from several different glasses styles to match your look. You can even personalise your varifocal glasses with additional measurements such as your eyecode, your near vision behaviour and your chosen frame's specific measurements. Personalising your varifocal lenses to your chosen frame will ensure the different vision zones are correctly placed in the right part of the lens for the way you would wear your glasses. That way, you'll get more comfortable vision as you won't need to move your glasses or tilt your head to look through the right part of the lens!

What is the difference between varifocal lenses and reading glasses?

Varifocal lenses are designed to help you see both up close and at a distance, which is ideal for those who already had a distance prescription and now need a reading one too. Both prescriptions can be added to one lens, with a natural and gradual power across the lens for seamless vision.

Reading glasses are designed to help magnify smaller text, making it easier to read things up close. In many cases, reading glasses have a generic strength in the lens that won’t be tailored to your specific vision needs. If you notice a change in your vision, you should visit an optician for a lens that is adapted to your individual requirements.

Introducing Varilux X series

The intermediate and near vision are the most used in your day-to-day lives including things like looking at your phones, computers and talking to people face-to-face. In other words, the majority of your vision is used within arm’s reach. 

Based on this, Varilux X series was developed with a number of different technologies to allow a more seamless, enjoyable and tailored experience when wearing varifocal lenses. 

Xtend technology was developed to optimise the lens, allowing you to capture multiple targets in one gaze direction. This can help to reduce the need for head movements. A recent study in France showed that 97% of those studied reported making ‘few’ or ‘no’ horizontal head movements, and 93% reported making ‘few’ or ‘no’ vertical head movements in order to use their near vision.
Nanoptix technology is able to reduce image aberration between various distances, which is often experienced when wearing older generations of varifocal lenses. This technology creates a refined curvature of the lens, creating better vision stability.

Synchroneyes technology maximises vision from one edge of the lens to the other, ensuring you are able to see through any part of the lens clearly.

See your phone and be confident walking down stairs with Varilux X series varifocals

Wearing Varilux lenses

Varilux X series offers sharp, clear vision from near to far and everything in between, allowing you to seamlessly move your gaze. Reduced need for unnecessary head movement and less restriction across the lens are two of the major benefits. What’s more, your Varilux X series lenses can be modified through various measurements at a partner optician, to suit your near-vision behaviour, chosen frame, dominant eye, how your eyes move and prescription perfectly.

Varifocal lenses are usually prescribed after a routine eye examination. This is why it is so important to have eye examinations regularly. Your optician will be able to recognise any problems, such as presbyopia, as well as looking out for your health.

Where can I buy varifocal lenses?

You can buy a pair of varifocal lenses from your local optician, who will examine your eyes and test your vision before dispensing the right varifocal lens to suit your needs. Our optician finder will help you find your nearest Essilor partner optician, who can advise you on the right type of Essilor varifocal lens.

Varilux lens brochure

Varifocal lenses for all lifestyles, for all needs and for all prescriptions.

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