Bifocal or Varifocal lenses? Or Neither?

I have needed reading glasses for some years now, I have some slim metal framed glasses that I wear slightly down my nose so I can see over the top for distance viewing whilst looking downwards I can read clearly. It works for me.

However, my long distance now needs a bit of a prescription, not major but would sharpen up the TV etc. I was all set to order some Bifocals, so I could watch TV and look down at my phone or PC which are close up. The Bifocals offered seem to have very small areas given up to the close up prescription rather than a line a third to half way up the lens. Does anyone have any views or success with modern Bifocals?
A friend told me he tried Varifocals and hated them, a bit like being drunk. Straight lines were curved etc.

I would be grateful for any experiences/wisdom on this. The other solution is just to keep changing between two sets of glasses.

I imagine it is a common scenario for people of a certain age.

I tried varifocals years ago. Hated them. Going downstairs was an adventure in uncertainty. And you had to become a bit of a nodding donkey to get the focus right when working close up or reading. For years now I have been using half-moon glasses for reading and generally pottering about, and a normal full-sized pair for driving and television. Works OK for me.


I’ve worn varifocals for years and they are brilliant. They just work. I can flick from close up to distance and anything in between with no problems at all. The key is probably getting a good optician who knows what they are doing to supply good varifocal lenses.


My eyesight went downhill in my mid-40s (when I found myself holding a food menu at arm’s length, one eye closed and standing under the brightest light in the bar ceiling the penny dropped). I needed slight correction in both close and distance vision, I went for varifocals and have never regretted it. I know some people struggle, I’ve had no difficulty and over the last dozen years I’ve had several changes of prescription and adapted to them quickly each time. I can’t see myself using any other type of glasses.
Unfortunately it seems to be a case of try it and see, I’ve never heard of a way to tell in advance whether someone will find varifocals OK or not.


I have a similar issue, which is particularly acute as - as I am a pilot - my passengers seem to rather expect that I can see well both inside and outside of the flight deck! I have a really excellent optician who thus tailors my bifocals such that the cutoff is high enough up the lens that both can be accommodated without having to move my head. Varifocals were a short-lived disaster (not literally, you understand :joy:).


I’ve had varifocal specs for years.

The only downside to them is that when looking at screens (i.e. all day!) there can be a tendency to adjust the focus by bending one’s neck or back or posture.

If this happens it can strain your back.

So nowadays I have pairs of screen distance specs to hand in my office etc to stop myself doing that.

(Meanwhile I now have a cataract in my right eye - delaying that op at Preston Spa Medica hospital until Jan. You can get varifocal or single vision lens installed in a cataract op I now know too).


I have varifocals - have had for a few years now. On the first day I loathed then until I changed back to previous glasses and realised how good they are.

Not perfect but better than the alternative (for me)


Before retiring, work involved sitting at a console fitted with keypads and hand controls, whilst viewing a large monitor 4 / 5 ft. away.

The problem was that, with normal single focus reading specs, my ageing eyes couldn’t keep up with the re-focussing needed when switching views between the two.

I tried varifocals, which worked, sort of, but like @Beachcomber, above, they drove me mad when reading in bed, for example.

Cue new optician, who came up with Occupational (sometimes known as “Interview”) lenses, which provide clear vision at distances up to 12 ft., and since I don’t need specs for distance work, they were perfect.


Left field idea… varifocal contacts!

I tried varifocal specs. gave in (expensive test).

I then tried varifocal contact lenses… I went to Boots who were very patient during the trial stages. I went though 3 or 4 sets (different power and type) over a few months until I found ones that work. I’m been using them now for 4 or 5 years. I can now see the road AND the car dash. Also the pc monitor and the keyboard.

Mine are the month ‘per set’ type and, from memory, it’s £26pm


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I wear Varifocals also, yes they take a little getting used to but once your brain adapts they’re great. Every now and then I have a little wobbly on steps but it’s very rare. Just make sure you get really high quality lenses though, I opted for a cheaper version last time I upgraded and it was a mistake but thankfully my optician replaced with the proper ones foc. Good varifocals are a bit like a well designed crossover, the changeover between lenses should be seamless. Also, I’d be inclined to go to a good optician initially rather than the likes of specsavers.


I’ve used varifocals for nearly 20 years and never had a problem; however, I’m short sighted and have been toying with getting separate reading glasses. My optician considers that I don’t need to change my glasses so for now I prop my specs on my forehead when I’m reading a book.

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Yep, varifocals for me. I first tried a pair from Specsavers many years back. Couldn’t get on with them at all and gave them back.

I must say Specsavers weren’t all that imo and went back to using a local optician. They convinced me to try a pair again, only with more modern formula (and more cost.!)

They were brilliant from the moment I put them on, none of the distortion or dizziness I expected. An absolute revelation.

During first lockdown, as things opened up again, my optician remained closed but I knew I needed new prescription.

I went to another independent optician who had opened up as soon as they could. They suggested a different formula again. And I just couldn’t get used to those. They switched back to lenses from my ‘before’ manufacturer and they were good again.

I don’t know the technicalities but apparently there is a Pepsi vs. Coke type thing going on here and different formulas suit different people.

Hopefully if there are some professionals on the forum they could explain it?!

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It took me some time to adjust from bifocals to varifocals, but I was able to do so. Having said that, I also have a pair of reading class for extended periods of reading or writing. In particular, I never liked bifocals or varifocals while working at a computer, The size of the screenspace was just too big.

Had varifocals for many years and have been very happy with them. Like any change, once you get used to them they are fine and actually better than before.
One note of advice - choose the lens grade carefully. For my first pair I went with top of the range lenses made by Zeiss + anti glare, scratch resistant coating which added up to £1000 … just for the lenses!
When I changed I dropped down into the mid price range which were still £600 but I honestly couldn’t tell the difference.

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I think you either love or hate varifocals. I was warned by the optician it could take up to 2 weeks to get used to them when I had my first pair. I think it took about 24 hours before I felt fully comfortable with them. Definitely would not go back to two pairs of glasses for daily usage. The only time I wear a different pair is when I am editing photos on the desktop, then I need single vision glasses because I can’t comfortably lift my head up far enough easily see all the screen.

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I had cataracts in both eyes sorted out the same afternoon last November. Now I need reading glasses for close up. I did discuss complex lenses with my surgeon, but he said that if something in my eyesight changed in the future then it would be much easier to give me good vision back if the lens was a simple one.

He said some people have one eye set to close up and the other for distance, which can work for some people. I said I wanted optimum sight for safe driving and I didn’t mind reading glasses for close up. He said maximum safety was two eyes working together for distance. So that is what I got him to do.


Like anything optical, cheap will be rubbish. Glasses lenses are made to precision and varifocals even more so. You’re not going to get decent glasses at Specsavers or Boots. You might think you can, but you just don’t know it.

Also, your brain takes quite a while to get used to them and the more you wear them, the better. Vice versa, don’t wear them for a while and you start again. Disorientation being the problem.

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This was my experience too. I had Zeiss lenses when I was working as a lecturer, but dropped down after a cataract operation and retiring. My eyes are changing and I now use reading glasses and a bright light and a separate pair to use the computer. varifocals work well for me. For new users it is important to get used to them and most people adapt. Just occasionally I’m not focussed on the right place when descending stairs.

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I ran with varifocals for a decade or so until i developed cataracts and had surgery to replace both lenses. My left eye is set for short focus and my right eye for distance. They’re not perfect, but they’ve done me OK for twenty years.

My wife had similar lens replacement surgery, but she has varifocal lenses. Again not perfect, but OK.

Neither of us wear glasses in normal use; my wife has driving glasses for night use.

Very happy with varifocals. Seiko lenses work best for me; better than Zeiss - worth experimenting (depending on your optician).

The only time they are less good is computer screen work which I do a lot. For this I use an ancient pair of straightforward prescription glasses which just happen to work well at that distance.