Progressive lenses and trendy frames may cause problems…

With all the lenses that are available today—from sophisticated progressives to drugstore readers—and an array of contacts and fashionable frames to choose from, you might think that selecting your eyewear has never been easier.

The truth is, there now are so many choices out there—each with its own quirks and pitfalls—that you really need to know what you’re doing to avoid making costly, potentially eye-damaging mistakes.

How to guard against the most common mistakes…

MISTAKE #1: Assuming that progressives are always the best choice. Those nifty lenses known as “progressives,” which offer a continuum of clear vision from near to far (close-up, midrange and distance) within a single pair of glasses or contacts, may seem like the ideal solution for aging eyes. Unlike bifocals and trifocals, progressives have no line separating the different viewing zones.

But for many people, progressives are not all they’re cracked up to be. Stationary objects may sometimes appear to be moving because the edges of the optical zones are somewhat blurred by design. This also can make driving tricky—for example, you must move your head to the right or left rather than glancing to the sides, where the edges will be blurred.

On top of that, progressives are more expensive than traditional bifocals and trifocals—about $400 and up versus about $200 to $300 for bifocals or trifocals, which have separate viewing zones separated by lines.

If your eye doctor agrees that progressives are a good choice for you, ask about lenses from manufacturers that are pulling out all the stops to try to address some of the common pitfalls.

Two progressive lenses you may want to discuss with your doctor…

  • Varilux S Series. To help do away with blurry peripheral vision, these new lenses use a patented design that is intended to even out the magnification across the lens. For more information, go to
  • Shamir Golf glasses. These progressive lenses are designed to provide sharp focus for the distances that are most important to golfers—for the scorecard in their hands…the ball at their feet when putting or teeing off…and the green in the distance. For more details, go to

MISTAKE #2: Expecting one set of eyewear to do the trick. Even if you can get by with a pair of progressives, you may want to have more than one set of eyewear to get the best possible vision correction for different tasks.

For example, if you spend long hours in front of a desktop or laptop computer, you may need a prescription for single-vision glasses designed specifically for the distance between you and the screen. These glasses will help reduce eyestrain and fatigue, dry eyes and blurred vision.

Very helpful: Measure the distance from the bridge of your nose to your computer screen (laptop or desktop), and take this measurement to your eye exam. The American Optometric Association recommends that the computer screen be placed 20 to 28 inches from the user’s eyes.

So-called “computer glasses” can even be made with lenses that selectively filter out harmful blue light, also known as high-energy visible (HEV) light. In the blue and violet part of the light spectrum, HEV is a particularly intense light wave that is emitted from electronic devices, including computers, tablets and smartphones. (Certain bands of blue light, such as blue-turquoise, are found in the sun’s UV rays and are beneficial, aiding in color perception and vision sharpness.)

Studies published in the Archives of Ophthalmology show that chronic exposure to harmful blue light may damage the retina, the light-sensitive tissue of the eye, and may increase risk for eye disorders such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Single-vision eyeglasses designed specifically for computer work usually offer the best correction for heavy computer users. If you’re over age 40, however, you may want to consider using bifocal computer glasses. This allows you to see the computer screen clearly and read written material on your desk.

For eyeglasses that are designed to block out harmful blue light and glare, you may want to talk to your eye doctor about the following high-quality lenses: Crizal Prevencia No-Glare blue-light lenses,

If you are a computer user and prefer progressives, ask your doctor about these well-crafted lenses: Zeiss Business and Gradual RD,…and Seiko PCWide,

MISTAKE #3: Opting for fashion over function. Lots of people accept less than excellent vision in exchange for chic eyewear, but this can set you up for trouble.

Examples: If the frames are too big for you, your eyes will not be optimally centered, which could cause visual distortion…if you favor the look of small frames, there may not be enough room for the bifocal or progressive lenses you need.

Either way, you are increasing your risk for blurry vision, headaches and neck pain.

MISTAKE #4: Not getting the right fit. No matter what your prescription and frames, your eyes should sit precisely in the center of the eyeglass (this may not be the center of the frame) to see clearly.

Progressive lenses have the least room for error. If they’re off by even a millimeter, you may have trouble seeing at all three distances.

Important: A precise fit is something online retailers can’t offer. Sure, purchasing glasses online may save you money, but this could also prevent you from having clear and comfortable vision.

Better approach: Get your exam from an eye-care professional (optometrist or ophthalmologist), and purchase your glasses there for easy follow-up in case there are any problems.

Also: There is no reason to accept thick, “Coke-bottle” type lenses these days. The technology now is available for even very strong prescriptions to be made in relatively thin lenses.

MISTAKE #5: Not getting double-checked. Many people never revisit their eye-care specialists even if they suspect there’s a problem.

Good rule of thumb: It may take up to three days to get used to a new prescription and frames—but if you’re uncomfortable after that time, go back to the eye-care doctor who gave you the prescription.

Sometimes all it takes is a simple adjustment to your frames. In many people, for example, one ear sits slightly higher than the other, so such an adjustment is needed.

MISTAKE #6: Getting hooked on drugstore readers. You can’t beat the price! And these simple reading glasses do offer various levels of magnification.

However, because these readers provide identical magnification in both lenses, they’re a viable option only for people who need the same level of vision correction in both eyes—something that rarely occurs.

Many adults have a condition known as anisometropia, in which the eyes require significantly different prescriptions. In fact, a new study has found that nearly one-third of people over age 75 have the condition.

If you have anisometropia and try to get by with drugstore readers, your vision will not be as clear as it would be if you wore prescription readers—not to mention the ill effect it will have on your ability to complete your weekly crossword puzzle!