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Opinions on varifocals/progressive glasses please
Thread poster: Emma Goldsmith

Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:02
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Apr 17, 2014

Having managed fine with a pair of reading glasses and a separate pair for computer work for the last few years, my optician has now advised me to get varifocals (also known as progressive glasses).

I've been reading up on them and it seems there can be problems for people who use computers for long hours. I've seen complaints such as:
"Only the centre of the computer screen is in focus"
"I've adjusted my screen so I'm looking down at it and now I can see it fine so long as don't move my head at all"
"I have to move my head to read across a single line on A4 paper"

My optician says he can expand the mid-vision field to try to avoid these problems, but I'm still worried.
I'd love to hear from anyone who's happy with their varifocals, and other opinions too.

Thanks,
Emma


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Stuart Hoskins
Local time: 15:02
Czech to English
+ ...
Headaches Apr 17, 2014

I was suffering from headaches so my GP sent me to an optometrist(?). She said I needed varifocals and sent me to the "best optician in town" (in Prague). He gave me a few other tests, explained in detail what would happen to my eyes over the next 20 years, and said varifocals were nonsense for work with a computer screen (mainly for the reasons you mention). Instead, he adjusted my left lens so it was slightly "off" and told me to use those glasses just for computer work. No headaches for five months and counting. So you may not need varifocals just yet.

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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 16:02
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Better ask an ophthalmologist Apr 17, 2014

It is important that your eyes are able to adapt swiftly to various distances. Opticians usually prescribe lenses that deliver very sharp images for far and near, but it could be rather heavy on the eye to adapt. Better seek for a compromise, not fully sharp at long distance but good for work and reading and viewing tv etc.
I have been using varifocals since the 1970's and they are getting better all the time.
Do not choose the up-to-date frame models that are the shape of a computer screen 16:9 or even wider. Better go for a frame that is rounder. Otherwise you would have to pay for a large lens but get one that is narrow vertically, and the viewing area is very small. And make sure you order the best material you can get, so the weight will be low and the edges not so thick as with cheaper glass material.
When I chose my new glasses last month only one frame model was the shape I wanted.
All the others were super-wide-screen. They make no sense!

[Bearbeitet am 2014-04-18 05:41 GMT]


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Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:02
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Good glasses are expensive Apr 17, 2014

I started using varifocals about eighteen months ago and I'm really pleased with the result.

The only problem was the price My optician explained to me that the outer edges of varifocal lenses are not graduated and the smaller the non-graduated space, the more expensive the glasses are. Two-distance sunglasses (for reading food labels in supermarkets) and my working glasses cost me €800 (it was a special offer).

I started off like you, using reading glasses then I went on to what in Spain are called 'operational glasses' - lenses with two distances (one for looking at the screen, 80 cms away, and the other for consulting dictionaries, 50 cms I think).

I told my optician what I needed and she gave me exactly what I was looking for.

I had absolutely no problem adapting to the glasses I wear now: I can read at all distances and my glasses hide my wrinkles and the bags under my eyes


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:02
Danish to English
+ ...
Made me physically sick to wear them Apr 17, 2014

Here's the possible horror side of wearing varifocals:

Like you, I had (and now have again) different glasses for different functions. In my case, ordinary reading glasses, computer glasses for 60 cm distance, and TV / long sight glasses (useful for cycling, though I tend to forget them when I go out). My optician suggested varifocals and promised that if I didn't like them, she would make me three separate pairs of glasses without charging me for the varifocals. That was a win/win deal.

Got the varifocals and felt dizzy the moment I put them on. I thought this would pass as I got used to them, but after 2 weeks of dizzyness, feeling physically ill and having constant headaches, not to mention the fact that I had to move my head (not just my eyes) to read across any length of text, I gave up and went back to having three separate pairs of glasses. It IS a tiny bit inconvenient, but to me, it is far better than feeling ill all day long...

I have heard of other people who put on their new varifocals and adjust to them within a matter of hours. Just goes to show that we are all different.


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:02
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Varifocals for cumputers Apr 17, 2014

My optician recommended varifocals specifically for computer use. I have two screens, about 3 feet away, and everything is in focus through the middle of the lens. But if I look down, for example to consult a dictionary, everything in the lower part of the lens is in focus. An ideal combination. I have not experienced any side-effects such as headaches. One drawback is that everything beyond about 6 feet is out of focus, so I need separate distance glasses.

They were quite expensive – around GBP 250 several years ago. But worth it. One useful added extra - they came with sunglasses the same size as the lenses, and kept in place by small magnets.


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:02
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
My experience Apr 17, 2014

After needing just regular far-distance lenses for many years, I first had to switch to bifocals and later to trifocals. At first they were the old-fashioned kind with lines separating the three areas. I struggled with those for a couple of years. I couldn't get use to the lines and I had trouble with, for example, going down stairs or escalators. Finally I decided to give progressive lenses a try and they were great, I adjusted to them very quickly. I'm never even aware which area I'm looking through at any one time. A few suggestions though:

1) Your frames have to be large enough (vertically) to accommodate the three areas; you can't wear those very slim ones that are in style right now.

2) You need a monitor that is not too wide and you need to find a distance from your monitor that is comfortable for that middle range. My monitor, for example, sits at ± 20 inches (50 cm) from the edge of my desk, plus another ± 6 inches (15 cm) from where my body is. It probably depends on the strength of your lenses, how tall you are etc.

3) The monitor needs to be at its lowest possible height; When I look straight ahead, I'm looking at the top edge of my monitor, so that my eyes can easily focus down to where I can read the text without moving my head.

4) Take regular breaks, especially in the beginning.

All of these suggestions are for a PC, I have no experience with a laptop. It may be more difficult, since the monitor and the keyboard are together and both have to be close.

I also find it helpful to enlarge everything on the screen. I actually have two monitors, so that I can have the source PDF and the translation in Word side by side. I avoid having to switch from a printed copy to the screen.

Good luck with whatever you decide.


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Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:02
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Three-distance glasses work for me Apr 17, 2014

Peter Linton wrote:

I have not experienced any side-effects such as headaches.


Neither have I. In fact, I feel a lot more comfortable with my glasses.

One drawback is that everything beyond about 6 feet is out of focus, so I need separate distance glasses.


Varifocals with three distances are the perfect solution: the top for looking at a distance, the middle for reading the screen and the bottom section for consulting dictionaries or PDF files I've had to print. Although, very occasionally, I still need to stand under a direct source of light and use a magnifying glass for reading stamps and seals, etc. when I've been sent a really bad quality text


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Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:02
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Apr 17, 2014

Some very helpful advice here, thank you.

I think I'll give them a go so long as I can return them / switch to another solution if they're no good for me. And I'll look for some frames that have good vertical space.

I'm relieved that most comments are positive and I'm glad to hear that some people use varifocals successfully with two monitors.

Thank you also to the detractors for taking time to answer. It's very useful to hear your experience too.

Please keep comments coming!
Emma


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:02
English to Portuguese
+ ...
From the ophtalmologist to the orthopedist Apr 17, 2014

In ancient times, when I didn't wear any glasses at all except sunglasses, I used 15" CRT monitors like everybody else. They were all that was available.

Once I had the chance to try a 21" monitor for a few weeks. Same distance, screen 3 ft from my nose. After a few days I noticed that I had a pain in the neck from moving my head in all directions, all the time. I eventually found out that the ideal screen size for me was a 4:3 (not widescreen) 19" monitor, which was my choice when I switched from CRT to flat screen.

From age 41 to 50, one pair of reading glasses served for both small type and the computer screen. After that, my focusing range deteriorated somewhat. Since then, I have been using two pairs of glasses, one for reading small type, and another for the computer.

One of the vertebrae in my neck is not as strong as it should be, so this is - according to an otolaryngologyst who saw some X-rays of it - possibly the cause of the neck pain with the 21" monitor. If I used progressive or bifocal glasses, I'd have to abuse my neck again, to get the proper part of the lens between my eyes and the object. Therefore I don't mind swapping glasses whenever I need, which is not abusively often.

Just a thought...


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Clarisa Moraña  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 10:02
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
My experience Apr 19, 2014

Without glasses, I cannot see. I need three pairs of glasses: one for working in front of my PC and a second for everything else, except for reading. For reading I would need a third pair of lenses but... well, I use the same glasses that I use for translating.
My experience with varifocals was not good. Sure it was great not to change glases every single moment I switched between activities, and my adaptation to the varying distances and focal point was good, no headhaches at all. Besides, it avoided me the lost time looking for my missing glasses I had left who knows where! (I'm quite untidy).
But... they were a nightmare when I had to climb or go down the stairs at home, as I had to learn how to move my head -differently to I was used to- in order to be able to focus my view to the steps... It was very difficult for me to find the right angle for the lenses that would allow me to calculate the right distance to the floor when walking on uneven floors. One day, I was having a great countryside day with my daughters and I crossed a small river using a "bridge" made of big irregular stones. I misscalculated the distance from my feet to the stone, I fell to the river and a broke one hand bone. I stopped using varifocals, and I switch glasses whenever I need it.


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Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:02
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Glasses ordered Apr 23, 2014

Thanks for your comments, José and Clarisa. Against your advice (and even after reading your terrible story, Clarisa) I've gone ahead and ordered my varifocals.

I discussed all the responses I've received on this thread with my optician and he says if I don't get on with the glasses he'll try a different type of lens (the ones I'm getting are Zeiss) and if that doesn't work, I'll get my money back.

I'll post back here in due course to let you know how I'm getting on.


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Rachel Fell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:02
French to English
+ ...
Varifocals Apr 23, 2014

Hi Emma, I've nearly always worn glasses (except when I used contact lenses for a while), and I have worn varifocals for several years without problems. Finding a good optician who knows enough about the subject is important though, as not all may.

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Piero Intonti  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 15:02
Member
Italian to English
+ ...
varifocals and bifocals glasses Apr 24, 2014

HI, Hemma.
I have come across the same problem six months ago and I'm not able to solve it yet.
This is my experience.
Following my optician's suggestion, I tried and paid the bifocals lenses but I had many problems and , in brief, I was obliged to give them up.
At the mid -distance, in fact, when I have to watch on the screen, I see nothing.
When I have to see the keyboard, the downside part of the lens works well.
But when I switch to look again at the screen, nothing.

So far, my experience tells me that bifocals are absolutely wrong and unuseful.
At the moment, I'm using two different glasses, one to work at the PC and another to do other things, but I want to try the vary/multifocal glasses or the trifocals glasses ( taking no notice of the price).
Piero


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:02
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My wife's experience Apr 24, 2014

Emma Goldsmith wrote:
My optician has now advised me to get varifocals (also known as progressive glasses).


My wife got herself a pair (very expensive), and then it turned out that her mid-vision field was too small for her type of job (she's a school teacher, so she needs to be able to see "everywhere" without constantly turning her head in that direction), so she had to get a replacement set. She could not adjust to the first pair for a month, and it took her about 2 weeks to adjust to the second pair. She got very dizzy from it. She could not even safely drive a car for those two weeks while she got used to the glasses. We actually think that she may have benefitted more from bifocals, but apparently you need a certain glass thickness for bifocals.

I think that as a translator you need the ability to read small text on multiple areas of a computer monitor without constantly turning your head in that direction. I do turn my head slightly as my eyes dart across the screen, but not all the way. I think that with varifocals I would be forced to do that, and being a lazy mutt this would lead me to use less of the screen in the end.


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