Saturday, December 15, 2012

Adjusting to Bifocals: It Was All a Blur

Photo by Ms. Tina. 
By 2009, I had been wearing single lens glasses for forty years.  I never seriously imagined myself ever wearing bifocals.  But that was the year I turned 47.

This post discusses

* Warning Signs
* Denial
* Physical Challenges to Adjusting
* Timeline

I have since learned that when people reach their forties, they usually acquire presbyopia, age-related eye trouble that often requires the use of bifocals.

When the optometrist informed me, “You need bifocals.”   I wasn't emotionally ready to make the switch. 

The assault to my ego was mild compared to the assault to my senses. 

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Walking requires you to look ahead to plan your next move while at the same time glancing down to ensure proper footing.  If I kept my head still and moved only my eyes up and down, I couldn't get my feet into proper focus.  The bottom half of my frames were calibrated to fewer than 12 inches.  If I wasn’t sure of the surface below my feet, I had to bend my neck. This allowed me to move my gaze to the top part of my frames so that I could see the ground beneath my feet.  I started to get a neck ache from more frequent use of those muscles.

Taking the stairs was no act of grace.  I had to slow down, hold the rail, bend at the waist a bit and bend my neck so that I could properly see each footfall.  Gone were the days of racing up and down the stairs with my arms full. I use the railing more, especially when wearing high heels.

Driving presented the greatest challenge. Think about how often drivers change their gaze: out the front windshield, over to the side mirrors, over the shoulders to check blind spots,  up to the rear view mirror and then down to the dashboard to monitor speed.  Each time I changed my gaze, I had to train my eye to find the correct half of my lenses for proper focus.  During the first week of adjustment, I actually switched back to my old lenses while driving. This regression is seriously frowned upon in the “how to” literature, but I was more concerned about my safety and the safety of others on the road, even if this meant my transition time would take longer.

And then there were the headaches. At the end of my first week, I was invited to attend a banquet with my husband. I sat at the table with my head in my hands.  Another diner asked, “Are you OK?” I had a headache that felt as though someone inserted a rail spike into my temple.

In addition, I was nauseated and had muscle tension in my neck in shoulders.  In hindsight, I should have skipped the banquet.

Luckily, these symptoms abated after about two weeks.  But if you know anyone getting new glasses, maybe take the elevator with them and offer to be the driver for the first week or so of their adjustment period.   And offer a little tea and sympathy—but remain stationary while doing so. 

[This is primarily based on my personal experience. See a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist for professional advice.] 



  1. I have progressive lenses. It does take getting used to. Good luck!

  2. The progressive lenses are a little better than bifocals, but I know what you are going through. I've been dealing with this for years now. When I am wearing my contact lenses, I can't see anything close up at all. I need reading glasses. However, when I wear my glasses instead of contacts, I can see small print, not just because my glasses are progressive, but if I take them off and have no glasses I can actually read if I hold the item close.

  3. I can't wear progressive lenses so have to have the bifocal line or circle. I had headaches for 2 weeks and had to take off my "new" progressive glasses to read. Went back to my eye Dr. who said there are a few folks like me whose eyes will not adjust to progressive. I tried computer glasses too and they didn't work for me either because when I would get up I could not see past my arm length! Such fun getting old.

  4. I am trying to do the mono contact approach with similar frustrations. I just want to SCREAM some minutes. Back to the eye doctor I go!

  5. Progressive trifocals here, about three years ago. It was a scary adjustment period, to be sure.

  6. JUST GOT my progressive trifocals yesterday (at 44 and after only having been wearing glasses - single lens - for two years) and am definitely struggling more than not... Can't simply look around the room for something or even shake my head "no" or nod "yes" without feeling like I'm IN the funny mirror... Not so funny :I I was told these could take a good MONTH for adjustment... I NEED glasses...for both distance and detail... I REALLY want to like these... Praying... Praying...

  7. I've been in mono vision contacts for over 20 years and love them. Bifocals are another story. I decided to get a backup pair of glasses. I didn't do progressives ... just the lined type. It's an experiment to see how I would do. I love the clarity with the glasses but it has given me tremendous headaches. I hope I can adjust.

    1. Vi: I hope the headaches to away. It took a week of constant wear for my headaches to go away after getting my first pair of bifocals. All my best to you.

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  13. Sorry that the comment function is now closed. This post was getting too many comments from businesses seeking clicks to purchase their products/services rather than from individuals sharing their personal experience. It was turning in to an advertising space. Sorry.