What is the Difference Between Trifocals and Bifocals?

Choosing the right corrective eyewear to improve your vision can be the difference between thriving in your everyday life and missing out on moments. When it comes to glasses, the myriad of options now available can be overwhelming. While all types of eyewear have a place and can benefit those who use them, selecting the perfect pair for your eyes and your lifestyle is essential.


One of the most common areas of confusion is understanding the difference between trifocals and bifocals. There’s a bit of overlap between the two, making the distinction challenging for those who aren’t eyewear experts. Lucky for you, glasses are our game, and we’re here to lay out the differences between trifocals and bifocals as simply as possible.


How do Trifocal Lenses Work?

As the name would suggest, trifocal lenses are designed to correct your vision at three different levels. Those levels are near, intermediate, and far. For example, trifocal lenses will have built-in correction for when you’re reading (near), looking at a computer screen (intermediate), and spotting something on the horizon (far).


The main advantage of trifocal glasses is their emphasis on the intermediate distance. Many people struggle with this range, yet it is a distance where good vision is very necessary. A large percentage of daily encounters take place in that middle range.


Trifocals use the top portion of the lens for distance, the middle section for intermediate, and the lower part for close-up. True trifocal lenses have lines that distinguish these sections. Progressive multifocal lenses, which include all three levels of correction without the clear lines, are available.


The advantages of trifocals are clear, but they are not without their challenges. They can be difficult to use, leading to a steep learning curve. For older adults, this sometimes translates to an increased risk of falling. It also can cause a phenomenon known as “image jump,” where an object seems to move as your eyes shift from one section of the lens to another.


How do Bifocal Lenses Work?

Similar to trifocal glasses, bifocals have distinct sections of vision correction. Instead of three such sections, bifocal lenses have two—one for distances and one for close-ups. Bifocals are relatively popular among those who require correction at both distances, and, despite their comparative simplicity, they do offer some advantages over trifocal lenses.


Bifocals are easier to use than trifocals, making the adjustment period shorter. Because they include only two zones, the sections for each distance are also larger than their trifocal counterparts. This reduces the occurrence of image jump, can be less disorienting, and makes them more effective for prolonged close-up viewing activities like reading.


Which Lens is Right for You?

When choosing between trifocal and bifocal lenses, it is important to have an open, honest, and thorough discussion with your eye care professional.


They can work with you to determine which lens will best fit your vision and lifestyle. Many eye doctors will even allow you to try on different types of glasses or provide you with a trial period. This gives you the real-world experience sometimes required to make an informed choice, especially if you have never used trifocals or bifocals before.


For more information on both lens styles, their advantages, and which might be right for you, be sure to reach out to your eye doctor. They will offer you invaluable insights and guidance as you make the best choice for your next pair of glasses.

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