Masthead
One of my photos

Varifocals

February 7th, 2009 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 38 Comments · Life

I picked up my new glasses today, and it was very daunting.Because I now require reading glasses as well as distance glasses I decided to go for varifocal lenses and that is what was so daunting.   Maybe I take an over-simplistic view of things, but I always thought the idea of glasses was that you just looked through them: not so with varifocals – you get instructed in how to use them, and all sorts of warnings about them.

Apparently it takes some time to get used to wearing varifocals, and some people never do get used to them.  Its brilliant to not have to carry two pairs and keep swapping them, but weird having to learn how to use a pair of glasses.   The opticians said that if I don’t get on with them I can swap them or get my money back if I decide I can’t handle varifocals, and I can take up to three months to decide.

Sounded over the top to me.  How hard can it be to look through glasses?  Harder than I imagined actually.

I bought a Guardian today to test the glasses out, and it was difficult to keep looking through the right bit of the lenses.  I kept moving my eyes instead of my head and looking through the medium-range bit so it was all more blurred than without glasses at all.  I am told that it becomes second nature, but for a time I will be bobbing my head up and down a lot as I find the right angle for everything, and that all new wearers of varifocals look like a nodding dog in the back shelf of a car.  Thats my excuse for coking up the Kakuro puzzle anyway :)

The other thing to get used to is the fact that the prescription part of the lenses is only in a strip down the middle.  I was warned of this and told that it means you have to rely more on moving your head from side to side like you are watching tennis.  That is going to take a lot of getting used to because when I read I don’t tend to move my head much.

What they didn’t warn me about is the disconcerting way everything wobbles when you move your head.  You know the effects they sometimes use on TV when going into a flashback?  When the picture is sort of tilted from side to side diagonally?  With varifocals its a bit like that.

At the moment I find it easier without glasses at all, but I know that just leads to headaches so I’ll persevere for now.   There must be a good reason the opticians allow a few months to adjust to this type of lense, and I think I have discovered it, and have to accept that if I do get used to these it is not going to happen overnight.

They look good though.  Jayne is happy and no longer calls me Harry Potter like she did with the old ones.  Unfair of her really – I laways thought they were more Alf Garnett than Harry Potter.

Tags:

38 Comments so far ↓

  • Gordon Seekings

    I know how you feel on this one as I got my first varifocal pair a couple of years ago as I got really cheesed off with putting reading glasses on/off. I decided after a week that they weren’t for me but after a chat to the staffer in Specsavers she reckoned that the total lens size was too small.

    As a result I went for another pair (at no cost to me) that had a much larger lens and by definition the “reading” part of the lens was bigger.

    No problems since.

    So assuming you have varifocals with a small total lens size that may be the problem!

  • Skuds

    True. I do have a smaller lense size, as is the fashion these days.

    Much as Jayne prefers the look of them, I may have to think about something with a bit more reading area but that is not the real problem.

    My computer screens are far enough away that I actually use the mid-range and not reading part of the glasses so its strange getting used to using that part for screens and a different part for books.

    Still early days yet. I’ll try and give it at least a few weeks or a month and think about changing then if I haven’t adjusted.

    The real challenge is the WSCT and their attachment to the broadsheet format. If the paper is spread on the table I am using one part of the lense for stuff at the top of the page and a different part for stories at the bottom of the page!

    • john

      hi , i just got my first pair of varifocals yesterday ,what a joke .took mine back next day, and got the next ones up why does,nt the optician explain to you that they are three different prices ,that the cheap one should not even be sold ,that there is only about a quarter of an inch of actual lens going through the center of the glass, than the next higher priced about half inch of actual lens ,so you are not trying to see through virtualy a pin hole of actual lens, i live in uk and the goverment help pay with my glasses,i think these opticions are giving people the cheapy glasses ,and most of them dont realize, if ihad walked in his shop with cash ,he would have introduced me to the better ones ,

  • R Sodwind

    I’ve been using varifocals for 4 years now and have no problem with them at all. It took around a week to get used to them (driving and using stairs are the most hazardous) but after a while I started getting a stiff neck. As I sit in front of a PC all day I guess this was due to having to hold my head at a slightly different angle. Following a couple of visits to the Osteopath the neck pain was resolved and I’ve had no further problems.
    At present I’m due for another eye test (should be every 2 years but it’s been 4) and on shopping around I’ve noticed a huge difference in price for replacement varifocals. At Specsavers I originally paid £59 and this has now dropped to £49 although the lenses are said to be much improved. However, at Vision Express I was quoted from £300 to £500!!! Boots quoted me £350.
    The difference is supposed to be a wider field of view but at that colossal price difference I would expect to be have 360 degree vision ;) .
    So, as I say, I’ve had no problems for the last 4 years so I’ll stick with the cheaper versions.

    • Dinalt

      Just picked my first pair up- oddly had no problems at all adjusting to them – probably because I’ve been moving my old glasses up and down my nose like someone in a film playing a victorian gent (if you know what I mean).
      The only thing that that is slightly annoying is that they’re not as clear for reading as I’d hoped (since this was the main reason for changing however watching the tele / using the pc seems better – btw if you have problems with a stiff neck looking at the pc try lowering the screen you should be able to see the top of the bezel (ie you should be looking down at it not straight ahead).

  • David

    I have the same problem with my varifocals. They give me headaches. I dont know whether I am looking through the wrong part of the lense half the time.

  • Keith

    Hi Skuds. So, nearly a year on – did you ever get used to varifocals? I’ve preferred them for years and found they soon became second nature. I know my (Norwich) specs maker well, so I got my current pair with the reading segment positioned a lot lower than standard, overall lens depth being just 34mm . Much better! Some ‘heavy users’ of monitors keep single-vision specs alongside the computer solely for screen use, the prescription being calculated for their eye-to-TFT distance.

  • Skuds

    A mixed experience. I wear them more than I wore my old glasses. but still have some trouble getting them right for reading – wishing I had gone for larger lenses with a bigger reading area now.

    I don’t get dizzy or anything, but do quite often leave them off in the evenings. The thing is I only have a very mild prescription so sometimes I forget I am not wearing them until I try to read the credits after a TV show or something like that.

  • Steve

    After struggling with my trusty old goggles for more years than I’d admit too I elected to go for Varifocals. Went to local Specsavers store. Nice people, very helpful, good choice of frames (but forget the old 2 for 1 gimmick) and collected my first pair of varifocals a few days later. I am very pleased with the way my new glasses look. Unfortunately I can’t see a thing. After persevering for 5 days I went back to Specsavers and explained my problem. Lots of adjustments and half hour later things have gone from bad to worse. Fortunately Specsavers give you 30 days to get used to them but I am unsure as to whether I ever will. I can’t get used to the blurring, the headaches, and my poor eye muscles trying to cope with not knowing what bit they’re supposed to be looking through nor my poor neck trying to compensate. For those that do want to give them a go – good luck. One piece of advice I would offer to anyone going to Specsavers, do go for the ‘Taylor Made’ lens option. It is very expensive but I am sure will help make all the difference. I went for the ‘Elite’ (the next one down) which are £50 cheaper and I wish I’d specified the top of the range lenses.

  • Henecky

    I’ve had two attempts at wearing varifocals but they just don’t suit me. I get along just fine with bifocals (for distance and reading) – but then when I’m in the office all day and on the computer a lot of the time I wear a pair of single vision readers (cost me £19.99) which are just perfect! We are all different and one size certainly doesn’t fit all.

  • Andy

    Got my first pair of varifocals two days ago. Feel like I am drunk wearing them and a bit annoyed with needing to move my head up and down. Not to sure if they suit people using computers day in day out. Well I am an optimist and hope things are getting better.

  • PeterE

    I got varifocals earlier this year, but reached the conclusion they weren’t really suitable for intensive computer use, as you look at the screen through the narrow intermediate section of the lenses and thus have to keep moving your head up and down, and crane your neck to see the top of the screen. I have gone back to using my old pair of distance glasses, but next time will consider getting single vision lenses with the intermediate prescription for computer use.

  • miggletop

    It’s “lens” not “lense”

  • Miga

    At first I almost stopped using varifocals because my eye just wouldn’t adapt to it, then I tried with varifocals contacts and I never looked back! Don’t know what’s the reason because AFAIK the technology is similar…

  • john

    i got my varys today ,i am so disappointed and excuse the pun, disillusioned,i am a taxi driver,there is no way i can be turning my head all the way to right and left and front at every corner i need to turn, my eyes have to be were my head is pointing to focus, you cant just glance useing just the eye left or right in the slightest or they are out of focus,as for reading or on laptop,even more so,,,, i can read something in middle of screen if keep my head perfuctly still .but goes out of focus on both sides ,i have at to put my old faithfulls on to type this,other wise been here all night, screen wobbles.

  • zummerset

    Started using varies 2 years ago.Strange at first, especially when looking down at a golf ball !!
    Went to Asda to pick up my new ones, fed up paying 3-400 pds, waste of time. The short sight is really good but when I look long distance everything is blurred. Went back, re-teasted, still the same. Told to go away and try them for a couple of weeks. People are asking why I am ignoring them, can’t see them that’s why.Going back after Xmas to sort it out once and for all

  • john taxi driver

    got my first varys in oct last year, no good whatsoever, i was under the inpression that my local spec maker had sold me cheapies ,even though i paid to have the best, called him all the names ,as you do…i will go in tomorrow and apolagize . cos i have just paid top money at specsavers for taylor made ,and are exactly the same . i think the answer is deeper lens ,cos its the reading part of the lens that is crap,and i need that part of the glasses to be as good as the top part of glasses i thought on specsavers web sight that what it demonstates ,load of crap, will let you all know when i take them back and get deeper lenses ..john

  • Greenjo

    I got mine 3 days ago, and have worn them all day today (Sunday). They’re fine for watching the telly, and jobs where you don’t move your head much, but it all starts swimming at the edges with too much movement. Everyone who I’ve spoken to who has them says it takes a week or two to get used to them, then they’re great, so I’m persevering. Actually driving isn’t too bad. I think one’s brain has to adjust…….

  • Mike

    Been wearing varifocals for the last 5 years, love ‘em! Initially it’s a question of the correct size of lens & your brain getting used to automatically placing your eye in the correct portion of that lens for distance, midrange or close work, you have to persevere. It took me about a week before I became comfortable with them & no problems since.

  • K

    Got my first pair of varis in 2010 from Specsavers and they were fine. As they were only a weak prescription, I needed to get a stronger pair last December. I have spent the last 3 months trying to get a pair that I could see out of, again from Specsavers. Eventually, about 5 eyetests later, I got a pair that I considered useable, but did not like walking about in them (even although I had requested they move the split/distance line down slightly, they said it had to be 19 mm from the bottom of the frames), so I have had to get another pair of distance only specs, at more expense. So even although I can see OK ish through these, I feel sometimes that I need to slide them down my nose to an uncomfortable position to see clearly. I also would not like to use them for driving too far on roads I was not familiar with. I think the frame manufacturers need to look a designing suitable frames for varifocals for driving (ie no thick sides that block your vision), as most of the nice frames, the lens areas would be too small. But not those hideous 80′s throwbacks that seem to be starting to appear, they are just too large !!!

  • Dorothy

    I have recently got Varis. Distance not good at the moment, but I will perservere for a week before I go back. Got them at Specsavers so there should not be a problem reverting back to two pairs. Will let you know if it is as easy to change over as they say it will be. Interesting!

  • Sue

    Very helpful thread all round to a new and slightly anxious varifocal wearer on her second day. Main difficulty as for many of you is the computer but Dinalts advice to slightly lower your screen has mad a huge difference (and make sure your screen is no more than arms length away either). I went for the bigger lens simply because I liked the slightly retro 60s frames that were in the £89 range in Specsavers. Very glad I did too. Found Specsavers to be very helpful on the whole but as Steve says…forget the whole two for one gimmick because its only true if youve got plenty to spend in the first place..and also having told them that I spent all day on a computer screen, It might have been useful if they had advised me to lower my screen!

  • Sheila

    Very interesting comments. I got Varifocals for the first time today. I’m not quite comfortable but am hoping I can get used to them. It seems strange to have to make an effort to see properly with something that is supposed to make you do just that! We’ll see.

  • hild

    hi…this is my second time for wearing varis…the first time i got them from vision express two years ago ..i couldnt handle them so they put a clear lens in for me so i could see long distance and short distance(i need a know the name of these lenses)…they cost me £355 two years ago so this time i went to specsavers…£268 you do not get them any cheaper…just a free pair of sunglasses..well i got my new specs thinking they were gonna be the clear ones….NOT..what a bother i had with specsaver trying to get this lens changed to the previous ones i had…trying to explain what i had before and one of the assistants who was serving me rolling her eyes at the manager…so they seemingly took the glare of them..an hour later and they were still the same…i actually had the assistant saying to me the varifocals i was wearing i would not be able to read with them..what the hell does she think ive been doing for 2 years..i walked out there very hot and frustrated..so my husband phoned and had a good word with them and im getting a refund and going back to vision express x

  • SheilaG

    I’ve had my varifocals for a couple of months and actually googled this site today because I was beginning to think I had a brain tumour as I constantly feel dizzy and nauseous, so it’s reassuring to know it’s probably the lenses!

    As I walk outside the ground always seems to be on a curve – horrible! I also totally agree with the taxi driver that they are dangerous for driving: the first time I drove in them I nearly had an accident as I simply didn’t see a car to my right and I now wear my contacts for driving.

    I think the frames I have are actually too small for the lenses – I know the optician said he could just fit them in so I really feel that the alignment is not correct. I sit in front of a computer screen all day so obviously not using the correct part of the lens…..

  • Robin

    Had Varifocals for about 18 months now, never had any issues with them, using them just seems totally natural to me (despite the normal warnings about driving and stairs). I was told (Vision Express) not to go for a frame with too small a lens, and never been annoyed by the need to move my head, and don’t remember being offered any choice in the width of the readable bit.

    Went get a sight test today, being a heavy computer user (as a computer technical specialist),my employer pays for the test and eventual computer orientated glasses.

    Whilst I was waiting to be seen by the optician I was surprised by the variety of choice (and cost) in the range. The offerings from Synoptik (I live in Sweden) for the lenses ranged from approx £130 to £650 depending on the usable area.

    Fortunately my prescription hasn’t changed enough to warrant new private glasses.

    I was expecting to be offered single vision lenses more suitable to the screen distance, but instead was offered computer orientated varifocals with a profile more suitable for computer use. Actually there was a choice of profiles according to what you want to see, ranging from only the screen, to allowing you to see the rest of the office over the top of my screen.

    We will see how these work, I was told that I should find them more comfortable as would not need to tilt me head back quite so much, and the icing on the cake is that they will only cost me £15 due to my frame choice.

    Conclusions, to summarise from this thread :-
    1. Don’t choose frames with an overly small area.
    2. Be aware that cheaper lenses might have a narrower area usable for reading, so you might have to move your head.
    3. Move your computer screen lower so you look down on it. I find that, having a desk that allows you to change the height, standing (or resting your bottom on a moderately high stool), makes it easier to look down.
    4. Check out the availability of a more computer orientated lens profile

  • Bernadette

    Just wanted to say i am having a nightmare right now.
    I picked up my new varifocals just under 2 weeks ago -never had them before- i have been wearing contact lenses for so many years now.
    Anyway i tried to get used to these new varis and wore them indoors for just under a week. I know now i will never get used to them as they make me very sick and give me the worst headaches i ever had. To make it worse i tried to drive in them last night and it was virtually impossible. everything was a blur which was very scary!

    Last Saturday i went to Specsavers again to be tested for new contacts but got a shock when the optician told me she could not let me have any for at least 6 months as my eyes were lacking in oxygen etc. As i have always worn them this came as a shock to me. I have an appointment for today as i have been putting eye drops in. If my eyes haven’t improved she is referring me to the doctor.
    I have no idea where to go from here and have had to revert back to wearing my old glasses for the time being which isn’t much good either as i do very intensive computer work with my job and cannot see close up. I was fine before with my contacts and just used reading glasses to see the computer but now i haven’t a clue what to do.

    It has made me think about getting eye laser. I have an initial consultation booked this Saturday with Optical Express and hoping to get Lasik Wavefront (unless otherwise advised) I used to think i had a very complex prescription but the only real problem is the fact i have astigmatism which they say they can do so fingers crossed.

    The varis have put me off trying bi focals so right now i feel like so upset as i don’t know what to do for the best until i hopefully have the laser done.

  • Claire

    I am trying to get used to varifocals as we speak. Generally it’s not too bad. the problem lies with computer work. I’ve been wearing Occupational varifocals for about a year which are OK for computer work but not for the distance or reading part. However, I wanted to have just one pair of specs.

    I don’t think I will ever get used to wearing normal varifocals for computer work. The parts of the screens I use are all over the screen. I find I am moving my head like a bobbing dog! And getting neck strain to boot!

    I thought it was just me having difficulty as everyone I ask always says – ‘best thing since sliced bread!’

    I will persevere – for now….

  • Lynne Connolly

    I have very bad eyesight, and now I need reading glasses. Can’t wear contacts, and I’m not suitable for laser treatment. Would still have to wear glasses after, so no point, really.
    All I can say is thank goodness for varifocals! People kept giving me horror stories, but I took to them almost straight away.
    I’ve always had thinned down lenses and good quality varis, so that might be helpful. Also, I always pick a lot of frames that I like and then ask the assistant which ones are most suitable for varis.
    Had a shock last week. Decided on a change of frames and went to Vision Express. They wanted to charge me £670 for two pairs! They don’t factor the cost of the lenses in. Went back to Specsavers and got two pairs for £250. I asked Specsavers how they did them so much cheaper, and the assistant said, “Bulk buying,” which makes sense.
    I’ve always been happy with Specsavers, but they are a franchise and so it depends on the opticians running it. My old optician moved to start a branch of Specsavers, so I moved with him. He keeps things to a very high standard.
    My varifocals cured the crippling headaches I used to get. I’d never go back to single vision.
    When I get a new prescription, I get a pair of the old ones made into sunglasses. Costs about £10, so a good tip.

  • Carol

    I’ve been reading other peoples’ comments with interest as I got my first, (and probably last) pair of varifocals yesterday. I find they are okay for distance, provided I look straight ahead. Would not dare to drive in them as the blurriness when you turn your head slightly is unnerving. I find it impossible to read a book, or look at the computer screen with them. I know they say it can take some time to get used to them, but I will be going back to Specsavers in the near future to get an alternative!

  • Merle Taylor

    I had to find a site that could endorse my experience. I have a -6 odd short sight, reduced by an astimagtism, but from the age of 6 (am now 55), with the help of regular myopic specs, had 20/20. Contact lenses were a nightmare over the years, but finally Acuvue produced a soft lens I could wear – all good so far.

    About 7 years ago, I had to address the fact I couldn’t read…! For a long time, I just took off my specs and looked like an idiot as I rubbed noses with the newspaper. Fine and comical when you are at home. This was before I started major computer work.

    Tomorrow, I have to ask my optician when I first took variafocals, because tonight, for the second time in a year, I crashed onto the pavement having missed my footing as I climbed onto the kerb, I, landed heavily and I thought I had broken my fingers. Far worse have been the feelings that ‘I am not here’; lightness in the head, feeling perpetually scared that I might crash the car, get run over, feeling out of control, apparent memory lapses (because I couldn’t ‘fix’ anything in space. Bad neck pain, total loss of self-confidence…because I didn’t trust myself. I feel spaced out all the time.

    Incredible as it sounds, I did not make the connection because I have been dealing with an ongoing major family crisis, and I thought it was just severe stress to the extent one of my doctors wanted to send me to a psychiatrist, and maybe getting old. My mother and father both had/have dementia, so I have been extremely anxious …

    I came back tonight after the pavement episode, put on my old myopic glasses and instantly felt normal and in control. My 22 year-old son wanted to see the effect the varias had on him, and he promptly fell down the stairs, told me he felt lightheaded and dizzy and said everything kept moving. he told me never to wear them again.

    There is no doubt these lenses are fine for most people. There are those like me for whom they are incredibly dangerous. And no, they were not cheap – I think the lenses alone cost £600.

    As I cannot see the computer screen, I will have to take up the suggestion of the surgeon at Moofields to have laser treatment for the myopia. If I wear glasses for reading, then so be it. I’ve worn them in some form for 50 years, but at least I am not insane and losing it.

    There are those who never get used to them. I am one of them. I hope this post helps.

  • Dave Brown

    Soooo glad I found this thread, I thought it was just me being picky. Picked up my first pair of varifocals from Vision Express Friday 3pm, taken back for a refund at 4:30pm and back to my old prescription.

    Why so quick? Like others have stated on this thread, they are bloomin dangerous! I work with large computer screens every day and to keep moving your head left to right like you ar ein a tunnel to maintain focus is, quite frankly, ridiculous and although some people put up with it, well, you shouldnt have to.

    I knew within 5 minutes that driving would be dangerous, the cars going in and out of focus all the time, and it felt like I was a horse at the starting gate with blinkers.

    Got my refund and will NEVER try again, they are not a solution, only ever a compromise, and these opticians should tell you that from the outset quite frankly. It annoyed me that when I went back, they looked at me like I was mad for giving up so soon, but in reality, if you have worn glasses for many years, you might need a couple of weeks to adjust to them, but you KNOW instantly whether you would ever be able to adjust to them.

    They should take more time before selling them to you to actually find out what your daily lifestyle activities are, because even the manager admitted at the end that if I was sitting in front of wide screen monitors all day, varifocals probably wouldn’t be a good idea… Seriously, couldn’t they have asked a few questions in the first place to save them and me a wasted transaction!

  • Ivor Josephson

    I’ve been muddling through with a pair of readers from Tesco since my prescription specs got stolen about 12 months ago. Recommended to my local independent optometrist by a friend. I need to be able to read small print, use a monitor and also drive. Decided to try varifocals and she recommended I get the dearer lenses because they have less distortion at the edges. Got them two weeks ago, she suggested I walk around in them for a couple of days before driving with them. They are absolutely brilliant. I didn’t get any special promotional deals or offers so I may have paid a little more than at one of the chains but frankly I don’t care. She got it spot on first time and that’s what counts .

  • Jim

    I wish I’d read this post two weeks ago . . . I bought the highest price Essilor varifocals having “warned” the optometrist that I did a lot of computer work, and thinking that if I poured money into the lenses, they had to be good.

    Bad move. They are worse than the cheap ones I got from Specsavers several years ago: at screen distance, I can only read about five words at a time on my PC without having to move my head around like a demented chicken.

    Essilor have a promotional chart with star ratings and photographs on it which make you think they have solved the “hour glass” problem with their “Physio” and “Ipsio” lenses.

    Well, you need to tell your optometrist EXACTLY what angle through which you need to be able to move your eyes before you reach the edge of the usable area. In the case of the average 17″ screen, that’s about 42 degrees. Don’t settle for anything less.

    • Jim

      Jim here again. I have a VERY patient optician who has now tried no less than 4 different varis on me, all of them with an identically narrow corridor, and all absolutely useless for computer use.

      I just hope I’m not paying!

      I use a 1-dioptre correction for distance which is quite small. Most of my problem lies in being unable to focus in on close-up (presbyopia).

      It seems from lots of research that the narrow corridor just MIGHT be the result of the optician having set the reading part of the varis at too high a strength.

      Oddly, Essilor do not seem to be able to test the lenses they have made to be sure that they made the lenses they thought they made, to confirm or deny the bad experience I claim to be having.

      I notice that all the manufacturers e.g. Zeiss use an almost identical advertising chart promoting THEIR varis, so it’s little use hoping to find a “better” manufacturer.

      I think after all that I am going to have to give in, and settle for two pairs of glasses: one pair of bi-focals with Reactolite for outdoors, and an “occupational” pair of glasses tied to the PC monitor. Ugh.

      • Jo

        I’m on day 2 of my first pair of varifocals and I’m not happy. I dont like the swimmy effect I’m getting and I dont like having to keep moving my head around.

        What I fail to understand, and I hope somebody will enlighten me and not call me thick – Why the fuzzy bit at the sides? Why is there just a tunnel in the middle for the good bit – for distance? The reading bit at the bottom is OK. I paid nearly £500 for these, I’ve been assured by the optician they are the “best” – I havent scrimped :/

  • dorothy

    Im wearing my new varis now and after reading all the comments my neck is killing me. Distance is great but reading is literaly a pain in the neck. What do I do , I will go back to the optician again .

  • Anne

    I’ve used varifocals for 4 years. They take a little time to get used to. Ive gotten my new prescription glasses from Specsavers. Nightmare. Can’t see my computer screen, it’s almost like someone has set 2 transparent sheets of writing on top of each other then moved one slightly. I’ve tried all angles of the lenses. I’m going back to the opticians in 2 days, I can only guess that it’s not the right prescription as I can see better with my old glasses than the new ones costing £300.