A Lifetime of Glasses
I’ve been longsighted (farsighted) for as long as I can remember, and from about the age of 4, I’ve worn single vision glasses every day. When I was young, my eyes were capable of overcoming their shortcomings; even without glasses, I could focus at any normal distance. The glasses just made it easier, and prevented eye strain.
The lenses in my glasses used provide the distance vision, so all my eyes had to do was to focus the extra amount needed for reading — rather like people who don’t need glasses.
Everything was alright until I reached my forties. Gradually, I struggled to focus when reading. I had to hold things further away than before, and eventually it reached the point where I knew I had to do something.
Contact lenses have never suited me. One reason is that my eyes seem to end up very dry, making them difficult to remove. Another reason is that I find them hard to fit. Being longsighted means that I can’t see them on the tip of my finger, unless I’m wearing reading glasses!
My optician advised me to try varifocals (also known as progressive lenses). They also suggested slightly larger lenses than before. That made sense to me, because varifocals have different zones for reading, middle distance, and far distance. I didn’t want the zones to be too small, so I took their advice and got the larger size.
It was a mistake.
I could have probably lived with the size, but the real problem was the weight. At 35 grams, they were too heavy. So, in addition to trying to get used to the optical differences, they were physically uncomfortable if I wore them for more than an hour.
After a day or two, I went back, and got two separate pairs of glasses made up — one for reading and one for distance.
I used the two pairs for a couple of years, but it wasn’t easy. I found it very inconvenient to have to switch glasses frequently.
Imagine being in a supermarket, and wanting to read a price or ingredients label. It was a juggling act, switching back and forth.
If the children came up to show me something, I’d not be able to see it clearly without switching glasses, and sometimes I didn’t bother — so I was missing out. As time went on, I realised I’d stopped participating in certain activities, just because of the glasses.
That prompted me to give varifocals another try.
Determined not to make the same mistake again, my second pair of varifocal glasses were the same size as my regular ones. I also got the thinnest lightest lenses available. They weren’t cheap, but I felt that I had no alternative. They weighed in at 25 grams — 10 grams lighter than the varifocals I’d tried a couple of years earlier.
I spent a couple of days wearing them at home. I had to get used to moving my head vertically, to look through the most suitable part of the lenses. And when I walked around, if I looked down, my feet appeared blurry. That was because the bottom part of the lenses was really meant for reading, and my feet were out of range. When I eventually tried driving in them, it felt very strange — like my field of view was reduced. I thought I’d never get used to them!
There was a short period when I almost felt a sense of panic — if I rejected the new glasses, then what would I do?
Despite the problems, I stuck with them for a few days. And, like I do with all new glasses, I adjusted the frames a little bit at a time, to suit my personal preferences. (I’ve never been happy with the way opticians adjust them — they always seem to aim for a vice-like grip!)
After two weeks, it suddenly struck me that I barely knew that I was wearing the new varifocals. Except that I could read, see my phone, and see in the distance.
I felt confident and safe to drive with them, and I could do all my normal activities once more — without having to switch glasses every few minutes. I felt genuinely shocked that I’d adapted, and even tried on my old single-vision glasses for a moment, only to find that they felt strange!
The lower weight really did help a lot — and so did knowing that I had no real alternative.
If you decide to try varifocals, my advice is to get the thinnest lenses available, and give yourself at least two weeks to get used to them. It really does take longer than you’d expect, but it is possible, and it is worth it.
I’ve been using them for nearly three years now, and I’d never go back.