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Varifocals - Common Issues And Their Solutions

Updated: May 27

Varifocals are a type of glasses lens that should give you clear vision at all distances from close up to very far away. When they’re tailored correctly, they allow you to forget about swapping to reading glasses every five minutes, and make it easy to see your car dashboard while driving, among a heap of other lifestyle improvements. The big question is, for a lens that promises so much, why do so many people experience difficulties with varifocals, resulting in disappointment, frustration and switching back to old-fashioned single-vision lenses?


Well, there’s usually a good reason for that and, as I tell my new varifocal customers, there are things we can do as dispensing opticians to make sure you have a better experience when you choose to have your varifocals tailored by Doctor Oculus.


Common Issues

Distorted Vision, limited field of view or swimming effects:

“When I look towards the sides of the lens my vision becomes distorted”

“When I move my head, I feel like the world is swimming”

“When I look at my iPad, I’m not able to get the whole page width in focus”

“Why do I have to lower my chin to see clearly in the distance”

Or the absolute classic - “Why do I have to lift my head to be able to read”


Before you read the solution, there is some hard truth to get through; No lens will ever be as good as your eyes were as a perfectly healthy 20-year-old and now you’re getting close to (or already sailed past) the age of 40, varifocal lenses really are your best option to regaining your lost ability to see.


Most of these issues stem from a quirk on all varifocals which is that they contain a central zone where the vision is optimum, and as you move your eyes horizontally away from this point it starts to degrade. This can be especially irritating when you first wear them or when you are doing tasks like using a computer or viewing objects spread across a table.


With that being said, a well-tailored varifocal should be comfortable, perfectly usable and not limit or negatively affect your experience. Most commonly, these issues are caused either by inaccurate measurements taken before crafting the lens or a choice of varifocal lens design that is not compatible with your lifestyle.



Example of the field of view restrictions seen through varifocal lenses while looking at a computer screen
Example of the field of view restrictions seen through varifocal lenses


The Solution

When I talk about varifocals, I often use the comparison of personally tailored clothing that fits and performs perfectly for you versus clothing that is bulk-made and designed to fit the most amount of people to a decent enough standard.


The trouble is though that when it comes to your vision and the uniqueness of each person’s lifestyle, the one-size-fits-all solution just doesn’t work, which is why you googled your varifocal problem and have landed at Doctor Oculus today.


The 4 steps to enjoying your varifocals


1) Correct and proper lens design selection

At the very top, varifocals are made by a huge range of different manufacturers, each with their own patents, unique machinery and ideas of what gives somebody the best vision. Below this, each manufacturer will produce a range of different types of varifocals that are suited to different prescriptions, lifestyles and budgets. At the bottom, each varifocal can be set up with different measurements, design parameters and bias given to different focal lengths.


That means, with such a mind-blowing array of options and outcomes, it’s vital that the correct type of varifocal is selected for you, and this is achieved using the results of a lifestyle consultation from your dispensing optician.


2) Tailoring and Measuring

A lens is only as good as the measurements taken. Great care must be taken to ensure that an accurate recording is taken of your pupil centres, your posture and how your new glasses frame settles when you wear it. Quite often, your dispensing optician will have to ‘compensate’ the measurements, that is to say, to use figures that are outside of the true objective measurements, to help you adapt or to account for lifestyle parameters. 


3) Using a suitable glasses frame

Most modern glasses frames are suitable for varifocal lenses, but not every combination of frame style and facial anatomy is. If your glasses are too wide, have a large frontal wrap, or are sitting too high up or too low down, then even the world's best varifocal design and measurements will produce undesirable results. This is again the role of a good dispensing optician to guide you into something that achieves your desired look and function.


4) Investing in good quality lenses appropriate to your prescription

Yes, varifocals can be expensive, especially when you choose extras like thinning or colour-changing designs, but you really do get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean everybody needs to go premium, the law of diminishing returns means that people with smaller prescriptions will benefit from the best lenses but they will get less benefit than someone with a higher prescription.


I always advise people to go for the best lens they can afford and give everybody a 2-year warranty on scratches and lens damage to protect their investment. I truly believe everyone will see the benefits that a properly tailored varifocal will provide and allow an entire month 


The Last Word


Once you walk out with your new varifocals there will always be a period of adaptation, even after you've considered all the steps in Varifocals - Common Issues And Their Solutions. This is because vision is created in the brain and all the eyes are doing is collecting the data. Adapting to change takes a couple of days but when all is said and done, as long as you’ve followed the 4 steps above then you’re certain to get the experience that varifocals have always promised but have so far been elusive!


Tailoring varifocals is our specialism. We're qualified dispensing opticians with years of experience at independent eyecare providors and we've brought that expertise and our ethos of affordability and ethical consultation to Digbeth in Birmingham. Book a Bring Your Own Prescription Appointment online today.


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