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Struggling with your new multifocals? Find out why!

Did you know that problems with multifocals are one of […]

By Published On: 15 December 20174.6 min read

Did you know that problems with multifocals are one of the most common issues with new glasses? Many people struggle to get used to their new progressive lenses, especially if it’s their first pair.

This post looks at some of the most commonly asked questions about these lenses.

How do multifocals work?

Also known as progressive lenses, these lenses are a blend of distance, intermediate and near vision, without any visible lines.  They look exactly like a normal pair of glasses.

They allow clear distance and near vision (for reading etc) and everything between.   Looking straight ahead, your distance vision is clear. In downward gaze, your intermediate and near vision are clear. (This is why going down stairs can take a bit of getting used to when you get your first pair)!

How come I’ve always been able to see with single vision glasses in the past?

One of the annoying things about reaching your mid forties is that your ability to change focus from distance to near starts to deteriorate. This happens to everyone (regardless of whether you wear distance glasses or not), and continues until you are in your late 50s.

If you wear glasses to see in the distance, you may find that you can take them off to read more clearly. If your distance vision is good without glasses, you’ll need a pair of reading glasses. Trouble is – they’ll blur you’re distance vision.

This is where multifocals come in. In theory, they allow clear distance and near vision without having to take off your glasses. In practice, they need to be tailored to your needs, measured accurately and carefully checked to make sure you have the best chance of success.

How long does it take to get used to them?

That depends on many factors including your personality.  How much stronger is the reading portion compared to the distance portion? As a general rule, the younger you are getting your first pair of multis, the easier they are to adjust to. There is not a whole lot of difference between the distance and near zones of the lens.

If you’re still struggling with your new lenses after two weeks of adjusting, it’s time to go back to your optometrist to discuss what’s going on.

What are the best multifocal lenses for my glasses?

There are dozens of different designs of progressive lenses out there! Which design will suit you best depends on your unique needs.

If you use a desk top computer a lot (like most office workers), a standard multifocal won’t work, as you will be looking straight ahead at the screen rather than down. In this case, a special type of lens will allow you to see your computer screen as well as your keyboard and will also give you distance vision if you need to walk around the room.

Your optometrist is the best person to make a recommendation on the type of lens that will best suit your needs.

How come I can’t see up close at eye level?

This is one of the challenges of the multifocal design; you can really only see things close up in downward gaze – fine for reading the paper or using a laptop; not fine when you’re lying on your back under a sink looking for where the leak is coming from, or under a car with a wrench in your hand.

Occupational hazard!

Certain occupations such as plumbing, car mechanics etc, do not lend themselves to progressive lenses.   The solution? You can’t turn the clock back, but there are a few options:

  • Wear a pair of single vision glasses suited to the distance you want to work at. The problem is, they won’t be clear for distance vision. (You can get a shallow frame that you can look over the top of).
  • Or opt for a pair of multifocal contact lenses (see right). Unlike spectacle multifocals, which have the reading section at the bottom, multifocal contact lenses allow near vision in any direction, including upward gaze. This makes them ideal for working in cramped spaces or with overhead instruments.

5 Tips for adjusting to your new progressive lenses

  1. Think about getting your first pair of multifocals sooner rather than waiting until there is a big difference between your distance and near vision. In your mid 40s, the difference in lens power is minimal and much easier to adjust to.
  2. When you pick up your new glasses, put your old ones away and don’t go near them!  One of the things that can slow down your adjustment to your new glasses is continually going back to the old ones. You’ve really got to give the multis a good go for the neural adjustment in your brain to kick in.
  3. When walking down stairs, bring your chin right down towards your chest. This allows you to see through the distance zone of the lenses, rather than the reading zone.
  4. Make sure your new frames are fully adjusted for fit BEFORE you are measured up for your progressive lenses. Correct positioning of the lenses is crucial to successful wear.
  5. And lastly, do discuss your lifestyle and work environment in some detail with your optometrist. Different designs suit different people and you may just be wearing the wrong type of lens for your needs.

Had a bad ‘multifocal’ experience? Don’t give up! Call The Eye Practice on (02) 9290 1899 or make an appointment online today.



  1. venessa 12 August 2020 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    Hi ive just purchased my first pair of multifocal glasses after having a eye test….i have excelent long vision but can’t see labels and screen on my ph without it being a squinting session….had the muktifocal gkasses 3 days and was told it taje up to two weeks or longer to adjust to them…some things are already great wearing them and some still blury…is this normal

    • Jim Kokkinakis 18 August 2020 at 11:37 am - Reply

      Venessa if you are having trouble with the phone it might be that you need more power in the bottom section of the multifocal or that the reading section has been placed too low for your individual posture requirements. Give it another couple of days and if it doesn’t settle you should get this reassessed by the original prescriber.

  2. Paula Migliore 21 September 2020 at 2:00 am - Reply

    I’m having a difficult time adjusting to multifocal glasses. My first attempt was with progressives. When I first put them on I can see good. The prescription seems great but in a short time my eyes are very irritated and strained resulting in blurry vision. If I wear them for several hours it’s a struggle and then my eyes will be very irritated and sensitive even the next day. My second attempt was with lined trifocals with the same results. I really want these to work but can’t seem to make that happen. Any suggestions?

    • Jim Kokkinakis 22 September 2020 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      This is difficult to answer, but it is possible that you have eye muscle coordination issues that need careful assessment.

  3. Angie Barkley 20 October 2020 at 1:33 am - Reply

    I have had my new multi’s for a week now and no matter what I can NOT use my laptop. I can read my books perfectly and use my phone but the laptop is blurry and my eyes hurt with the strain. My optometrist just says to keep wearing my glasses even though I can not use my laptop at all. Is this normal?

    • Jim Kokkinakis 21 October 2020 at 2:51 pm - Reply

      Using general multifocals are difficult on a laptop and even worse on a computer screen, which is usually higher and wider. You will need a different more specialised pair called extended reading lenses. More information can be found on our multifocal page

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