Oral & Vision Health Blog

How to Know When You Need Bifocals or Trifocals

Do you find yourself moving your book, phone, or newspaper further from your face to be able to read? You may need bifocals or trifocals. There are a variety of different factors that can impact our vision daily, such as age, genetics, and even your field of work. If you’re wondering whether it’s time for you to consider upgrading your old glasses to bifocal or trifocal lenses, here is how to know when it's time. 

What's The Cause? 

To know when you need bifocals or trifocals, you need to understand the problem they are prescribed to fix. Presbyopia is a vision condition that occurs as you get older. It usually surfaces when you’re in your early to mid-40s. What happens is that with age, the lens of the eyes becomes less able to focus on things that are close. Signs of presbyopia include:

  • Eye fatigue with headaches when reading close items.
  • Blurred vision when reading things at a normal distance.
  • Reading by holding reading materials at arm’s length.
  • Neck, shoulder, and back pain caused by tilting your head often to focus on the computer screen.

What’s more is that it is possible to have presbyopia along with other types of vision conditions, such as astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness. 


Bifocal has its meaning in the actual word. Bi means two and focal means focus...two focuses. Bifocal lenses help you see things that are both near and far clearly. Fun fact: The first bifocal pair of glasses was invented in the 1780s by Benjamin Franklin. Previously, people with multiple vision issues would walk around with two glasses, one for distance and one for reading.

You can be prescribed one of several types of bifocal lenses. There is the flat top bifocal lens, where the nearsighted lens is located in a segment in the lower portion of the glasses with a straight line along the top, curving into a D shape down to the bottom of the frame. The near-sighted lens can also take on a round shape, a narrow rectangular shape, also known as a ribbon lens, or take up half of the lens. Your optometrist will be able to tell you what lenses will work best for your situation. 


Trifocals also have their meaning in their name. Tri means three and focal means focus. As you progress into your 50s, your vision may become more... “challenged,” making trifocals necessary. This version of a multi-focal lens includes a third section, right above the lower section of the lens, which helps you see things that are near. It’s ribbon-shaped and helps you see things in between the far and near zone (that is 18 to 24 inches away). So, trifocals help you see far, near, and in between.

If you have been struggling with seeing from a distance, be sure to schedule an appointment with your optometrist to find a solution. Want to learn more ways to improve your eye health? Download our free Vision Care Through the Ages e-book! Filled with tips on how to conserve your vision health throughout the years! 

Download our Free eBook on Vision Care Through The Ages Now!

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