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Changes in vision seem to go hand in hand with getting older. Presbyopia, a common condition that occurs in middle age, causes changes in your eye’s ability to focus. These changes often result in the need for bifocals.
Bifocals were invented by Benjamin Franklin, who solved his own vision problems by taking the lenses from his reading glasses and distance glasses and cutting them in half. He then remade the cut lenses into a single pair of bifocals, with the distance lens on top, and the reading lens on the bottom.
Types of bifocal glasses
Luckily, we’ve come a long way since Franklin’s time. There are now several types of bifocal glasses. They include:
- Reading glasses. These glasses don’t need a prescription. They’re comprised of a clear lens that contains a magnified section on the bottom to help with near vision.
- Traditional bifocals. Bifocal lenses contain two prescriptions that have a clear demarcation between them. The top of the lens corrects for farsightedness. The bottom of the lens corrects for nearsightedness. The bottom may be constructed as any of these configurations:
- half-moon (flat top)
- narrow rectangle (ribbon segment)
- full bottom (executive segment)
- No-line bifocals. These lenses provide a smooth change in focus, from the top to the bottom.
No-line bifocals are sometimes referred to as progressives or trifocal lenses. Instead of containing two lenses of different strengths, progressive lenses have one lens with three viewing areas that gradually change in strength and magnification.
Progressives correct for distance, intermediate, and near vision. They don’t contain any visible demarcation lines like traditional bifocals.
Bifocal lenses correct nearsightedness and farsightedness in one pair of glasses.
The top of the lens contains a prescription for farsightedness. Your eye naturally looks through the top of the lens when you are driving, walking, or conversing with others.
The bottom of the lens contains a prescription for nearsightedness. This portion of the lens may make up the entire bottom portion, or it may be smaller and centered in the middle. Your eye naturally looks through this section of the lens when you are reading, working on a computer, or doing closer tasks.
Vision changes can gradually sneak up on you, till you suddenly realize you can’t see as well as you used to.
If you find yourself squinting at text that once was easy to read or your vision is blurry, see your eye doctor. You may need bifocal lenses or a change in prescription.
If you currently wear glasses but see print more clearly when you remove them, that’s another telltale sign that bifocals may be in your future.
Getting your eyes examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist is the only way to definitively determine if you need bifocals.
To use any online site, you’ll need a copy of your current eyeglass prescription. Prescription scanners, which are built into some apps, can’t read bifocal prescriptions.
Before you start scrolling, keep in mind that bifocal lenses can be placed into most eyeglass frames, provided they’re at least 28 millimeters high. Most sites that carry bifocal lenses allow you to sort for this feature.
There are many eyewear retailers online that can fill your prescription for bifocal eyeglasses or bifocal contacts.
There are over 2,500 eyeglass frames that can accommodate bifocal lenses on this site. To make shopping easier, EyeBuyDirect lets you sort your selection by brand, material, shape, and cost.
EyeBuyDirect has a virtual try-on feature. To use it, click “Try me on!” once you’ve found a pair of eyeglasses you like. This will take you to a virtual mirror, where you can upload a photo of yourself.
EyeBuyDirect carries Ray-Ban, Oakley, and RFLKT eyewear, as well as their own eyeglass frames brand.
Bifocal prescriptions cost an additional $29 over the cost of glasses.
Each lens comes with a 14-day fit and style warranty for a one-time replacement or refund, and a 365-day product warranty if there are obvious defects in materials or workmanship.
Two-day delivery, a feature on this site, is not available for bifocals.
EyeBuyDirect doesn’t accept insurance, but they will supply you with an invoice for reimbursement for your insurance company.
Glasses USA is known for deep discounts on designer and brand-name frames.
You can upload your own photo to use their virtual try-on feature, or use any one of several model headshots instead.
There are around 2,000 frames you can choose between that accommodate bifocal prescriptions. If you choose, you can sort the frames by gender as well as other features, such as brand.
This site offers a 365-day warranty, 100-percent money-back guarantee, plus free shipping and returns.
They accept insurance through multiple providers, including Humana and Anthem.
If you’re budget shopping, you may be able to nab frames here for $20 or less.
Zenni doesn’t carry designer frames but does give the option of shopping by style or genre. There’s a very large selection of colors and shapes to choose between, so you’re unlikely to miss the brand name when you shop here.
Zenni’s virtual try-on can be used with a still photo or with video, so you can see how your frames will look from multiple angles.
Returns can be made for store credit within 30 days. They have a no-refund policy.
This niche, New York-based company is owned by an optometrist and only sells no-line bifocals. They offer a small, stylish selection of frames for men and women.
There’s no try-on feature, but each frame has a descriptor that provides information about the facial shape it’s best for.
According to Just Bifocals, each lens they sell is selected for ease of comfort and adaptation. If you are unable to adjust to your lenses, they will replace them with a traditional, flat-top lens for a full refund, minus a $79 restocking fee.
This budget-priced website offers a moderately sized collection of frames for bifocals.
There are no brand or designer names, but you will find a nice selection of shapes, colors, and materials to choose from.
Frames come with a 1-year warranty and lenses with a 30-day warranty.
If you don’t need prescription eyewear, but could use a little help with near vision, this site may be a good place for you to shop.
ReadingGlasses.com sells a large selection of designer and brand-name frames for bifocals and progressive no-line bifocals. They also carry bifocal reading sunglasses and computer bifocals designed for prolonged screen time.
None of the eyeglasses on this site are made with a prescription. Instead, they have lens bottoms that come in varying diopter strengths.
Unlike magnification, diopter strength crystallizes near-vision focus. The top portion is clear and contains no vision correction. These bifocals aren’t appropriate for people who need far-vision correction.
If you aren’t sure what strength you need, you can buy the same frame in three strengths to try out at home and return the two you don’t need within 30 days for a full refund.
This large online retailer has over 12,000 bifocal frames available. Many brand names and top designer frames can be found here.
There’s no virtual try-on function, but you can use the site’s face shape guide for reference.
Frames Direct is an out-of-network provider for most insurance plans, so be prepared to pay for your glasses up front. You can then provide an invoice for reimbursement to your insurance company.
They offer a one-time 30-day free exchange on eyewear, or a one-time, 30-day return for a full refund on frames, minus 50 percent of the lens price.
If you prefer to try on frames rather than order them online, there are many options.
These include shopping at your optometrist’s office or at the optometrist that your ophthalmologist recommends. Shopping from a local retailer gives you additional benefits, such as stopping in for adjustments and minor repairs.
Brick and mortar national retailers that sell bifocals include: