Trifocal lenses correct three types of vision: close-up, intermediate, and distance.

You may be more familiar with correction for distances far away and near, but you likely use your intermediate vision quite often. When you look at an object that’s a few feet away, like a computer screen, you’re using intermediate vision.

Correcting all three types of vision may be necessary as you age. Trifocal glasses and some types of contacts can do this.

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Trifocal lenses

The most basic type of trifocal glasses has two lines on the lens. This separates the lens into three distinct prescriptions.

The top part of the lens corrects faraway vision, the middle of the lens corrects intermediate vision, and the lower part of the lens corrects close-up vision.

There are other types of lenses that can contain vision correction for the three distances without the distinct lines on the lens. These are known as progressive multifocal lenses.

It’s possible to use traditional contact lenses to correct some, if not all, of your vision needs if you require trifocals.

Trifocal intraocular lenses (IOLs) may be an option for people with cataracts.

Traditional contact lenses

There are several ways to correct two types of vision if you need help to see faraway and close-up distances.

You can wear bifocal contact lenses that blend these types of vision correction in a single contact lens. Or you can switch between two different types of contact lenses — one for distance and one for nearby objects.

Bifocal contacts don’t address intermediate vision correction, but you could wear a pair of glasses to help with that range of vision when needed.


Another type of lens is one that a surgeon implants directly into your eye. These are known as intraocular lenses, or IOLs. IOLs are often used to replace natural eye lenses in people who have cataracts.

Trifocal IOLs are a recent development in vision correction. They’re made of a synthetic material, such as silicone or plastic, and have different zones on the lens to correct different types of vision. They also protect your eyes against ultraviolet rays.

If you need trifocals, you may want to discuss this option with your doctor.

Trifocal lenses can help you use all three types of vision so you can complete daily tasks without having to switch between different pairs of glasses or wear contacts in addition to single-correction or bifocal lenses.

There are a few conditions that may prompt you to consider trifocal lenses.


Worsening close-up vision is a natural part of aging and often starts in middle age. This is a condition known as presbyopia. Vision correction is the only way to address this condition.


A cataract is a clouding of the eye lens that affects vision. IOLs can replace cataracts to correct this issue. If you’re having surgery to remove cataracts, consider discussing trifocal IOLs with your doctor.

Trifocal lenses do have shortcomings.

Glasses with different types of vision correction may be difficult to use. You could find that your vision is distorted if you look through the wrong part of a lens.

This may be especially problematic when you look down. The lower part of the lens corrects close-up vision, so faraway objects may appear blurry. This can cause falls if you’re unable to see objects in your way when moving.

A 2010 study that looked at older adults found that with the proper training, those who were active had fewer falls when using distance-only glasses instead of trifocals while engaged in outdoor activities.

If you use trifocal lenses, you may also notice some “image jump.” This is when an image appears to move when you switch between different areas of the lens.

You may also find that the close-up vision correction with trifocals isn’t adequate for prolonged activities like reading or working with objects in your hands.

If you have an IOL, keep in mind that you may experience side effects from the implant, such as blurry vision or glare.

  • When you receive your trifocal glasses, ask the optometrist or eyewear vendor to fit them properly and teach you how to use them.
  • Wear your trifocal glasses all of the time.
  • Adjust your trifocal glasses so they rest properly on your nose and you can see through them as designed.
  • Look forward, not down, when you walk.
  • Find a comfortable distance to hold reading material, and avoid moving it when you read.

Bifocal glasses correct two types of vision, near and far.

Trifocal glasses also include vision correction for intermediate distances, such as when you look at a computer screen.

Trifocal glasses have three distinct prescriptions on the lens, indicated by lines, to correct faraway, intermediate, and near vision. Progressive lenses blend the prescriptions so that there are no lines on the lens.

You may find that progressive lenses are more aesthetically pleasing and don’t create an image jump when you look through different parts of the lens. However, keep in mind that they are more expensive and might not work for your needs.

Multifocal lenses like trifocals will cost more than glasses correcting just one type of vision. You may also want to look for special materials that make your glasses thinner and more comfortable to wear depending on your prescription and personal needs.

Trifocals with distinct lines separating your vision correction may be less expensive than progressive lenses, which are around $260. Your glasses could cost even more if you add any protective coatings or special materials.

Your insurance may cover some or all of the cost of glasses, but be sure to shop wisely when selecting trifocal or progressive lenses. Ask for a breakdown of the costs to ensure you aren’t paying for features you don’t need.

Trifocal glasses contain several different lens prescriptions and should be specifically attuned to your vision needs.

Make sure you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of certain types of trifocal vision correction with an optometrist to ensure that the type of lens you select is most appropriate for your vision and lifestyle.

Trifocal glasses and contact options ensure that you can view close-up, intermediate, and faraway objects. Talk to an optometrist about what will work best for your needs.