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What Are Trifocal Lenses?

Shu Kie

Written By:

Shu Kie

Updated: 20 July 2024 •  
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As you get older, you may find that you need a new prescription to correct new vision issues that come along with age. This is especially important if you have pre-existing eye conditions such as hyperopia (farsightedness).
When you start requiring multiple prescriptions in one lens due to having both near and distance vision problems, your eye doctor might prescribe trifocal lenses. Never heard of them? Sit tight, we’re here to tell you everything you need to know.

What are trifocal lenses?

Trifocals are a special type of lenses that can correct three different ranges of vision: near, intermediate and far. These lenses have lines on them to outline the corrective area for each range of vision. Due to these zones, one might experience some blurriness between each focal range.
trifocal lenses vision segment

Trifocal lenses can correct three types of vision at once. Source: Twitter

The top portion of the lens corrects distance vision, which is helpful for activities such as driving. The middle vision corrects intermediate vision, which is for seeing things at slightly further than arm’s length. Lastly, the lower portion of the lens corrects near vision, which comes into play for close-up activities as reading and smartphone use.

What about trifocal contact lenses?

Trifocal intraocular lenses, or IOLs for short, can be an option for those with cataracts. This is a type of lens where a surgeon implants the lens directly into your eye. They’re a recent development in vision correction and the lenses are made from synthetic material such as plastic or silicone. Better yet, they also protect the eyes against ultraviolet (UV) rays.
As always, do consult your eye doctor before committing to any vision-correcting aid or surgery to get a professional assessment on what suits you and your needs best.

How do trifocal lenses correct presbyopia?

Apart from correcting near, intermediate and distance vision issues, trifocals can also help relieve eye strain, blurry vision and even headaches caused by eye conditions such as astigmatism.
Your eye doctor may also recommend trifocal lenses for you if you are diagnosed with presbyopia.
Also known as age-related farsightedness, it’s an eye condition when your natural lens no longer retains its flexibility, making it harder for the eye to focus clearly on objects up close. This is a natural condition that progresses as we age and happens to 1 in 4 people, according to a 2015 study by the American Association of Ophthalmology. It usually becomes noticeable around the time one hits their early to mid-40s.
It’s possible for presbyopia to occur in those who already struggle with other vision issues like myopia, AKA nearsightedness. As such, trifocals come in handy since they correct multiple ranges of vision.

What are the benefits of trifocal lenses?

Trifocal lenses are great and can help you with your day-to-day tasks. They have the ability to correct three different fields of vision, which works well for those who have blurry vision at different ranges.
As such, trifocal lenses offer excellent visual acuity and you even get a broader viewing area for intermediate and near vision. This is especially useful for those suffering from presbyopia.
Additionally, for those suffering from other vision problems such as astigmatism, you can get different prescriptions so you can see near and distant areas. Trifocal lenses are adjusted accordingly so you can comfortably see at different ranges of vision.
Another benefit of trifocal lenses is they’re easy to clean and maintain. You don’t need any special cleaning solution or have special skills – all you need is water and mild dish soap and you’re good to go.

Are there any drawbacks of trifocal lenses?

Like every type of prescription lenses, trifocal lenses do have their drawbacks.
Having so many prescriptions in one lens can make it difficult to see and adjust to at first. Your vision could be distorted if you were to look through the wrong part of the lens.
This is especially problematic during times when you have to look down. As the lower part of the lens only corrects near vision, distant objects may appear blurry when you look down. You might even trip or fall when you’re unable to see things in your way while moving.
In fact, a 2010 study found that even with proper training, those who wore distance-only glasses tripped and fell less compared to those who wore trifocals, bifocals and progressive lenses during outdoor activities.
Additionally, those using trifocal glasses might notice an “image jump”. This is when an image you’re looking at seems to move when you switch between different areas of the lens.

Comparing trifocals and bifocals

vision segment comparison between trifocal and bifocal lenses

Bifocal lenses only correct two vision ranges while trifocal lenses correct three.

Trifocal and bifocal glasses have some similarities due to both their lenses having lines to differentiate between different vision ranges. As you may be able to tell by the names, bifocal lenses are only able to correct near and distance vision. Trifocal lenses on the other hand are able to correct three segments — near, intermediate and far — making them more versatile for glasses wearers with various vision issues.
If you’re on the hunt for bifocal glasses, Mouqy has a wide range of bifocal frames you can choose from that can be fitted with bifocal lenses.

Comparing trifocals and progressive

vision segment comparison between trifocal and progressive lenses

Progressive lenses are more aesthetically pleasing to look at and easier to adjust to.

Trifocal lenses have clearly designated areas for different prescriptions, but as mentioned earlier, this can lead to a frustrating “image jump” when you’re moving about.
Progressive lenses not only don’t have these lines, but their prescription segments also transition much more smoothly from one to the next. Additionally, the lack of these lines makes the lenses esthetically pleasing.
However, while progressive lenses provide a more gradual transition between each range of vision, you may find that they’re more expensive.
The lack of lines may also be confusing at first and may take more time to get used to. Some wearers could even feel off balance or nauseous while wearing progressives.

Factors that affect the cost of trifocal glasses

The cost of your eyeglasses will vary widely depending on how much customization you need, what kind of frame and lens coating you prefer, and where you decide to get them. However, in general, trifocal lenses cost more than single-vision prescription glasses but cost less than progressive glasses.
The following are some of the cost-affecting factors:

  • Material of lensesThe most expensive lenses are high-definition lenses. For those with complex eye conditions, these lenses provide the most peripheral vision and also the sharpest vision.

  • FramesFrames have a wide variety of designs, and with that comes a wide spectrum of prices. You might find that progressive and trifocal lenses require more complex frames, making them more expensive.

  • BrandFrames and lenses from well-known brands usually cost more than generic glasses. However, if the brand is not an issue for you, you can find glasses of similar quality at even lower prices from lesser-known companies.

  • CoatingsAdding specialized coatingslike anti-reflective or anti-glare will make your glasses-wearing experience that much more pleasant, but they could drive up the bill too. These coatings can usually be seen in adaptive progressive lenses.


So, are trifocal lenses for you?

If you require multiple prescriptions to see clearly, then trifocal lenses are a great choice.
Now that you know all about them and how they work, you’ll be much better prepared if you need to pick out your own pair in the future.
However, if you suspect you already have presbyopia or farsightedness and nearsightedness at the same time, it’s strongly encouraged to seek a consultation with an optometrist or ophthalmologist to get your vision corrected before it deteriorates further.

Shu Kie

Written by:

Shu Kie

Shu Kie is Mouqy’s certified optician with over 5 years of experience in the optical industry. She earned her certification from Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO).