You’ve noticed you’re straining to read fine print and pushing your phone further away from your face.

What now?

The good news is you aren’t stuck with your grandpa’s bifocals. You actually have a lot of options (both glasses and non-glasses options).

This article is going to focus on your glasses choices. Here are your glasses options to help your up-close vision:

Reading glasses (non-prescription glasses)

Reading glasses are exactly how they sound: glasses that you put on when you want to read.

Usually, people buy these glasses without a prescription, but there are some reasons why you might want prescription reading glasses.

Your reading prescription is different from your distance vision, so expect these glasses to make you blurry when you look far away (if they don’t, see why reading glasses help me see far away?)

Here are the advantages of over-the-counter reading glasses:

  • extremely cheap options available
  • you don’t have to find a “sweet spot” in the lens (the entire lens is the reading prescription)
  • can be used over contact lenses

Here are the disadvantages of over-the-counter reading glasses:

  • make you blurry far away (you’ll have to take them off)
  • likely not a good option if you’re blurry far away too
  • cheap lens materials that can lead to glare on computer screens
  • often lack style and can look cheap

All but the 1st of those disadvantages can be fixed with prescription reading glasses. So if any of the final 3 disadvantages bother you, talk to your eye doctor and he or she’ll likely be able to find a fix.


Whenever I mentioned bifocals, the mood in the room changes.

People think of their grandparents, and they instantly feel old if you suggest needing bifocals.

The truth is many people could use bifocals once they hit 40 (and even some kids and college-age students use them!). With that said, you have other options if this isn’t what you want.

Bifocals are glasses lenses with a distance prescription on the top and then a line in the glasses.

Here are the advantages of bifocals:

  • you don’t have to take glasses off to read
  • they don’t have distortion to the sides like progressive glasses
  • the line dividing distance and reading makes bifocals easy to get used to

Here are the disadvantages of bifocals:

  • many people feel like the line is an “advertisement” that they are old
  • there may be a “gap of blur”–distance is clear, up close reading is clear, but the intermediate like computer screens may be blurry (this is more true for people over 50 because they need a stronger reading power)
  • may have to tilt your head up to see reading material of the computer

So, who are bifocals best for? People who are comfortable with people knowing they need reading glasses, don’t mind the cosmetic line, and don’t do a lot of computer work (or are under 50).


Trifocals are basically the same as bifocals except they have one more line.

I won’t spend a lot of time here because the pros and cons of trifocals are the same as bifcocals.

The only difference between bifocals vs trifocals is that trifocals’ extra line gives you the intermediate distance that bifocals may lack. The intermediate distance is most helpful for people who need to see at about arm’s length and are over 50 years old.

This makes trifocals a good choice if you like bifocals but are having difficulty with computer (intermediate) distances.


Progressives are lenses that have your distance at the top, and without a line, they “transition” to reading powers toward the bottom. Sometimes people call progressives no-line bifocal or trifocals. This isn’t really correct, but it gets the point across.

Progressives are what most people wear when it comes time for reading glasses.

Why? There are 3 major reasons.

Here are the advantages of progressive glasses:

  • the lenses don’t have a line or any sign that you have distance and reading in your glasses
  • they cover “all” ranges of vision: far away, intermediate distances, and close up reading
  • you don’t have to take progressives on and off

Here are the disadvantages of progressive glasses:

  • most expensive glasses option
  • some (especially less expensive designs) feel like things are blurry out to the sides
  • take getting used to since you have “multiple lenses” in one but no line to show you where

Most people adapt to progressives pretty quickly, but in my experience, about 10% of people don’t.

Who are progressives best for? I recommend progressives for most people who have a reading prescription and don’t want to take glasses on and off. If you are cost-sensitive or have past issues with vertigo or motion sickness, or don’t mind taking glasses on and off, you might do better with a different type of glasses.

Looking for non-glasses options?

Now that you have an idea of your glasses options, you may want to consider other treatments.

There are ways you can fix reading with contact lenses, laser surgery, and eye drops.

Click here for our summary of all treatment options and what’s coming down the pipeline.

Scroll to Top