At about age 40, many of our patients begin having difficulty focusing their eyes on objects up close. They now have to hold anything they are reading farther away from their eyes in order to see it clearly. A condition called presbyopia is a likely cause. It’s both very common and very treatable.
If you’d like an alternative to reading glasses, consider multifocal contact lenses. They allow your eyes to focus up close, far away and in between without the need for eyeglasses.
How multifocal contact lenses work
A single multifocal contact lens contains multiple prescriptions. There’s typically one prescription to correct up close vision, one for distance vision, and one for intermediate distance vision. This design lets your eyes smoothly transition for clear vision at different distances.
What’s the difference between multifocal and bifocal contacts?
Multifocal contact lenses have a range of prescriptions (optical powers) in the same lens. Much like progressive eyeglasses, multifocal lenses provide a gradual transition between the different prescriptions in each lens.
Bifocal lenses, on the other hand, have just two prescriptions in each lens. And there is a distinct edge between the near and far vision prescription areas of the lens. This can be a problem for some patients because instead of having a gradual transition between prescriptions, they have to learn how to visually switch between the two prescriptions. In addition, bifocals may adversely affect your depth perception.
Types of multifocal contacts
Manufacturers of multifocal contact lenses use either soft lens materials or “hard” rigid gas permeable (RGP) materials. In addition to conventional soft lenses, there are also advanced soft lenses made with silicone hydrogel. This material allows more oxygen to reach your eyes so they stay comfortable longer.
The most common multifocal lens design features a set of concentric circles. The circles cover the range of lens powers we prescribe so you can see up close and at different distances.
There are also blended designs that keep both the near and distance prescriptions close to the center of your eye (your pupil). This design mimics a natural viewing experience by correcting the specific points of aberration in your eyes.
Are multifocal contact lenses right for you?
We can help you determine if multifocal lenses are the best solution for you. Here are some key benefits and drawbacks to consider.
Key benefits of wearing multifocal contacts
- Sharper vision for the range of distances from near to far
- A less abrupt switch between prescriptions
- The ability to see in most conditions without extra eyewear
Drawbacks to wearing multifocal contacts
For some people, multifocal lenses may be:
- More difficult to adjust to due to a different viewing experience
- Accompanied by nighttime glare and hazy or shadowy vision during the adjustment period
- More expensive because of the increased complexity in design
Alternatives to multifocal contact lenses
Multifocal lenses aren’t the best choice for everyone. Bifocals may be the answer to correct your presbyopia. Other options include:
- Pairing reading glasses with normal contact lenses
- Monovision contact lenses, meaning you wear one lens to correct only near vision in one eye and one lens to correct only distance vision in your other eye.
- Surgical correction or lens implantation recommended by your doctor
If presbyopia has become a problem for you, we encourage you to make an appointment with us to discuss your options. Your eyesight and vision health are our top concern.