What are multifocal and bifocal contact lenses?

Published on
February 7, 2022

Multifocal contact lenses enable you to focus on distant and near objects simultaneously with both eyes. Different manufacturers design multifocal contact lenses differently to achieve this.
Bifocal contact lenses have two separate prescriptions within the same lens, while multifocal contact lenses have a range of prescription powers in each lens (similar to that of progressive eyeglasses.)
“Multifocal contacts” is also often used as a catch-all term for all types of contact lenses with more than one prescription power, including bifocal lenses.

Who needs multifocal or bifocal contact lenses?

Generally, people over the age of 40 find it increasingly difficult to perform close-up tasks, such as using their phone, computer, or reading a book.  As we age, our eyes gradually lose the ability to focus on nearby objects, which is called presbyopia. It is a normal but annoying condition. In most cases, presbyopia becomes noticeable in your early to mid-40s and continues to worsen until you are 65. Multifocal and bifocal contact lenses can help to alleviate this problem.

Are multifocal contact lenses better than reading glasses?

It is important to keep your expectations reasonable when evaluating these options. The best way to get clear vision is by simply wearing reading glasses over top of contact lenses. This is not the most convenient option, particularly if you need to switch your focus between near and far distances frequently and if you don't like wearing glasses. Listed below are a few options for contact lenses.

What bifocal and multifocal contact lenses are the best?

It is possible that not all patients will benefit from multifocal contacts manufactured by one company, they may need to try multifocal contacts manufactured by other companies. In some cases, it may take more than one visit to find the right contacts for the patient by adjusting the powers or trying out different brands. While these contact lenses may not be able to provide high definition vision at all distances, they are helpful in providing decent enough vision at both far and close distance without using reading glasses. Since dry eyes are more common as people age, daily replacement multifocal contacts are usually the most convenient.

There are three main designs of multifocal contact lenses:

  • Concentric multifocal contacts:
    Multifocal contact lenses composed of two concentric rings of near and distance power are often referred to as concentric multifocal lenses. The power for distant vision is usually located in the center of the lens, which is surrounded by rings of both near and distance power as determined by the wearer's prescription.
  • Aspheric multifocal contact lenses:
    In the same way that progressive eyeglass lenses change in power gradually from far to near, aspheric multifocal contact lenses also share this characteristic.
  • Segmented Multifocal contact lenses
    The design acts like a bifocal or trifocal eyeglass lens. The central and upper portions of the lens are designed to provide distance viewing while the lower portion focuses on viewing close objects.

Are monovision contact lenses a good option?

Monovision involves setting one eye to look in the distance while the other is for close-up viewing. One downside of this option is that it reduces the ability to use both eyes simultaneously, which does affect depth perception to some degree. Depth perception is the visual ability to perceive the world in three dimensions, coupled with the ability to gauge how far away an object is. In general reducing depth perception is not the best option, however some people find monovision contacts comfortable and have used it for years.

Where should I get multifocal or bifocal contact lenses?

It is important to visit an optometrist that fits multifocal contacts to ensure that you can achieve the best vision from these lenses. It is usually a good idea to go to an optometrist that will spend the time finding the right brand and design and will spend the time needed to ensure that your prescription is giving you the clearest vision at both near and far distances.

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