Multifocal Contact Lenses
In the past, getting older meant that you would eventually need to wear a pair of bifocal eyeglasses. These glasses consist of two sections: an upper portion that allowed you to see distant objects clearly, and a lower semicircle that let you focus on near objects, like a book, with a distinct line dividing the two lens sections.
Thankfully, eye glass manufacturers are constantly working on lens improvements, and modern options include progressive lenses (sometimes called no-line bifocals). These special multifocal eyeglass lenses, like their bifocal predecessors, allow you to see both near and far with just one lens, but they make a more gradual and natural-feeling transition from one type of vision correction to another.
But what if you prefer contact lenses? Well, you're in luck! You can also get the same type of vision correction in a multifocal contact lens. Of course, multi-focal contact lenses aren't right for everybody, and can take some getting used to. If you would like to explore this option, you should speak to your eye care professional. He or she can tell you if you're a good candidate for this type of lens.
Multi-focal contacts are available as soft, rigid gas permeable, or hybrid contact lenses. Each has type of lens has different advantages and drawbacks.
Soft lenses can be daily wear, extended wear, or disposable. Disposable lenses are worn for one day and then thrown away, while daily wear lenses must be removed and cleaned properly every night. Extended wear lenses can be worn overnight, usually for several nights in a row. Soft lenses are well tolerated by the eyes and most people find them quite comfortable. In addition, if you want want the flexibility of switching between glasses and contacts, soft lenses are your best option because they're the easiest to adjust to, making them perfect for part time wear.
Rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses are less comfortable than soft lenses and more difficult to adjust to, so they should be worn every day. On the plus side, they tend to give sharper vision correction overall, can correct certain vision problems that soft lenses can't, and may be easier to care for in the long run. (Debris doesn't accumulate as easily on the surface of these lenses.)
Hybrid lens combine the sharp vision correction of the GP lens and the wearable comfort of the soft lens. Typically the hybrid has a rigid middle section that is gas permeable with softer materials on the edges.
Vision correction options
There are a number of different patterns for multifocal vision correction including:
- The concentric bifocal: In these lenses, the near vision correction is typically in a small circle at the center of the lens, and a larger outer circle gives distance correction. The lens could also have the reverse order of correction, depending on your individual needs.
- Alternating image design, also known as translating design: Available in gas permeable lenses, this type of contact has the distance correction at the top and the near vision correction at the bottom, just like a standard bifocal eye glass lens. The bottom edges of these lenses are slightly flattened so that they won't rotate when the eyes move or blink. Alternating image lenses are good for driving and reading but may not be right for other types of work that require intermediate vision correction. For instance, if you spend a lot of time at the computer, the monitor is likely at an intermediate distance from your eyes (neither near nor far), so this type of lens is probably not your best choice.
- Simultaneous image designs: These lenses can be either soft or GP and put both distance and near vision right in front of the pupil. It is up to the brain, which sees both at the same time, to learn which image to focus on and which to ignore at any given moment. These can be especially difficult to get used to and definitely aren't for everyone.
- Aspheric or blended design lenses: These are also difficult to get used to because they try to pinpoint areas of vision problems and then correct right at the source so that the most natural vision can be achieved.
Another option: Monovision contact lenses
In some cases, your eye care professional may recommend using mono-vision instead of multifocal lenses. With this technique, one of your eyes will be fitted with a lens for distance vision (typically your dominant eye) and the other for near vision. This are done with single vision lenses which are cheaper to replace; however, like some of the above options, this can be difficult to adjust to and may not be right for you.
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