What are Multifocal Contact Lenses?
Multifocal contact lenses are used to correct vision at varying distances using different lens powers within the contact lens. These specialty lenses are options for people transitioning from bifocals or progressive glasses to contact lenses. Also, contact lens wearers, who are noticing their close vision is gradually getting worse, may choose to switch to a multifocal lens. They are designed to provide clear vision at all distances for those who have refractive errors and are also experiencing the normal age-related decline in near vision called presbyopia. Multifocal contact lenses are ideal for people with active lifestyles, who do not want to be bothered with wearing reading glasses over their contact lenses.
Who would Benefit from Multifocal Lenses?
Presbyopia, a condition that occurs as we age that affects our ability to focus on objects close to us, is the main vision disorder that multifocal contact lenses are used to correct. For example, if activities such as reading, texting, or threading a needle have become difficult without the help of reading glasses, then you are most likely presbyopic. Your optometrist can give you a proper diagnosis and help discover the best treatment options for you.
If you have both astigmatism and presbyopia, you can also wear multifocal contact lenses, although the cost of the lenses will be higher. Multifocal contact lenses have been around for several years
What are the Types of Multifocal Contact Lenses?
Multifocal contact lenses are similar to their progressive glasses counterpart. They are available in rigid gas permeable, soft, and hybrid forms. Many brands are disposable, where they are thrown away at specified intervals and replaced with fresh, new lenses.
- Concentric Pattern Lens- This is the most common type of multifocal lens, where the near correction is located in a small circle at the center of the lens and is surrounded by a larger circle containing the distance correction. This can be reversed, where the distance correction is in the center and the reading correctionis in the outer ring. The different levels of power may alternate in various ringed zones throughout the lens. This type of lens puts the near and distance portions of the lens in front of the pupil at the same time, which causes the brain to determine which part of the lens to use in order to get the best image resolution. At least two rings are within the pupil area, but this changes as the pupil enlarges or contracts with varying light levels and focusing at near. This may sound difficult, but the visual system learns to select the correct power choice, depending on the distance of the image being seen. These lenses are available in soft, gas permeable or hybrid material. A hybrid lens has a soft outer ring and a rigid gas permeable inner section.
- Translating or Blended Lens- Translating or alternating vision lenses contain two distinct areas of power, which are separated much like standard bifocal glasses are. The top half of the lens is used to see distant objects and the bottom half is for near objects. These lenses are only available in rigid gas permeable materials. This design functions much like bifocal glasses, where looking down causing the lower eyelid to push the contact up, so that the pupil is looking through the reading portion of the lens. These type of lenses are not suited for computer users, or those who primarily use their vision at arms length. They are recommended for driving and reading.
- Aspheric Lens- Aspheric contact lenses gradually change throughout the lens, starting with one power and fading into the other. These lenses work more like progressive spectacle lenses, where different prescriptive powers are blended across the lens. Unlike spectacles, aspheric contact lenses are simultaneous vision lenses, where the visual system must adapt to see clearly through the proper part of the lens.
Alternatives to Multifocal Contacts
You may need to try different multifocal contact lens designs before finding one that suits your visual needs and is comfortable. Multifocal contacts are not the best option for everyone. There are several alternatives to multifocal lenses:
- Wearing reading glasses over normal distance correcting contact lenses
- Monovison contact lenses- This involves putting a single vision contact lens correcting your distance vision on your dominant eye and a single vision contact lens correcting your reading vision on your non-dominant eye.
- Modified monovision- This format uses a multifocal lens on one eye and a single vision contact lens on the other eye.
- Surgical correction by LASIK or a lens implantation.
Your optometrist is your best ally when determining which corrective option will suit your lifestyle. Dr. Larsson at Visionary Optometry of Modesto is able to fit most people who desire multifocal contact lenses. Call our office at 209-333-2020 to schedule an appointment.