June 16, 2022

What Are Multifocal Contact Lenses?

Contacts case and packaging.

Many people wear glasses or contact lenses today to correct their vision. One eye condition that corrective lenses can treat is presbyopia, or age-related farsightedness. If you have presbyopia, you may notice that you need your glasses for some aspects of your day, while some situations cause you to remove your glasses to see better. If you find yourself doing this throughout the day, it may be time to look at multifocal lenses to provide you with the various prescriptions needed to see clearly, both near and far. You can even get multifocal contact lenses if that’s more your style.

What Is Presbyopia?

Image via Flickr by wuestenigel Licensed CC BY 2.0

Presbyopia is an age-related condition of the eyes. After the age of 40, many people find it’s difficult, or downright impossible, to see and read things up close, and pages and text both become blurry. This condition is gradual and gets worse with advancing age.

Unfortunately, Presbyopia is unavoidable as one ages because it’s caused by the loss of elasticity of the lens in the eye. This loss of elasticity is what causes lenses in the eyes to harden. This hardening makes the eye unable to focus on close objects. The light now focuses behind the retina instead of directly on it, making it challenging to read close up.

What Are Multifocal Contact Lenses?

Multifocal contact lenses contain multiple prescriptions in one lens. The prescriptions usually include one to enable viewing objects close up, another for viewing objects at an intermediate range, and another for viewing objects at a distance.

What’s the Difference Between Multifocals and Bifocals?

Multifocals allow vision to shift between multiple prescriptions seamlessly, and bifocals have a distinct line between two prescriptions. While bifocals can help with presbyopia, they don’t shift with focus as multifocal lenses do.

Can Different Types of Contacts Be Made into Multifocals?

Several types of traditional contact lenses can be fitted with a multifocal prescription, providing you with lots of options, including the following: 

Traditional Soft Contacts

Traditional soft contacts are a type of lens meant to be used occasionally. They’re quite comfortable, and your eyes will likely adjust to them easier than some other types.

Silicone Hydrogel Soft Lenses 

Silicone hydrogel soft lenses are similar to traditional soft lenses but are designed to let more oxygen permeate the lens. This lens type provides the eye with natural moisture and breathability throughout the wear time. Two brands of lenses of this type are Air Optix Aqua and Biofinity Multifocal.

Rigid Gas Permeable Lenses

RGP lenses also permit more oxygen for your eyes during wearing and thus can be great for eye health. The only drawback to these lenses is that your eyes may need more time to adjust to them.

Daily Disposables

Disposable lenses are the ultimate convenience and are also affordable. They’re designed to be discarded after wearing them for a day. The next day you just break out a fresh pair. There are a variety of options for multifocal daily disposables.

Hybrid Lenses

Hybrid lenses have an RGP section in the center and softer contact lens material on the outer ring. This construction increases the comfort of the lenses and helps your eyes to adapt easier.

Types of Multifocal Contact Lenses

There are four main kinds of multifocal contact lenses:

Concentric Multifocal Lenses

Concentric multifocal lenses have multiple prescriptions laid out in concentric circles, allowing for a gradual transition from one prescription to another. Like a bull’s eye target pattern, it has rings that alternate between near and distance vision correction.

Aspheric Multifocal Lenses

Aspheric multifocal lenses are designed similarly to progressive lenses for a smoother transition between prescriptions. One prescription will be situated in the center and gradually shift as your gaze moves outward.

Segmented Bifocal Lenses

All bifocal contact lenses are made with rigid gas permeable lenses. Like bifocal eyeglasses, the bottom half of the contact lens will have the near prescription in segmented bifocal lenses, and the top half will have the distance prescription. Your eye will look through one or the other, depending on what you’re looking at and the distance away that the object or text is.

There is an obvious line of separation between the two power segments of the lenses; however, unlike in the case of bifocal eyeglass lenses, the line is barely visible in segmented bifocal contact lenses. This is because these contacts are smaller in diameter than soft contact lenses. These segmented lenses can also be made in a custom design to be trifocals, including a small ribbon-shaped area for intermediate vision, similar to the design of trifocal prescription eyeglasses. The lower area of the lenses is flattened to keep these lenses in place in the eye.

Translating

Near, far, and sometimes added intermediate prescription zones are very distinct in translating lenses. The pupil will move from one to another prescription depending on what you’re viewing. The near prescription is usually located at the bottom of the lens, and the distance prescription is located at the top, almost like bifocal eyeglasses. If needed, this orientation can be reversed by swapping the near prescription to the top and the distance viewing prescription at the bottom. Translating lenses are usually manufactured in RGP lens materials than in soft lens material.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Multifocal Lenses?

As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to selecting multifocal lenses. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of this type of contact lens:

Multifocal Pros

Multifocals have distinct advantages, including the following:

  • Better vision for a full range of distances, from close up to further away. 
  • A more seamless transition between prescriptions.
  • Allow the wearer to see in all conditions without extra eyeglasses. 

Multifocals Cons

Multifocals have significant benefits, but they also may have some drawbacks for certain wearers, which can include: 

  • Difficulty adjusting to a new and different type of vision.
  • In the beginning, while still adjusting to the lenses, the wearer could experience nighttime glare and shadowy or hazy vision. 
  • Multifocal lenses are more expensive than traditional one-prescription lenses because their design is more complex.

If you’re ready to consider multifocal contact lenses, contact the experts at Northeastern Eye Institute. We can get you set up for a consultation to discuss your vision options at any of our 15 locations. Give us a call at 570-342-3145 to get started today.