By: Dr. Allison Moy, O.D., F.A.A.O, F.S.L.S
The onset of presbyopia, the progressively worsening ability to focus clearly on close objects, typically becomes noticeable after age 40. Patients who are interested in a contact lens option that provides clear vision at both distance and near may benefit from multifocal contact lenses. This design is available in both a soft lens and gas permeable lens type.
How Multifocal Contact Lenses Work
There are various designs of multifocal contact lenses depending on the brand. The designs fall into two basic groups:
- Simultaneous vision designs. These multifocal contact lenses have a blend of prescription for far and near (and sometimes intermediate) viewing. When looking at distance or near the wearer’s eye uses the designated prescription that provides the clearest vision. There are two types of simultaneous vision designs: concentric and aspheric.
- Segmented designs. This design is reserved for gas permeable multifocal lenses and mimic the set up like bifocal or trifocal eyeglasses: the top portion of the lens contains the appropriate power for viewing distant objects, and the lower portion of the lens has a reading power for viewing near objects. Segmented designs are sometimes are called alternating or translating designs.
Will Multifocal Contact Lenses Work For Me?
Today, new technology has produced more successful designs, as well as a greater variety of designs. The optics in a multifocal contact lens is different than that in eyeglasses. Depending on how the wearer’s eyes adapt will determine the success of the multifocal contact lens. So if one design doesn't work for you, another might.
Your eye doctor may also try these related techniques:
- Monovision involves using a single-vision lens to put your near prescription on one eye and your distance prescription on the other.
- Modified monovision uses a single-vision lens on one eye and a multifocal lens on the other
Which Multifocal Contact Lens Is Right For Me?
Your eye care practitioner will guide you in deciding which design will be the best for you based on your vision needs and prescription. When fitting contact lenses to correct both distance and near it is important to find the right balance between achieving overall functional vision so that distance vision is maintained while near vision is improved. You may need to try different multifocal contact lens designs before finding the one that’s right for you. Keep in mind that the multifocal contact lens fitting process is typically more time-consuming than a regular contact lens fitting given the more advanced design of these lenses.