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Bifocal contact lenses provide two different prescriptions in the same lens. The most common bifocal contacts are soft contacts with concentric circles of distance and near vision, like a bull's eye target.
Presbyopia is a refractive error (vision problem) that people develop between 40 and 45 years of age. The condition results in the inability to focus clearly on small, close-up text, such as a book, restaurant menu, or newspaper. Presbyopia happens naturally as people age.
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Symptoms of presbyopia include:
The dual prescription in bifocal contact lenses helps presbyopic patients see clearly. The lenses also eliminate the need to wear specific eyeglasses to focus on close-up objects and text.
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The main difference between bifocal contacts and multifocal contacts is vision correction power:
Only 3 percent of people with presbyopia currently wear some form of presbyopic contact lenses. This is because patients with presbyopia are commonly told that bifocal lenses are likely to fail. However, multifocal lenses won’t be successful if eye doctors do not offer them to presbyopic patients. Other people are not aware that bifocal, trifocal, and progressive contact lenses even exist.
Multifocal and bifocal lenses are made of either soft lens materials (e.g., silicone hydrogel) or rigid gas permeable (RGP) materials, also called hard contacts. Hybrid lenses are also available. You can purchase the contacts in daily, weekly, and monthly disposable forms.
There are two factors eye care practitioners consider during eye exams to determine the type of bifocal contact lenses a patient needs. These factors include pupil size and near prescription.
There are a few types of bifocal and multifocal contact lenses wearers can choose from, including:
Some popular brands of multifocal and bifocal contact lenses include Biofinity Multifocals, Air Optix, Proclear, and Acuvue.
Bifocal contact lenses are not for everyone, especially if you have trouble wearing contacts or develop other eye conditions. If bifocal lenses don’t work for your needs, your optometrist (eye doctor) may recommend:
Normal distance contact lenses combined with reading glasses, instead of wearing a pair of bifocal contact lenses.
Monovision lenses are single-vision lenses rather than double prescription lenses. In monovision contacts, your near prescription is put in one lens, and your distance prescription is placed in the other.
Multifocal monovision lenses put a single-vision lens in one of your eyes and a multifocal lens in your other eye.
Yes, bifocal contacts work for presbyopia patients. The dual prescription in bifocal contact lenses helps presbyopic patients see clearly. The lenses also eliminate the need to wear specific eyeglasses to focus on close-up objects and text.
There are a few types of bifocal and multifocal contact lenses people can choose from, including segmented, concentric, and aspheric lenses.
Bifocal lenses are more expensive than other types of contacts. They typically cost between $20 and $50 or more per box. The cost depends on the brand and type of bifocal lenses you choose.
Most patients get used to bifocal contact lenses after a few days to weeks. However, it can take longer for some patients. A common temporary side effect includes blurry vision.
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Efron, Nathan. Contact Lens Practice E-Book. Butterworth-Heinemann, 2010.
National Eye Institute (NIH). Presbyopia. https://www.nei.nih.gov/sites/default/files/health-pdfs/Presbyopia.pdf.
Toshida, Hiroshi, et al. “Bifocal Contact Lenses: History, Types, Characteristics, and Actual State and Problems.” Clinical Ophthalmology (Auckland, N.Z.), Dove Medical Press, Dec. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699779/.
“Multifocal Contact Lens.” Multifocal Contact Lens - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, 2019. www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/multifocal-contact-lens.