Multifocal & Bifocal Contact Lenses

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How Do Bifocal Contact Lenses Work? 

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.

Symptoms of presbyopia include:

  • A difficult time reading small text
  • Issues focusing on close objects
  • Needing to hold reading material farther out than arm’s distance
  • Frequently straining your eyes to focus
  • Headaches

The dual prescription in bifocal contact lenses helps fix vision problems in presbyopic patients. The lenses also eliminate the need to wear specific eyeglasses to focus on close-up objects and text. 

Best Overall (Monthly): Bausch + Lomb Ultra for Presbyopia

Best Weekly/Biweekly: Acuvue Oasys for Presbyopia

Best Dailies: 1 Day Acuvue Moist Multifocal 

Best for Dry Eyes: Proclear Multifocal

Best for Astigmatism: Bausch + Lomb ULTRA Multifocal for Astigmatism

Best for Extended Wear: Bausch + Lomb PureVision 2 Multi-Focal

Bifocal Contact Lenses vs. Multifocal Contact Lenses

The main difference between bifocal contacts and multifocal contacts is vision correction power:

  • Bifocal lenses have two prescriptions (or ‘lens powers’) in one lens so that they can correct more than one refractive error. Segmented bifocal contacts have a defined segment between the distance prescription on top and near prescription on the bottom. These are only available as rigid gas permeable (hard) lenses. Concentric bifocal lenses (available as soft or hard lenses) have either the near or distance power in the center of the lens and the opposite power in the periphery of the lens.
  • Multifocal lenses have many powers in each lens, with a gradual transition between near vision and distance vision. This is called an aspheric multifocal lens, which functions similarly to progressive eyeglasses. Another type of multifocal lens has a concentric design, with rings of alternating distance and near power, similar to a bull’s eye target. 

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. 

Types of Bifocal Contact Lenses

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 lens designs to choose from, including:

  1. Segmented bifocal lenses are rigid gas permeable (GP) lenses that work similarly to bifocal glasses. GP lenses are hard contacts that allow oxygen to flow through the cornea. They provide a defined line of separation between presbyopia correction (below) and distance correction (above). Segmented bifocal contacts are also often weighted. This makes the lenses remain in place and not move around like soft lenses.  
  2. Concentric bifocal lenses, also called simultaneous vision lenses, do not have an upper and lower section. Instead, the lenses have an outer ring and inner ring. The center of the lens contains the distance vision correction, while the outer ring includes the near vision correction. Most concentric lenses provide an instant transition from one near to distance viewing 
  3. Aspheric contact lenses provide a gradual transition between close and distance vision correction. Aspheric lenses also have a longer adjustment period. 

Pros and Cons of Multifocal and Bifocal Lenses

PROS
  • For older adults who have worn contacts most of their lives, bifocal contacts are a great alternative to bifocal eyeglass lenses. 
  • Bifocal contacts are more aesthetically pleasing than bifocal glasses.
  • They are easy to adapt to and provide superior depth perception. 
  • They are convenient (you don’t have to carry around additional eyewear).
CONS
  • Bifocal and multifocal contacts can be more expensive than other types of contacts and presbyopia treatment options.
  • They can be challenging to adapt to if you’ve never worn contacts before.
  • Reading glasses may still be necessary, depending on the severity of presbyopia. 
  • Objects may look different than they do in reality, such as appearing lower or higher.
  • Night glares and seeing shadows in low light conditions is possible.  
  • Some wearers experience reduced visual perception (contrast sensitivity).

6 Best Bifocal and Multifocal Contact Lenses

contact lens bausch lomb presbyopia

Bausch + Lomb Ultra for Presbyopia

Bausch + Lomb Ultra for Presbyopia contacts feature Moistureseal technology which maintains moisture in your eye for up to 16 hours. These multifocal contacts have a 3-Zone Progressive Design that gives you clear distance, near, and middle vision.

Lens Features:

  • MoistureSeal technology maintains 95% of lens moisture for 16 hours
  • 3-Zone Progressive Design for sharp vision
  • Material: 54% samfilcon A; 46% water
  • Manufacturer: Bausch + Lomb
Acuvue Oasys for Presbyopia

Acuvue Oasys for Presbyopia

Acuvue Oasys lenses feature STEREO PRECISION TECHNOLOGY™ for clear near, middle, and distance vision. They also provide UV protection and stabilize your tear film. These are weekly/biweekly lenses that need to be replaced every 1-2 weeks.

Lens Features:

  • STEREO PRECISION TECHNOLOGY™ for clear vision
  • HYDRACLEAR® Plus technology
  • Material: 62% senofilcon A; 38% water
  • Manufacturer: Johnson & Johnson
1 Day Acuvue Moist Multifocal lenses

1-Day Acuvue Moist Multifocal

1-Day Acuvue Moist contacts are some of the most popular contact lenses on the market. These are the same lenses but with multifocal vision correction. They have LACREON Technology, which is extra moisture built into the lens. The moisture-rich ingredient acts like natural tears to provide a cushion of moisture all day. The lenses also protect your eyes from 82% of UV-A rays and 97% of UV-B rays.

Lens Features:

  • High UV protection (at least 82% of UV-A and 97% of UV-B radiation)
  • LACREON® technology
  • Material: 42% etafilcon A; 58% water 
  • Manufacturer: Johnson & Johnson
Proclear Multifocal

Proclear Multifocal

Proclear contacts are the only lens that is FDA-approved to improve lens-related dryness and discomfort. They are made with PC Technology™ that uses Phosphorylcholine (PC). This material attracts water and keeps lenses hydrated all day.

Lens Features:

  • Patented PC Technology™
  • Balanced Progressive™ Technology
  • Material: 38% omafilcon B; 62% water 
  • Manufacturer: CooperVision
Bausch + Lomb Multifocal for Astigmatism

Bausch + Lomb ULTRA Multifocal for Astigmatism

Best for Astigmatism

Bausch + Lomb ULTRA Multifocal for Astigmatism contact lenses fix both presbyopia and astigmatism with three technologies. 3-Zone Progressive Design corrects presbyopia and OpticAlign corrects Astigmatism. They also feature MoistureSeal technology to lock in moisture for a full 16 hours.

Lens Features:

  • 3-Zone Progressive Design
  • OpticAlign technology
  • Material: samfilcon A 54%; 46% water
  • Manufacturer: Bausch + Lomb
PureVision 2 Multi Focal

Bausch + Lomb PureVision 2 Multi-Focal

Best for Extended Wear

PureVision2 Multi-Focal For Presbyopia are visibility tinted contact lenses. They are approved for daily wear or extended wear from 1 to 30 days. However, not everyone can wear them overnight. Speak with your optometrist to find out if you qualify for extended wear.

Lens Features:

  • 3-Zone Progressive Design
  • Approved for extended wear up to 30 days if approved by your eye doctor
  • Material: balafilcon A 64%; 36% water
  • Manufacturer: Bausch + Lomb

Alternative Contact Lenses

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. 

Common Questions and Answers

Do bifocal contacts work?

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.

Are bifocal contacts expensive?

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. 

How long does it take to get used to bifocal contacts?

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.

Vision Center Recommends 1800Contacts

1800Contacts has a huge selection of contact lenses and award-winning 24/7 customer service.

Resources
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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.

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