Multifocal & Bifocal Contact Lenses

4 sources cited
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How Do Bifocal Contact Lenses Work? 

Bifocal contact lenses provide two different prescriptions in the same lens. They correct your vision at all distances.

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 dual prescription in bifocal contact lenses helps fix vision problems in presbyopic patients.

Everything We Recommend
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

Bifocal contacts have two lens powers (or ‘prescriptions’) in one lens. They correct more than one refractive error.

Segmented bifocal contacts have a defined segment between the top prescription (for distance) and the bottom prescription (for closer vision). These are only available as 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 outer area of the lens.

Multifocal Lenses

Multifocal contacts have multiple powers in each lens. They help people focus on objects at more than two distances.

Aspheric multifocal lenses have a gradual transition between near and distance vision. They function similarly to progressive eyeglasses.

Concentric multifocal contacts have rings of alternating distance and near power, similar to a bullseye target.

6 Best Bifocal and Multifocal Contact Lenses

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

Acuvue Oasys 1-Day with HydraLuxe

Bausch + Lomb Ultra for Presbyopia contacts features 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 and 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

Best Weekly/Biweekly: Acuvue Oasys for Presbyopia

Acuvue Oasys 1-Day with HydraLuxe

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:

  • 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

Best Dailies: 1 Day Acuvue Moist Multifocal

Acuvue Oasys 1-Day with HydraLuxe

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

Best for Dry Eyes: Proclear Multifocal

Acuvue Oasys 1-Day with HydraLuxe

Proclear contacts are the only lens that is FDA-approved to improve lens-related dryness and discomfort. They are made with PC Technology™ that use 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

Best for Astigmatism: Bausch + Lomb ULTRA Multifocal for Astigmatism

Acuvue Oasys 1-Day with HydraLuxe

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

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

Acuvue Oasys 1-Day with HydraLuxe

PureVision2 Multi-Focal For Presbyopia is a pair of visibility-tinted contact lenses. They are approved for daily 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.

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

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:

Segmented Bifocal Lenses

Segmented bifocal contacts 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.  

Concentric Bifocal Lenses

These are also called simultaneous vision lenses. They do not have an upper and lower section. Instead, the lenses have an outer ring and an 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.

Aspheric Contact Lenses

These 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 of bifocal and multifocal contacts:

  • 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 a pair of glasses)

Cons of bifocal and multifocal contacts:

  • 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
  • Depending on the severity of presbyopia, reading glasses may still be necessary
  • Objects may look different than they do in reality, such as appearing lower or higher
  • Glares, halos, and seeing shadows in low light conditions are possible
  • Some wearers experience reduced contrast sensitivity

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. 

Summary

Bifocal lenses provide two different prescriptions in one lens, while multifocal lenses have more than two prescriptions. They both correct a person's vision at all distances.

Both types of lenses are made of soft or hard lens materials. Hybrid lenses are also available. These contacts come in daily, weekly, and monthly disposable forms.

There are three types of bifocal lenses. These include:

  • Segmented bifocal lenses
  • Concentric bifocal lenses
  • Aspheric contact lenses

Multifocal contact lenses have two types, including:

  • Aspheric multifocal lenses
  • Concentric multifocal lenses

A doctor will consider your pupil size and vision prescription before deciding the type of bifocal lens to prescribe.

Bifocal and Multifocal Contact Lens FAQ

What are the disadvantages of bifocal and multifocal contact lenses?

Bifocal and multifocal lenses can be hard to adjust to. You might experience nighttime glares, haziness, or shadowy vision during this adjustment period. These contact lenses are also more expensive than regular ones due to their complex designs and prescriptions.

How long does it take to adjust to bifocal and multifocal contact lenses?

The adjustment period for bifocal and multifocal lenses can take anywhere between a week and two months. Wearing your contacts as often as possible can speed up the process.

What brands of multifocal contacts are the best?

The best brand of multifocal contact lenses will depend on your needs. The best overall would be the Bausch + Lomb Ultra for Presbyopia. The brand also has multifocal contacts for people with astigmatism.

Do multifocal contacts work as well as glasses?

Multifocal contacts can work as well as glasses. However, they're not suited for everyone. This will depend on personal preference and a doctor's recommendations.

What are the 2 types of multifocal contact lenses available?

The two types of multifocal lenses are aspheric and concentric multifocal lenses. Aspheric multifocal lenses have a gradual transition between near and distance vision. Concentric multifocal lenses have rings of alternating powers.

Best Places to Buy Contacts

Best Overall

1-800 Contacts is our #1 recommendation to buy contacts online.

Also Great
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GlassesUSA has a huge selection of contacts, glasses, & sunglasses.

Best Places to Buy Glasses

Best Overall

Warby Parker has stylish, high-quality frames at affordable prices.

Also Great

Liingo Eyewear is another great option to buy glasses online.

Best on a Budget

EyeBuyDirect has a wide variety of budget frames starting at $6.

4 Cited Research Articles
  1. Efron, Nathan. "Contact Lens Practice E-Book." Butterworth-Heinemann, 2010.
  2. "Presbyopia." National Eye Institute (NIH).
  3. Toshida, Hiroshi, et al. “Bifocal Contact Lenses: History, Types, Characteristics, and Actual State and Problems.” Clinical Ophthalmology (Auckland, N.Z.), Dove Medical Press, 2008.
  4. Multifocal Contact Lens.” Multifocal Contact Lens - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, 2019.
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