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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.
Symptoms of presbyopia include:
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
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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 lens designs to choose from, including:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1800Contacts has a huge selection of contact lenses and award-winning 24/7 customer service.
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.