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What are Multifocal Lenses?
Multifocal lenses, sometimes called progressive lenses, provide lenses of varying powers that improve vision at different distances. These lenses are appropriate when someone has multiple vision prescriptions. Instead of the prescription segments found in bifocals or trifocals, multifocals blend multiple vision correction prescriptions.
In most cases, they have a prescription for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and intermediate distances. Multifocal lenses correct age-related vision problems and offer a gradual or progressive switch between farsightedness and nearsightedness correction. They also make it so you don’t need to switch glasses based on what you’re doing.
Who Needs Multifocal Lenses?
Your eye doctor might recommend multifocal lenses if you:
- Need vision improvement to see objects near and far
- Want a smooth transition between lenses
- Need to be able to see in most conditions without switching eyewear
Multifocal lenses provide a variety of benefits, but:
- Cost more than regular lenses
- Make it difficult for some eyes to adjust
- Don’t prevent nighttime glare unless anti-reflective coating is added
If multifocal lenses don’t work for you, speak to your optometrist about monovision or bifocal lenses, use reading glasses while wearing your standard contact lenses, or undergo surgical correction for your vision.
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Eyeglass wearers sometimes try a few different corrective tools before settling on the one that best suits them.
There are as many reasons to opt for multifocal lenses as there are to avoid them. They are perfect for some people and don’t work for others. You and your doctor should discuss your vision concerns and design a correction plan that suits your lifestyle and preferences and gives you clear vision.
Types of Multifocal Contact Lenses
In general, there are two different types of multifocal lenses. They include:
- Simultaneous Vision Design. These lenses are a bifocal or multifocal design. The lens’s center either contains the refractive power for distance or near vision. Multifocal designs in this category usually have two or more distinct zones of two different powers.
- Segmented Design. These lenses have a zone for distance vision, located in the upper and central zones of the lens, and a separate zone for near vision located in the lens's lower half. Each zone is separated by a visible line.
Segmented designs are always rigid gas permeable lenses. Soft contact lenses are available as simultaneous multifocal designs.
Multifocal, Bifocal & Trifocal Lenses: What's The Difference?
Multifocal lenses offer a gradual transition between near and far vision prescriptions. They allow you to read (close up) and look up from reading (intermediate) without changing lenses. They are very similar to glasses with progressive eyeglasses.
Bifocal and trifocal glasses feature a sharp edge between the close-up and far-off part of the prescription. It’s a harsher change, whereas multifocal lenses offer a progressive or gradual transition.
Multifocal lenses, also known as progressive lenses in glasses, provide a smooth transition between distance and close-up vision correction. They allow you to switch between looking at objects near and far without having to change eyewear. There is also no abrupt change in vision. Unlike bifocal and trifocal lenses, multifocals don’t have two or three different viewing zones. Instead, you get a progressive power of correction from the top to the bottom of the lens.
This eases eye strain and is closer to natural vision transitions. If you, at one time, had decent vision and didn’t need glasses or contacts but had to use vision correction tools as you got older, you’ll notice multifocal more closely mimic your natural vision.
Multifocal or progressive lenses are adjustable, so you get fully customized vision correction. It doesn’t matter if you need to look at a computer screen, drive, read, or look at anything close up or far off, multifocals allow you to see clearly without switching from one prescription to another.
Multifocal lenses are just as the name indicates – you get vision correction from multiple lenses in a single pair of eyewear or contact lenses. Toric contact lenses have two curves instead of one and are used to correct both astigmatism and near- or farsightedness.
Bifocal contact lenses and glasses offer two distinct optical powers. In most cases, they are for people with presbyopia who also require a correction for myopia, hyperopia, and/or astigmatism. This type of lens offers correction for objects both near and far.
The final type of lenses, trifocals, offer vision correction similar to bifocals and also provide an added viewing zone for intermediate vision. Intermediate vision refers to objects that are just a few feet away, like a computer screen. You’ll be able to see objects near, far, and in the intermediate range without changing eyewear. Like bifocals, people tend to need trifocals as they age, and their vision weakens.
Trifocal lenses include three different prescriptions. There are visible lines on the lenses separating each prescription. This is different from multifocal lenses or progressive lenses that feature a blend of all prescriptions.
Though some people prefer the progressive transition offered by multifocal lenses, others are unable to wear them. They also tend to be more expensive than trifocals and bifocal lenses.
How Do You Know if You Are a Good Candidate for Multifocals or Bi- or Trifocal Lenses?
- You must hold reading materials at arm’s length to see the words clearly
- You suffer from eye strain, eye fatigue, or headaches when reading or writing
- Your vision becomes blurry when you’re driving and look away from the road and at the speedometer or other vehicle gauges
- You notice the quality of your vision changing from early in the morning and as the day wears on
- You must carry multiple pairs of corrective eyewear to see clearly, whether you’re reading, driving, or wearing sunglasses