Multifocal contact lenses are designed to allow different lens powers that target vision at varying distances from the wearer. But how does this work, and does it make sense for your eyesight? We’ll help you explore multifocal contacts and how to think about whether they’re right for you.
What are multifocal contact lenses?
Multifocal contact lensesare contact lenses with multiple prescriptions all in one lens. There is typically a prescription for very close objects: one prescription for normal objects viewed at a distance, and then prescriptions for intermediate distances. This setup helps people with presbyopia correct age-related vision problems where the eye can no longer focus on objects up close.
What’s the difference between multifocals and bifocals?
Multifocal contact lenses are designed with a gradual transition between a prescription for close reading on one end and a prescription for normal distance viewing on the other. They are very similar to progressive eyeglasses. Bifocals, on the other hand, have a sharp edge between the near and far vision prescription areas of the lens.
Types of multifocal contacts
Multifocal contact lenses come in both soft lens and rigid gas permeable (RGP, or hard) lens materials.
There are two main types of multifocal contact lens designs. The most common is a set of concentric circles of lens powers prescribed for various viewing distances. There are also blended designs, which keep both the near and distance prescriptions close to the center of your eye, and mimic a natural viewing experience by correcting the specific points of aberration in your eyes.
Choosing multifocal contact lenses
How do you know if multifocal contacts make sense for you? Here are some pros and cons to weigh before and during your visit to your eye doctor.
Advantages to multifocals
Multifocals offer a range of benefits, among them:
- Better visual acuity for the range of distances from near to far
- A less abrupt switch between prescriptions
- The ability to see in most conditions without extra eyewear
Drawbacks to multifocals
Multifocal contact lenses offer a lot of performance ability, but may also be:
- More difficult to adjust to due to a different viewing experience
- Accompanied by nighttime glare and hazy or shadowy vision during the adjustment period
- More expensive because of the increased complexity in design
Multifocal contact lens alternatives
If multifocals don’t sound like they’re a good fit, there are a number of other options, including:
- Pairing reading glasses with normal contact lenses
- Monovision contact lenses
- Bifocal contact lenses
- Surgical correction or lens implantation recommended by your doctor
Your eye doctor is your best ally when you’re thinking about getting contact lenses and other eye care decisions. He or she will help you find the right corrective options for you to suit your lifestyle, and evaluate you in the first few months to make sure the choice was appropriate.
Nothing in this article is to be construed as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the recommendations of a medical professional. For specific questions, please see your eye care practitioner.
Why can't you read with multifocal contact lenses? Just as your distance vision might not be as clear as your near vision on some occasions, it can also be vice versa. To help yourself adapt to your new contacts, it's important to wear them consistently and as prescribed by your eye doctor.Do multifocal contacts work for everyone? ›
Multifocal contact lenses allow you to see near, medium, and far distances with better visual acuity and less juggling of other devices, like wearing contacts and also wearing reading glasses. They are not for everyone, but they can be very helpful for some people who have more than one refractive error.How long does it take for eyes to adjust to multifocal contacts? ›
Wearing your multifocals as often as you can will help train your eyes to move between the different powers of the lenses easily. Most people are able to adjust to their multifocals in a week or two.Should I still need readers with multifocal contacts? ›
Con: You May Still Need Reading Glasses
Unfortunately, in some cases, multifocal contacts can cause your vision to be a bit blurry at different distances. Some bifocal and multifocal brands may provide better distance vision while others offer better distance vision.
Disadvantages of Multifocal Lenses
While multifocal lenses improve near, far, and intermediate vision, many people still have difficulty seeing up close. Although they can see the computer screen, their vision is blurry when trying to read a book. However, this can be corrected with reading glasses.
If you have been successfully wearing multifocals before then it is likely there is something wrong with either the fitting or prescription of the lens. If you haven't worn multifocal lenses before it may be an adaptation issue but it is worth discussing with your optometrist.How successful are multifocal contact lenses? ›
With the many lenses available to us it allows me to have a better than 90% success rate with multifocal contact lenses. My preference with any contact lens wearer is to utilize a daily modality and 73% of the contact lenses we sell are daily lenses.Are people happy with multifocal lenses? ›
The majority of patients who received either accommodating or multifocal IOLs remain satisfied with their lens of choice more than 5 years after the original surgery. Glare and halos remain more noticeable in patients who received multifocal lenses.Who is not a candidate for multifocal lenses? ›
If someone has an ocular comorbidity in either eye (eg, severe dry eye disease, irregular astigmatism, epiretinal membranes, macular degeneration), he or she is not eligible for a multifocal IOL. In my practice, this means that 50% of patients are ineligible.Are multifocal contacts soft or hard? ›
The most popular type of multifocal, they are nearly always soft lenses, and are available in two designs: Concentric ring designs - with alternating rings of distance and near powers.
Because the visual cortex contains no prewired circuitry that allows it to digest information from multifocal lenses, the brain requires a period of adjustment known as neuroadaptation that involves suppressing near vision when gazing at distant objects and restricting distance vision when focusing up close.Which is better multifocal or monovision? ›
In most studies, multifocal lenses achieved better spectacle independence, somewhere between 65 and 95%, according to Dr. Assia, while this rate is lower for monovision, achieving between 35 and 90% spectacle freedom.Who is a candidate for multifocal contact lenses? ›
Candidates for multifocal contact lens success include presbyopic patients who wear only glasses, those who wear contact lenses but wear reading glasses over them and those who are already wearing monovision contact lenses (particularly those with high computer use).How do I know if my contact prescription is wrong? ›
- Discomfort: Burning, stinginging or itching eyes may mean you have a contact lens prescription that is off. ...
- Impaired Vision: Reduced sharpness or blurriness can be signs that you need a new prescription.
Wearing the Wrong Prescription Long-Term
There isn't a risk of long-term eye damage in most adults with stabilized vision. But, you can still experience symptoms affecting vision and comfort. Wearing a prescription that is too weak or too strong can cause: Blurry vision.
- Blurred Vision. One of the most obvious signs that your eyeglasses aren't correcting your vision like they should is fuzzy and unclear eyesight. ...
- You're Squinting A Lot. ...
- Your Eyes Feel Tired. ...
- Your Eyes Are Sensitive To Light. ...
- You're Getting Frequent Headaches.
Some distortion or dizziness isn't uncommon in patients new to multifocal lenses. This discomfort occurs due to the different lens powers in their bifocals or trifocals. Expect these reactions to go away after a few weeks of regularly wearing your eyeglasses.Can you have a multifocal lens in one eye and a monofocal in the other? ›
A multifocal intraocular lens can be implanted in 1 eye and the monofocal lens in the opposite eye.Can you wear just one multifocal contact lens? ›
Using a single contact lens won't hurt your eyes if that's what your prescription calls for. However, if you're not wearing both contacts because you lost one of them, you may experience vision loss symptoms in the unprotected eye. Blurry, distorted vision and other side effects of uncorrected vision can return.Why is it hard to read with my contacts? ›
And one of the biggest reasons they decrease or stop wearing contacts is the difficulty they face reading with their contacts after presbyopia begins to set in around the early 40's. Presbyopia is the diminished ability of the natural lens in our eyes to focus up close on near objects.
One of the most frequently asked questions in clinic is why multifocal contacts are blurry in the distance. There is a little give and take that happens with the physics of bending light here. Multifocals essentially take away a bit of your distance clarity to allow you to see well up close.Why can't I read with my progressive lenses? ›
If you've noticed that you have to lower your head or glasses to read at a distance, this could be a sign that your progressive lenses have been fitted high on your face. Either you or your eye doctor may be able to correct this by adjusting your frames to sit lower on your face or by widening the nose pads.Why can't I read up close with contacts? ›
The most common reasons for blurry vision with contacts are an outdated prescription, a new prescription you haven't adjusted to yet, wearing your contacts for too long, contacts that don't fit correctly, and allergies.Does your brain have to adjust to contacts? ›
As with any new eye prescription, it may take a few days for your eyes and brain to adjust to the changes. New prescriptions may cause mild headaches or slight dizziness. If this persists after the first week, it may be a sign that your prescription needs to be adjusted.Is it better to read with glasses or contacts? ›
If you're going to sit down and read a book for several hours or are driving often at night, glasses may serve you better. However, the goal with contact lens solutions is to get you through most of your tasks for the majority of the time.Is it normal for contacts to be blurry at first? ›
Should contacts be blurry at first? When you first wear contacts, it may take a few seconds for the lens to settle into the right place. This can cause blurred vision for a short moment in time. If your new contacts are blurry, this could also indicate that you are wearing the wrong prescription.What is the main drawback of progressive lenses? ›
Even though a progressive lens allows you to see near and far distances clearly, these lenses aren't the right choice for everyone. Some people never adjust to wearing a progressive lens. If this happens to you, you may experience constant dizziness, problems with depth perception, and peripheral distortion.Are progressive lenses OK for driving? ›
Progressive lenses are an all-inclusive type of eyewear that helps you see up close, far away, and everywhere in between. That means that progressive lenses are good for driving, so if you plan to take a road trip or drive to work, you can feel confident in your choice of vision correction.What are the disadvantages of progressive lenses? ›
If wearers are not used to multiple changes in lens power, progressive lenses can make them nauseous and dizzy at first. Another disadvantage is that peripheral vision can be slightly altered by the changes that occur at the edge of progressive lenses.Why do my contacts get blurry when I read? ›
Buildup of debris and protein deposits on the surface of the contact lenses is the most common reason for the lenses to seem cloudy or hazy. The easiest way to see if this is the problem, is to take the lenses out and compare the vision in your glasses.
Success rates after the first or second trial lens can be greater than 90% when the right patient is paired with the right lens.Can you wear one contact for distance and reading? ›
Monovision means wearing one contact lens that corrects only distance vision in one eye, and wearing another lens that corrects only near vision in the other eye. This has traditionally been a popular way to correct presbyopia for contact lens wearers.