Bifocal and multifocal contact lenses

Eyesight changes throughout life and the focusing power of the eye also changes over time. As we get older, the ability of the lens inside our eye to change shape – allowing us to focus on objects over the whole range from far distance to close up – gradually decreases. Known as presbyopia, this is a natural process that affects everyone.

By 40 to 45 years of age, most people need either to start wearing glasses for reading or use different strengths of lenses for distance and near tasks. If you are short sighted (myopic), you may find you need to take your glasses off, to see clearly, for close work.

It can be frustrating not being able to glance into the distance while performing a near task (such as looking up from using a computer) or read something when talking to someone across a table (such as reading a menu). It's also annoying to have to alternate between reading and distance glasses in everyday situations such as reading prices in shops or sending a text.

At this stage, people who wear glasses often opt to wear bifocals (where there is a visible area of their glasses which can be looked through for near tasks) or varifocals (sometimes called multifocals or progressive lenses) where the power, and hence the distance to which the glasses focus, changes progressively as you look through different positions on the lens, keeping distance, intermediate and near objects clear with a single pair of glasses.

Options for the over 40s

Many options are now available to people with presbyopia, who want to wear contact lenses to provide clear vision at different distances. All are a slight compromise over our natural ability to focus at near and distance when we are young, but no more so than spectacles.

When you first start to notice that your near vision changing, it may be possible for your eyecare practitioner to adjust the strength of your contact lenses to allow you to see clearly. However, an increasingly popular choice nowadays is wear bifocal or multifocal contact lenses, which place both distance and near correcting areas in front of the pupil (the window to the eye) and let the brain select the image which is most appropriate to the distance of the object your eyes are looking at.

These lenses, whether soft or rigid gas-permeable (RGP), are now available in a range of different designs to suit your vision and lifestyle. Many people find bifocal and multifocal contact lenses very easy and comfortable to wear. Some wear the lenses all day, every day while others wear contact on a need to wear basis for sports and social wear

To learn more about bifocal and multifocal contact lenses or to discuss your suitability for these lenses visit your eyecare practitioner who will advise you on the best lens for your needs.