Eye Health Central

Multifocal Contact Lenses: How they work

Varifocal/Multifocal Contact Lenses for clear vision

Multifocal contact lenses are often referred to as Varifocal contact lenses and are the solution for correcting the vision problems associated with presbyopia.

"Multifocal" is a catch-all term used to describe contact lenses that have different powers of vision in the same lens. Some examples of multifocals include concentric lenses, aspheric lenses and translating lenses. 

Multifocal Contact lenses are either weighted to stay in place, or are thinned out at the top and bottom to stay in the correct orientation in relation to your lids. They work on a 'simultaneous vision principle' in that both distance and near vision are in focus at the same time, and you learn to ignore one and see the other, depending on the task at hand. Multifocal lenses can come with a centre near or a centre distance design, and your optometrist will judge which is best for you.

All of these lens types are designed to give you a clear field of vision in near, far and middle distances by shifting your gaze, allowing you to see objects that are near and far at the same time, your eyes can easily adapt to this type of lens., which means you will be able to see like you did in your younger years.

1 Day Acuvue Moist Multifocal

What Are Multifocal Contact Lenses Used For?

Multifocal contact lenses are used to correct the vision of people experiencing Presbyopia. 

The symptoms of presbyopia generally start to appear between the ages of 40 and 50 and not too long ago virtually everyone over that age would be prescribed bi-focal or Varifocal glasses to correct their vision, this was not a great look and made many people feel old before their time. 

Manufacturers of contact lenses ran the risk of losing their wearers when they reached 45ish unless they came up with a multifocal or varifocal contact lens. The first contact lenses to correct presbyopia were bifocal contact lenses and although these worked, they took a bit of getting used to and a bit of head shifting. More recently every manufacturer has introduced and improved their range of Multifocal or Varifocal contact lenses so now there is no reason to ditch your contact lenses for glasses just because you can't read a menu.

How do I know If I need Multifocal Lenses?

As we age our eyes age too, as we reach our 40's and 50's our eyes start to show the signs of aging making it difficult to focus on objects close to us. Presbyopia affects over a billion people worldwide. It's thought that people begin to experience presbyopia due to the fact that the lens of the eye continues to grow throughout their lifetime and that at some point the ciliary muscles that control the lens begin to have difficulty moving it. You may notice

  • Difficulty focusing on reading -  whether a book or online
    Faces are more blurred close-up
  • Faces are more blurred close-up
  • You have to squint more to bring close items into focus
  • You have to hold books, newspapers etc further away to focus
  • You need more light to read a menu

If you notice one or all of these in your 40's or 50's its an indication you have presbyopia and need to see an Optometrist who will prescribe the correct corrective lenses. If you already wear lenses or glasses you will still notice these symptoms and will need your prescription altered. Advances in vision correction technology, mean that a variety of options exist, including contact lenses, spectacles and laser eye surgery.

How Long Does It Take To Get Used To Multifocal Contact Lenses?

Due to the multiple focus points of a multifocal or varifocal contact lens it can take a little while for your brain to adjust to the new input, but you will see big improvement normally within two weeks. Most Optometrist will explain this to you and ask you to wear your lenses daily for two weeks before judging them, the more you wear them the quicker your eyes and brain will adjust, just be careful not to overwear them.

What Are The Benefits Of Multifocal Contact Lenses?

There are many pros and cons of multifocal or varifocal contact lenses, the Pro's include

  • Great vision all the time.
  • No need for reading glasses.
  • Not looking your age.
  • Forgetting about your presbyopia.

There a few con's if you can call them that, as most disappear within the first couple of weeks

  • They take a little time to get used to - up to 2 weeks.
  • Nighttime glare in the early days - again this should go after a couple of weeks.
  • Varifocal contact lenses are more expensive than regular contact lenses - but no need for reading glasses.

Are Multifocal Contact Lenses Expensive?

Multifocal and varifocal contact lenses are available as daily disposable, two weekly disposable or monthly disposable contact lenses and depending on the regime your Optometrist and you decide is the best for you will alter the cost.
If you are already wearing contact lenses then you will probably stick to the same type once you need multifocals, but if you are new to contact lenses then daily contact lenses are the best way to go in our opinion, they are healthier and ultimately convenient.

Daily multifocal contact lenses start at under £58.00 per month for Proclear 1 Day Multifocal and monthly multifocal contact lenses start at around £25.00 per month for Purevision Multifocal but you will need to factor in the cost of solutions with monthly lenses.

If you are thinking of multifocal contact lenses then speak to your Optometrist, they will be able to discuss all the options available to you, and once your eyesight and eye health have been checked and a contact lens fitting performed then they can provide you with a trial pair (or more if you are using dailies) so you can see how you adapt to these lenses. Just because your eyesight begins to fail as you age doesn't mean you have to wear reading glasses or never read a menu again, multifocal contact lenses are a great option. 

Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 24 Apr 2015, Last modified: 20 May 2024