What Are Multifocal Contact Lenses? Pros, Cons, Brands & More

young-man-holding-contact-lenses

Do you hold your phone at arm’s length just to read text messages? Perhaps you switch between different glasses to see clearly at varying distances. If either scenario sounds familiar, you may want to consider multifocal contact lenses.

Multifocal contacts are designed specifically for people with presbyopia, an age-related condition that affects near vision as we age. In this post, we’ll discuss what multifocal contacts are and how they work to help you determine if they are the right choice for your eye health needs.

What Are Multifocal Contact Lenses?

hand-with-contact-lens

Multifocal contact lenses are advanced optical devices designed to correct presbyopia, a condition commonly occurring in middle and older age where the eye’s lens loses its flexibility, making it difficult to focus on close objects. 

Unlike standard contact lenses that typically correct only one field of vision (near, intermediate, or far), multifocal lenses have multiple prescription zones built into each lens to allow for clear vision at various distances. They are designed to provide a seamless visual experience by transitioning smoothly from one focal point to another. For example, this means that, with multifocal contacts, you can see your phone’s screen, your computer monitor, and someone across the room without the need to change eyewear or adjust your focus manually. 

Whether you’re reading a book, working on a laptop, or driving, multifocal contact lenses adjust to the required focus with minimal effort on your part. As such, they are especially beneficial for those who lead active lifestyles and wish to avoid the inconvenience of glasses.

How Do Multifocal Contact Lenses Work?

Multifocal contact lenses use a sophisticated design that incorporates multiple lens powers into a single lens. This design allows users to see clearly at various distances, from reading a book up close to spotting a street sign in the distance. But how exactly do these lenses manage this?

The secret lies in the lens’s structured zones. Each lens is divided into regions of differing optical power. As your gaze shifts from looking at something near to something far, your eyes naturally pass through these different power zones, adjusting the focus seamlessly. This gradation mimics the natural accommodation process of the eye, which, in younger eyes, adjusts the shape of the lens to focus on objects at different distances.

Types of Multifocal Contact Lenses

Most commonly, multifocal contact lenses are designed in one of two ways:

  1. Concentric Ring Design – This design features alternating rings of distance and near vision powers concentrically arranged around the lens. As you look through the lens, your eye uses the ring that provides the best focus for the current distance, allowing for a relatively smooth transition between viewing zones.
  2. Progressive or Blended Design – Similar to progressive eyeglasses, these lenses have a gradual change in power from the top to the bottom of the lens. There is no distinct line between the different strengths, and there are no distinct zones. This design aims to offer a more natural visual experience without abrupt changes in clarity.

In terms of lens material, multifocal contacts can be made of either:

  1. Soft Lens Materials (Hydrogels and Silicone Hydrogels) – Soft contact lenses are made from flexible, gel-like plastics that easily conform to the surface of your eye. Silicone hydrogel lenses are particularly popular due to their high oxygen permeability, which promotes eye health and comfort.
  2. Hard or Rigid Gas-Permeable (RGP) Materials – Hard or RGP contact lenses offer sharp vision and excellent durability. They are less likely to harbor bacteria than soft lenses, making them a healthier option for some users. Despite their name, these lenses are also permeable to oxygen, which helps maintain corneal health.

How to Read a Multifocal Contact Lens Prescription

close-up of a contact lens prescription

A multifocal contact lens prescription can be a bit more complex than standard single-vision contact lens prescriptions due to the additional parameters required to accommodate multiple focal points. Here’s what you need to know:

Key Parameters in a Multifocal Contact Lens Prescription

  • Sphere (SPH) – This indicates the basic degree of nearsightedness or farsightedness correction. It is measured in diopters and can be a positive (for farsighted correction) or negative (for nearsighted correction) number.
  • Addition (ADD) – This is a crucial parameter in multifocal lenses. It represents the additional magnifying power added to the lower part of the lens to aid in near vision. This number is usually noted in diopters and helps those with presbyopia focus on close objects.
  • Dominant (D) and Non-Dominant (N) Eye Designations – In multifocal contact lens prescriptions, each eye may be assigned a role: dominant or non-dominant. This designation helps optimize how the multifocal lenses work together to provide the best possible vision at all distances.

Reading Your Prescription

Multifocal prescriptions typically divide these parameters into sections for each eye: right eye (OD) and left eye (OS). Here’s a breakdown of what you might see on a prescription:

OD -3.00 +2.50 D
OS -2.50 +2.50 N

In this example:

  • OD (Right Eye): -3.00 (sphere), +2.50 (ADD power), designated as the dominant eye.
  • OS (Left Eye): -2.50 (sphere), +2.50 (ADD power), designated as the non-dominant eye.

When you receive your prescription, it’s essential to discuss it with your eye care professional (ECP) to understand how each aspect contributes to your vision correction.

What’s the Difference Between Multifocal and Bifocal Contact Lenses?

The main difference between multifocal and bifocal contact lenses lies in how they transition between different vision zones. Multifocal contact lenses are designed to provide a smooth, gradual change in prescription strength from close reading to normal distance viewing, much like progressive eyeglasses. This design allows for a more natural visual experience as there is no abrupt shift in focus.

On the other hand, bifocal contact lenses are characterized by a distinct line separating the near vision and distance vision areas. This division creates a sharp transition between the two, which some wearers may find harder to adjust to initially.

Pros & Cons of Multifocal Contact Lenses

Multifocal contact lenses offer unique advantages and some challenges that are important to consider. Here’s a closer look at the pros and cons:

Pros

  1. Improved Visual Acuity Across Distances – Multifocal contact lenses enhance visual acuity at all distances, from near to far. This means you can enjoy clear vision whether you’re reading a book, working on a computer, or driving, all without needing to switch glasses.
  2. Seamless Transition Between Prescriptions – These lenses offer a smooth, gradual transition between different focal points, mimicking the natural function of the eye. This seamless shift enhances comfort and reduces the strain of adjusting to different distances.
  3. Versatility in Various Conditions – With multifocal lenses, you can see clearly in most conditions without the need for additional eyewear. This versatility is especially beneficial in dynamic or unpredictable environments.

Cons

  1. Adjustment Period – Adapting to multifocal contacts can be challenging for some users due to the unique viewing experience they offer. The initial adjustment period may involve some visual disturbances as your eyes learn to navigate through different lens powers.
  2. Nighttime Glare and Visual Distortions – During the adjustment period, you may experience glare and hazy or shadowy vision, particularly in low-light conditions. This is a temporary effect but can be discomforting for new wearers.
  3. Higher Cost – Due to their complex design and the technology involved in creating lenses that accommodate multiple prescriptions, multifocal contact lenses are generally more expensive than single-vision lenses. This increased cost can be a significant consideration for many users.

Your eye doctor will recommend a specific brand of multifocal contact lenses based on your eye health needs, but it helps to keep yourself informed of your options before going in for a fitting. On that note, here are some of the most popular multifocal contact lenses on the market:

  1. AIR OPTIX AQUA Multifocal – Manufactured by Alcon, these lenses are designed for monthly replacement. They use Precision Profile Design for smooth transitions across all distances and are made with silicone hydrogel for greater oxygen permeability.
  2. Biofinity Multifocal – These monthly lenses from CooperVision feature Balanced Progressive Technology, providing superior vision at all ranges. Made with silicone hydrogel, they are known for their comfort and breathability, suitable for extended wear.
  3. Bausch + Lomb ULTRA for Presbyopia – Featuring 3-Zone Progressive Design, these lenses offer clear vision for near, intermediate, and far distances. They are monthly lenses that also boast MoistureSeal technology to maintain 95% of lens moisture for up to 16 hours.
  4. 1-DAY ACUVUE MOIST Multifocal – From Johnson & Johnson, these daily disposable lenses are convenient and feature LACREON technology, which provides a moisture-rich cushion for comfort. They also offer UV protection, blocking approximately 82% of UVA and 97% of UVB rays.
  5. ACUVUE OASYS for Presbyopia – These two-week replacement lenses by Johnson & Johnson feature Stereo Precision Technology to help maintain clear vision at varying distances. They also include HYDRACLEAR Plus technology for extra comfort.
  6. DAILIES TOTAL1 Multifocal – These daily disposable contacts from Alcon offer a water gradient technology, creating a cushion of moisture on the eye. They are known for their breathable design and provide a seamless visual experience from near to far.
  7. SofLens Multi-Focal – Manufactured by Bausch + Lomb, these lenses use a Natra-Sight Optics design for easy transitions between all distances. They are monthly lenses that combine exceptional visual clarity with user comfort.
  8. PureVision Multi-Focal – These monthly lenses from Bausch + Lomb deliver clear vision at all distances. The material used allows for extended wear of up to 30 days and nights, under the guidance of an ECP.
  9. Proclear Multifocal – Manufactured by CooperVision, these lenses incorporate Balanced Progressive Technology and are designed for monthly use. They are also known for retaining moisture and providing comfort throughout the day.
  10. PureVision2 Multi-Focal – An update from Bausch + Lomb, these lenses are designed for sharp vision and comfort. They utilize High Definition Optics to reduce halos and glare and are made for monthly replacement.

How Much Do Multifocal Contact Lenses Cost?

The cost of multifocal contacts can vary widely depending on several factors. Understanding these can help you assess the overall value for money and make an informed decision suitable for your budget and vision needs.

Factors Affecting Cost

  1. Replacement Schedule – Multifocal lenses come in different replacement schedules, including daily, bi-weekly, and monthly disposables. Generally, daily disposable lenses tend to be more expensive in the long run due to the convenience and frequent replacement, whereas monthly lenses might offer more value over time but require careful maintenance.
  2. Brand and Manufacturer – Premium brands often charge more due to their established reputation and the research and development costs that go into creating advanced lens technologies. Lenses from well-known companies like Bausch + Lomb, Alcon, and CooperVision may come at a premium but are often associated with high quality and customer satisfaction.
  3. Materials and Technologies – Lenses featuring the latest in lens technology—such as silicone hydrogel, which allows more oxygen to pass through the lens to the eye, or advanced moisture-retaining features—tend to be more expensive. However, they also offer greater comfort and eye health benefits, which can be crucial for users wearing lenses for extended periods.
  4. Special Features – Additional features like UV blocking, high water content, and breathability add to the cost. However, they also provide added value in terms of eye health and comfort, making them a worthwhile investment for many users.

Value for Money

When considering multifocal contact lenses, it’s essential to balance cost with the benefits they offer. While they may be more expensive than single-vision lenses, the ability to see clearly at multiple distances without needing additional glasses can significantly enhance quality of life. Investing in higher-quality lenses can also reduce potential eye health issues in the future, potentially saving money on eye care expenses.

Choosing the right lens depends on your specific needs, lifestyle, and budget. Consulting with an ECP can help you navigate these choices.

Best Alternatives to Multifocal Contact Lenses

If multifocal contact lenses aren’t the right fit for you or if they’re not recommended by your ECP, there are other options available to manage presbyopia, each with its own set of advantages and considerations:

  1. Standard Contacts With Reading Glasses – This combination allows you to use standard single-vision contact lenses for distance vision, while reading glasses can be worn as needed for close-up tasks. This option is straightforward and often cost-effective.
  2. Monovision Glasses – In monovision, one eye is corrected for distance vision and the other for near vision. This approach can be achieved with contacts or glasses and may take some getting used to, but it allows the brain to adapt to different focal strengths.
  3. Bifocal Contact Lenses – Similar to bifocal glasses, these lenses have distinct areas designated for distance and near vision, separated by a visible line. They provide a direct but less seamless transition between viewing zones compared to multifocals.
  4. Surgical Correction or Lens Implantation – Surgical options, such as LASIK or the implantation of corrective lenses, are more permanent solutions for treating presbyopia. These procedures can significantly reduce or even eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses.

How to Take Care of Multifocal Contact Lenses

woman-cleaning-contact-lenses

Proper care of your multifocal contact lenses is crucial for ensuring they perform as intended and maintain your eye health. Here are some tips to help you take care of your multifocal contacts and ensure a safe and comfortable wearing experience:

  • Clean Regularly – Always wash your hands thoroughly before handling your contact lenses. Use a recommended lens cleaning solution to clean your lenses every time you remove them. Rub the lenses gently with your fingers and then rinse them thoroughly before soaking them in disinfecting solution.
  • Use Proper Solution – Never use water, saliva, or an expired solution to clean or store your lenses. Always use fresh, sterile cleaning solutions specifically designed for contact lenses to prevent infections and maintain lens integrity.
  • Follow Replacement Schedule – Adhere strictly to the replacement schedule prescribed by your  ECP. Whether your lenses are daily, bi-weekly, or monthly disposables, replacing them on time prevents discomfort and reduces the risk of eye infections.
  • Store Correctly – When not in use, store your lenses in a clean lens case filled with fresh disinfecting solution. Change the solution daily and replace your lens case every three months to prevent bacterial growth. Do not reuse old contact lens solution.
  • Avoid Sleeping in Lenses – Unless specifically prescribed by your eye care provider, do not sleep in your contact lenses. Removing them overnight reduces the risk of eye infections and allows your eyes to breathe.
  • Handle with Care – Be gentle when handling your contact lenses to avoid tearing or damaging them. Use your fingertips and avoid using your fingernails or sharp objects when handling lenses.
  • Monitor for Discomfort – If you experience any discomfort, redness, or blurred vision while wearing your multifocal lenses, remove them immediately and consult your ECP. This could be a sign of a larger issue that may need medical attention.

Bottom Line: Are Multifocal Contact Lenses Worth It?

Multifocal contact lenses offer a seamless transition between multiple viewing distances, enhancing visual acuity for a range of activities. While they require an adjustment period and are typically more expensive, their ability to provide clear vision without additional eyewear can significantly improve quality of life. 

Note that multifocal contact lenses are not suitable for everyone. Consult with an ECP to determine if multifocal contacts are the best fit for your vision needs. 

If any of the multifocal contact lens brands highlighted here caught your attention, we encourage you to explore more at Lens.com and start your journey toward clear and comfortable vision.