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Home » Eyeglasses & Contacts » Contact Lenses » Bifocal and Multifocal Contact Lenses

Bifocal and Multifocal Contact Lenses

If you are over 40 and have difficulty seeing close up, you probably have a common age-related condition called presbyopia which is when the eye’s natural lens loses the ability to focus on close objects. Presbyopia is a natural process as the eye ages and affects the majority of people from age 40 and upward. Individuals with presbyopia are often familiar with the need to hold reading materials such as newspapers an arm’s length away from their eyes in order to see clearly, yet reading glasses with bifocal or multifocal (progressive) lenses can help.

Fortunately for those who don’t like the look, feel or inconvenience of reading glasses, there is another option. Bifocal and multifocal lenses are also available in contact lenses in both soft and Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) varieties.

Multifocal contact lenses give you added freedom over glasses and they allow you to be able to view any direction – up, down and to the sides – with similar vision. People wearing progressive lenses in glasses on the other hand have to look over their glasses if they want to view upwards or into the distance.

The Difference Between Bifocal and Multifocal Lenses

Just as the name indicates, bifocal lenses are divided into two distinct segments for different vision powers, the first for distance vision and the second for near vision. This enables you to clearly switch your focus from near to far as needed, but your vision will not necessarily be clear in between. The term multifocal lenses can refer to any lenses with multiple powers including bifocals, trifocals or progressive lenses. Non-bifocal multifocal lenses have a range of powers that enable you to constantly adjust your focus to see clearly from up close to far and in between.

Multifocal contact lenses are generally designed in one of two ways, as either simultaneous vision lenses or alternating vision lenses.

Simultaneous vision lenses

The most popular version of multifocal contact lenses, simultaneous vision lenses present the distance and near vision zones of the lens at the same time. Typically after a short adjustment period your eyes learn to utilize the segment of the lens that they need to focus on the desired object and essentially ignore the other.

They come in two designs:

  • Concentric ring design: In the most basic form these are bifocal lenses that are comprised of a central circular area of one power with a ring around of the alternate power, similar to a bulls-eye. In this design the power of the rings (either near or distance vision is interchangeable). For intermediate viewing (18-24 inches away) extra rings can be added to create a trifocal or multifocal lens. The width of each ring is variable depending on the power that is needed most and the edges of the rings can be blended for a smooth transition of focus, similar to progressive eyeglass lenses.
  • Aspheric design: These multifocal lenses attempt to provide a natural vision experience by blending many lens powers across the surface and center of the lens. In this design both distance and near vision power are located in the central visual area and your eyes will adapt to focus on the area needed to view what you are looking at.

Translating or Alternating Vision lenses

Similar to bifocal eyeglass lenses, these contacts are divided into distinct areas or zones and your pupil will move to the desired zone depending on your vision needs. Typically the top of the lens, which is what you look through when looking straight ahead is for distance vision and the bottom area (what you look through when you look down) is for near vision. However, this can be reversed according to unique vision needs.

Since contact lenses sometimes move within your eye, translating lenses are held in place by a ballast which is an area that is thicker than the rest of the lens or by truncating or flattening the bottom to stay in line by the lower lid. These lenses are only available in rigid gas permeable lens material.

An Alternative Option to Multifocal Contact Lenses: Monovision

Monovision is another contact lens alternative for presbyopia particularly if you are having difficulty adapting to multifocal lenses. Monovision splits your distance and near vision between your eyes, using your dominant eye for distance vision and your non-dominant eye for near vision.

Typically you will use single vision lenses in each eye however sometimes the dominant eye will use a single vision lens while a multifocal lens will be used in the other eye for intermediate and near vision. This is called modified monovision. Your eye doctor will perform a test to determine which type of lens is best suited for each eye and optimal vision.

Are Contact Lenses Right for You?

If you have presbyopia, contact lenses may be a great option for you. Many people prefer the look and convenience of contact lenses over traditional reading glasses. Speak to your eye doctor about the options available to you.

To Our Valued Patients:

As an essential business, Kennedy Vision Health Center remains committed to patient and employee safety as we navigate through the current healthcare crisis. We are going to see patients again beginning May 4th.  We care deeply about patient health and have implemented several infection prevention measures to ensure the highest level of safety when you visit our clinic.  Following guidance from  the MN Dept. of Labor, MN Dept. of Health, CDC, and the American Optometric Association we are keeping a very controlled and safe environment for our patients and employees.

For patients being seen in our clinic, the CDC is now recommending that all staff, patients and visitors cover their faces in health care facilities. To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are requiring patients to bring and wear a face covering (such as protective mask or cloth covering) to any upcoming appointments.

Masks or cloth coverings must be worn over your mouth and nose for the duration of your appointment. Members of your care team will also wear masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you do not have access to a face covering, the CDC website has guidelines for making no-sew, cloth face coverings. You can also use a scarf or bandana. Additionally, masks can be purchased from many local and online retailers.

We are requiring an appointment to enter the office.  Appointments will be made for eye exams, glasses, and contact lens pickups.  If you do not have an appointment please call before entering so we can make sure we do not have too many people in the office.  Once entering please use the hand sanitizer that is provided in the foyer and wait to approach the front desk until the receptionist is ready.  All people entering the building must have their temperature checked.  If your temperature is above 100.4, it will be rechecked by a different device, and if still high you will need to reschedule.

We continue to ask that you do not bring any unnecessary people with you to your appointment, with the exception of a guardian with a child or assistance with mobility.  Also, please follow the 6 feet social distancing guidelines as much as possible throughout the office.

Rest assured that every surface you come into contact with has been sanitized prior to the arrival of each and every patient entering our practice, and it will be cleaned again as you exit each area. The team will be frequently washing their hands between interactions as per our usual protocol, and you’ll also see hand sanitizer throughout the practice for your use, as well.

If you’re  wanting to purchase glasses, there is a similar protocol in place to ensure a safe interaction with cleaning of frames and minimal contact with our optical team. Please follow their direction if eyewear is needed.

Kennedy Vision Health Center is also offering telemedicine visits which can be completed from the comfort of your home. To schedule a telemedicine visit please contact our office at 763-545-8850 and one of our team members will be happy to schedule your visit.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call us. On Monday May 4th we will begin regular office hours at both locations.

We appreciate your efforts to help protect yourself, our care teams and our entire community.