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How Do Multifocal Contact Lenses Work?

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The Cure for “Short Arms” 

If you’ve ever wished for longer arms while trying to read, you may be interested in multifocal contact lenses! These types of lenses could be the answer for patients requiring reading glasses, bifocals, or experience a combination of nearsightedness and presbyopia

Any type of lens that has more than one prescription is considered multifocal. Bifocal lenses are more popular, but there are trifocal lenses and progressive options available

Types of Multifocal Lenses

Multifocal lenses can come in a soft option, or as a rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lens. Each lens will have different sections for each prescription. Typically, there is a section for closer objects, one for normal-sized objects at a distance, and an area for intermediate distances. 

There are a few different types of multifocal lenses, like: 

  • Concentric Circles: These lenses contain circles with more than one prescription. Generally, the central part is used for distance viewing, and the subsequent rings will each have varying powers or prescriptions. 
  • Aspheric designs: These lenses are designed with a gradual transition occurring between each prescription. These blended lenses create a more natural experience for the patient by correcting specific points in the visual field. 
  • Segmented: These lenses have clearly divided areas of focus for each prescription. 

Multifocal Contact Lenses & Presbyopia

Don’t Buy That Arm Stretcher Just Yet! 

Multifocal contact lenses provide the ability to focus on closer objects while maintaining distance correction, having a significant impact on patients with presbyopia

You may notice yourself or the older adults in your life holding reading materials further away to see them more clearly. This need for longer arms is a symptom of presbyopia, and it’s an entirely normal part of the ageing process. 

Presbyopia generally occurs in adults over 40, and it results from our eyes gradually losing the ability to focus on closer objects as we grow older. It is a condition that develops slowly, and you may not notice a difference in your vision at the onset.  

The eye’s clear lens is located behind the iris. As we age, this lens gradually becomes more rigid. As the lens hardens, it becomes more challenging to do our favourite close-up tasks. 

You may have presbyopia if you experience the following symptoms

  • A tendency to hold your reading material further away to make the letters and symbols appear more clear. 
  • Eye strain after reading or doing activities that require close-up work.
  • Headaches after reading or doing activities that require close-up work. 
  • Blurry vision at an average reading distance.
  • A worsening of symptoms when fatigued or in a darkened room. 

Multifocal contact lenses can be a solution if you are a patient with a blend of presbyopia and another refractive error, like myopia (nearsightedness). These lenses can prevent you from juggling between different pairs of glasses, or from using a mix of contacts and reading glasses. 

A young boy holding a phone very close to his face because of myopia (extreme nearsightedness)

Multifocal Contact Lenses & Myopia 

Children with myopia (nearsightedness) can benefit from an alternate form of multifocal lenses called peripheral defocus contact lenses

These multifocal lenses have various rings of peripheral defocus. The centre area of the lens corrects distance vision, while the circles surrounding the centre blur the patient’s peripheral focus. 

Studies have shown that blurring peripheral vision helps slow eye growth in children, limiting the progression of myopia. 

If your child has myopia, speak to your optometrist about peripheral defocus contact lenses. Your doctor will provide further information on these lenses, and advise if they are a viable treatment for your child’s condition. 

Are Multifocal Lenses Right For You? 

Multifocal lenses can be a personalized solution for your condition. Speak to your optometrist if you are: 

  • Looking for better visual acuity in a wide range of distances. 
  • Tired of switching between different lenses or prescriptions in different situations, and wanting a more convenient visual experience. 
  • Dreaming of a glasses-free life, but having multiple prescriptions. 
  • Willing to accept an adjustment period while your eyes are trained to use this new style of lens. 
  • Interested in paying a little extra, or using more of your benefits coverage to pay for a specialized lens. 

How Do I Get Started? 

Book an appointment with your optometrist to discuss your interest in multifocal lenses. Your doctor will advise if this type of lens will positively impact your prescription, and if they are a good solution for your vision and lifestyle. 

Should your doctor determine that you are a candidate for multifocal lenses, they will provide a specialized contact lens fitting to help ensure the perfect fit. It can take some time to determine your exact eye shape, get extra measurements, and note any prescription changes. 

Your prescription may need some changes to accommodate where the contact lens sits on your eye

When your lenses are ready, you will be sent home with clear instructions for the adjustment period, and provided with a series of follow-up appointments to ensure your eyes remain healthy and happy. 

Contact Our Team 

If you would like more information about multifocal contact lenses, reach out to our incredible staff at the Red Deer Eye Care Centre. We’re a caring and experienced team offering personalized solutions for every prescription. We do fit several emmetropic presbyopes (no distance prescription), as well; some tend to find the decreased near clarity frustrating and will often appreciate the benefits of multifocal contacts. We can’t wait to see you again!

Written by Dr. Kevin Hesterman

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