Professional Advice for Bifocal & Multifocal Lens Wearers

This week I had a typical situation occur. A customer needed an update of her contact lenses with a new prescription. Looking at her prescription and her history I noticed that with the changes indicated she would be noticing better distance vision but that would also result in a significant decrease in her ability to see close up. I mentioned the dreaded “bifocal” word and I almost needed to get the smelling salts from the back office.

“No! I don’t want that! It means I am getting old.” She exclaimed in horror.
“But no one has to know! And you will see so much more,” I countered.

Many manufacturers are making  bifocal contact lenses and multifocal contact lenses in a variety of designs. They are, for the most part, effective provided you have an understanding of how they work and what to expect. Bifocal, multifocal and progressive lenses in eyeglasses all operate on the same principle of alternating vision. When you wear them you can alternate between looking through the different power zones located throughout the lens by moving your eyes and head. In soft contact lenses this is much more difficult since the lens is smaller and with it being situated on the surface of the eye you can’t look through the different zones in the same way.

The way bifocal and multifocal soft contact lenses function is by using the principle of simultaneous vision. This is where the eye is looking through various powers at the same time and the brain has to interpret or choose what power to utilize. This sounds highly complicated but our brains are powerful machines and manage to accomplish this task rather successfully on an everyday basis. For instance, we use this function of the brain every time we look through a window. We can focus on the glass in front of us or we can ignore the glass and look at the view outside. In a split second we can alternate between the two items we wish to focus on. Likewise with multifocal soft contact lenses the same function can be accomplished to alternate between near vision and distance vision.

There are disadvantages and obstacles that we do stumble upon with multifocal contact lenses. Continuing with the window analogy we can better understand some of these obstacles. Clarity depends on a clean window and the absence of a screen. Unfortunately, with these types of contact lenses it is like there is a screen obstructing the quality of the view. This “screen” is not removable. Most people are quite successful in adapting to this and, despite the disruption, some can see 20/20; however there are some people who are unable to come to terms with this disruption in vision and are not successful in these lenses. The ability to adapt and wear these lenses successfully is often related to the type of prescription involved, the individual’s visual needs, and the individual’s expectations.

We believe it is important to spend time with our customers explaining how these lenses function and how that translates into usable vision for them. As part of the fitting process we review the prescriptions with customers, discuss lifestyle needs, and clarify expectations. We look forward to seeing you.

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