Bifocal Contact Lens Basics

Jay Moncliff
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As we age, many of us notice that we can’t read as well as we used to. We hold things out further and further, literally at arm’s length, until friends and relatives inevitable begin joking about our arm’s getting shorter.
For many of us, presbyopia is a fact of life. Simply defined, presbyopia is the inability to focus on items in close range. This condition is caused by the lens in the eye becoming less and less flexible as we age. Unfortunately, most of us will need corrective lenses and even bifocals at some point as this condition worsens.
Until recently, bifocal wearers had few options when choosing corrective eyeware. Glasses with bifocal lenses were the most common option. Luckily, no-line bifocal lenses were developed, and the glasses became somewhat more attractive. Some struggled with the “one contact lens” option, called monovision, but this seemed to result in a lot of squinting for the users and usually required a difficult adjustment period.
Recently, bifocal contact lenses have been developed for almost every kind of contact lens on the market. This advancement is great for the aging population already wearing single vision contacts but needing to “step up” to the bifocal lens.
Bifocal contact lenses work just like bifocal glass lenses do; two powers of glass in each lens provide different focus adjustments, one for far away (distance) and another for close up. Both adjustments are contained in each contact lens. Different manufacturers make different types of bifocal lenses, and it may take some experimentation to discover which type is right for you.
Some bifocal contact lenses are made with a concentric design. Like concentric circles, one adjustment is in the middle of the lens, and the other adjustment is around the outside of the lens. The two are distinct, with a sharp delineation between the two. Although they sound difficult to use, most find that they eye will adjust and use the proper ring with a little practice.
Aspheric lenses have a more gradual change between focuses. Both of the powers are in the area of the pupil, and as with the concentric lens, the eye will adjust and learn to choose the proper focus to use.
The third type of bifocal lens is the translating lens. Like bifocal glasses, the near correction is near the bottom of the lens and the distance correction is above. Since these lenses can’t shift in the eye, they are usually made so that they can’t move easily.
Ask your optometrist which type of lens he’d recommend for you. Since each will take require an adjustment period, be patient. You may want to research brands and types of lenses before going to your optometrist to decide if you want extended wear, daily disposable lenses or conventional contact lenses.
Whatever type you choose, the new bifocal contact lenses on the market can ensure that aging baby boomers can continue to read without sacrificing style or dignity.