Bifocal contact lenses are fairly new to the market. People who need bifocals have the condition known as presbyopia. Presbyopia is the inability of the eye to focus sharply on nearby objects because the crystalline lens looses its elasticity.
This condition usually appears once a person is 40 years old or more and the condition becomes worse with advancing age. A sign that you may have presbyopia is if you need to move reading material, such as the newspaper or a restaurant menu, farther from your eyes than normal in order to focus on it.
Alternative to Glasses
There used to be only one choice for those who needed bifocals, and that was to have bifocal glasses. However, recent years have seen advancements in technology, and bifocal contact lenses are now available in several different forms. You now have the choice of bifocal soft or rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses, frequent replaceable lenses, and disposable lenses.
Bifocal contacts work much the same was as bifocal glasses. Each lens has two powers: one for correcting distance vision if you need it and one to correct near vision. There are three basic kinds of bifocal contact lenses: translating, aspheric and concentric.
Translating contacts have two distinct powers in each lens, such as traditional lined bifocal glasses. Distance vision would be on top, and near vision would be on bottom. These contacts are referred to have a flat bottom to prevent the lenses from rotating in the eyes.
Other contacts, such as aspheric and concentric, make a transition from distance to near vision like the progressive bifocal glasses. Aspheric contacts have both the distance and the near prescriptions located around the pupil.
Concentric contacts typically have the near prescription in the center of the lens and the distance prescription around the outside of the lens, this is often called progressive. Regressive concentric contacts have the distance and near prescriptions reversed.
Wearing Bifocal Contact Lenses
It will take some time for your eyes to adjust to the bifocal contacts. After a little while, your eyes will learn to differentiate between the different prescriptions, and will begin to use the proper prescription for the proper distance. If waiting for your eyes to adjust to the contacts does not appeal to you, or you have other vision needs that bifocal contacts cant meet, your eye care professional may recommend monovision contact lenses.
With monovision, you wear one contact lens for distance vision and the other contact lens is for near vision. Usually the distance lens will be worn on your dominant eye. While this may seem like a strange choice for presbyopia, many people adjust to it more quickly than they do to other bifocal contacts.
You will hardly notice that each eye is responsible for a different field of vision. Since the lenses are not specially made, your eye care professional can order you regular spherical lenses in any of the currently available types, including disposables and extended wear.
While most people adjust well to monovision, you may find that you have to move your head around more in order to see clearly. This is because your vision is monocular while wearing the contacts instead of binocular, and you loose some depth perception as well.
Loss of depth perception can be a problem for athletic activities or piloting airplanes. In some cases, there becomes a plane of blurred vision between the far distance vision and the up-close near vision. This can be corrected by having one lens for correcting distance, and the other lens bifocal.
Care of Bifocal Contacts
Bifocal or monovision contacts require the same amount of care and maintenance as other contacts. You will still need to clean and disinfect them regularly and soak them overnight to prevent them from drying out. Your eye care professional may want to see you after a few weeks of wearing them to make sure you are adjusting well and that the lenses fit your eyes.
Another point to take into consideration is the cost of the contacts. Bifocal contacts are made for the individual prescriptions, and are not mass produced like some of the traditional contacts. Therefore, they may be more expensive since they can be viewed as special order items.
Ask your eye care professional for an estimate so you can know how much it will cost you before you decide if bifocal contacts are right for you. You may also want to check with your employer to see if you have vision insurance available. Vision insurance will help defray the costs of the contacts.
As with everything, do your research and make a decision based on your personal preferences. Talk to family and friends who have bifocal contacts, as they may offer some good advice. Your eye care professional can offer advice based on your prescription and overall eye health.