How do multifocal contact lenses work?

What are multifocal contact lenses?

Multifocal or 'varifocal contact lenses' have been designed to correct the visual issue of presbyopia. They blend together two or more prescriptions to allow your eyes the ability to focus on objects at all distances, giving you the freedom from wearing varifocal glasses.

Multifocals are also known as ‘varifocal contact lenses’ or ‘progressive contact lenses’.

The transition between these different prescriptions is much more gradual than with bifocal glasses and makes for seamless focusing on objects both near and far.

By offering two or more different prescriptive powers, multifocal contact lenses are able to ensure clear and concise vision across all distances, whether the object you’re looking at is right in front of your nose, a few metres in front of you, or on the other side of the streets.

What is Presbyopia?

Presbyopia occurs as we age and causes the eye’s lens to thicken and lose its mobility. This results in a lessened ability to focus effectively on close-up objects. Tasks such as reading and using a mobile phone can be made much harder with presbyopia, often causing headaches, tiredness and eye-strain. Presbyopia is age related and there is no official cure for it. Monitoring your eye health and living a healthy lifestyle may help delay the onset of presbyopia.

There is a popular, although incorrect belief that you can only wear prescription glasses if you require a multifocal lens to correct presbyopia. There are in fact multifocal contact lenses available if you require a multifocal lens. You can purchase multifocal lenses as daily, two-weekly, monthly or yearly lens. Additionally, you can choose between standard hydrogel and silicone hydrogel multifocal lenses.

How to adapt to multifocal contact lenses?

Adapting to multifocal lenses is no different from wearing any other lens. The first few days, your eyes will be adjusting to having a new corrective lens in your eye. For multifocal lenses in particular, your eyes are adjusting to focusing while wearing a lens with more than one prescription and utilise the segment of the lens needed to focus on a particular object and distance. You may notice the feeling of the lens, or have trouble inserting and removing the lens, however, this usually clears after a few days and practice makes perfect when wearing lenses. You can read our full guide on inserting and removing contact lenses here. If you experience continuous discomfort and issues with visual clarity, it is highly advisable that you speak to your optician.

What’s the difference between bifocal and multifocal?

As the name suggests, bifocal lenses are made up of two distinct segments, that are divided for different vision owners within a single lens. One power corrects distance vision and the second power corrects near vision. The enables a smooth transition of vision between objects and writing near and far. The term multifocal lenses refer to any lens with a range of powers, that enable you to see objects from distances near, far and in-between. Multifocal contact lenses are mostly designed in one of two ways; as simultaneous vision lenses, or alternating vision lenses.

What types of multifocal contact lenses are available?

The most popular type of multifocal contact lens features an aspheric design, essentially positioning both the short and long-distance prescriptions in front of the pupil and blending them together. This ultimately means that your eyes are able to decide which prescription to use to view each object.

Alternatively, multifocal contact lenses with concentric designs are also available. These offer your standard prescriptive correction through the centre of the lens, with rings of different prescription powers, both short and long distance, circled around.

Quick links:


A guide to presbyopia
Are there age limits on wearing contact lenses?