How do multifocal contact lenses work?

how do multifocal contact lenses work

Multifocal contact lenses are also known as varifocal lenses and have many benefits for those with presbyopia. This article discuss everything you need to know about these contact lenses and will advise on the best varifocal lenses available. We will also explore the problems people face when adjusting to varifocals. This includes experiencing headaches or having to trial different strengths in separate eyes to get the perfect prescription for yourself. In this instance, we would always recommend visiting an optometrist.

What are varifocal contact lenses?

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.

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, varifocal 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 street.

How do varifocal contact lenses work?

By offering two or more different prescriptive powers, these progressive contact lenses can ensure clear and concise vision across varying distances. 

How to adapt to varifocal contact lenses?

Varifocal contact lenses may take a while to adapt to and can cause problems whilst getting used to. 

Varifocal contact lens problems:

Whilst adapting to varifocal contact lenses, you may experience the following problems:

  • Nighttime glare and hazy or shadowed vision during the initial adjustment period
  • Having to adjust to the distinct viewing areas
  • The higher expense compared to standard contact lenses due to their higher power and intricacy to fit these lenses

How long does it take to get used to varifocal contact lenses?

If you have been prescribed varifocal lenses for the first time, it may take some time to getting used to. Your brain will be adjusting to your new view point and it can sometimes take around two weeks to fully adjust. The best way to get used to varifocals is by wearing them consistently.

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 close reading and using a mobile phone can be made much harder with presbyopia. They often result in 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 belief that you can only wear prescription glasses if you require a varifocal lens to correct presbyopia. However this is untrue. There are in fact contact lenses available if you require a varifocal lens. 

You can purchase these lenses as daily, two-weekly, monthly or yearly lens. In addition to this, you can choose a lens material to suit a soft or rigid design. 

We also stock standard hydrogel and silicone hydrogel lenses for presbyopia. Due to the comfort they provide, we would recommend these over rigid gas permeable lenses. However, it's best to consult with an eye care specialist before making your decision. 

How to adapt to varifocal contact lenses?

Adapting to varifocal 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 varifocal lenses in particular, your eyes are adjusting to focusing while wearing a lens with more than one prescription. Your eyes take time to 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. 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 . If you experience continuous discomfort and issues with visual clarity, it is highly advisable that you speak to your optician.

What types of varifocal contact lenses are available?

There are a range of contact lens designs for varifocal use. The most popular type features an aspheric design. Aspheric contact lenses position both the short and long-distance in front of the pupil, blending multiple prescriptions together. This ultimately means that your eyes are able to decide which prescription to use to view each object.

Concentric varifocal lenses?

Varifocal contacts with concentric circles are also available. These offer your standard prescriptive correction through the centre of the lens. They offer a gradual transition between prescription as the rings alternate distance and near corrections. 

Quick links:


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

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