Contact Lenses

Bifocal and Multifocal Contact Lenses

Bifocal contact lenses are designed to provide good vision to people who have a condition called presbyopia.

The main sign that you’re developing presbyopia is that you need to hold menus, newspapers and other reading material farther from your eyes in order to see it clearly.

Bifocal and multifocal contact lenses come in both soft materials and rigid gas permeable (GP) materials. They are also available as hybrid contact lenses. Some can be worn on a disposable basis. That means you have the convenience of throwing the lenses out at specified intervals (even daily, in some cases) and replacing them with fresh, new lenses.

Several lens manufacturers offer multifocal contact lenses made of silicone hydrogel material. These lenses allow significantly more oxygen to reach the cornea than conventional soft lenses for greater wearing comfort, and are available for both daily wear and extended wear.

Brands of multifocal silicone hydrogel contacts include Acuvue Oasys for Presbyopia (Vistakon), Air Optix Aqua Multifocal (Ciba Vision), Biofinity Multifocal (CooperVision) and PureVision Multi-Focal (Bausch + Lomb). Duette hybrid contact lenses use a silicone hydrogel skirt.

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Contact Lens Basics

Contact lenses, like eyeglasses or LASIK, can correct your nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Among Americans who need vision correction, about 20 percent wear contact lenses.

While some people enjoy making a fashion statement with eyeglasses, others prefer their appearance without them. Contact lenses can achieve this without irreversible refractive surgery. Contact lenses can also provide a full field of unobstructed vision, which is great for sports.

Contact lenses have been around for more than a hundred years. During that time, many advancements have allowed just about everyone to wear contact lenses. If you were told in the past that you couldn’t wear contact lenses, odds are that’s not true today. There are more convenient and healthy contact lens options than ever.

If you’re new to contact lenses, your first step is to see an eye doctor. In the United States, contact lenses are a prescription item, just like pharmaceuticals. They must be prescribed and properly fitted by an eye care professional (ECP). Your ECP will evaluate your visual needs, your eye structure, and your tears to help determine the best type of lens for you.

The many types of contact lenses currently available can be grouped in various ways according to:

  • What they’re made of
  • How long you wear them without removal
  • How often you dispose of them
  • The design of the lens

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Contact Lenses for the ‘Hard-to-Fit’ Patient

If you have had trouble wearing contact lenses or have been told you’re not a good candidate for contacts, you simply may have eyes that are “hard to fit.”

But don’t worry — this doesn’t mean you can’t wear contact lenses. You just need to know your options and how to find an eye care practitioner (ECP) who has special expertise in contact lens fitting.

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Eye Exams for Contact Lenses

Eye exams for contact lenses include special tests that typically are not performed in routine eye exams for eyeglasses.

So if you are interested in contacts — or you already wear them and want to have your contact lens prescription updated — make sure you say so when you schedule your appointment for an eye exam. This will ensure your exam includes extra time for your optometrist or ophthalmologist to perform additional tests needed for a proper contact lens fitting or prescription update.

Also, be aware that it’s usually more convenient and economical to have your general eye exam and your contact lens exam performed by the same eye care professional (ECP). If you have these exams performed by different ECPs at different locations, the practitioner performing your contact lens exam may want to repeat certain tests already performed during your general eye exam, and this might entail additional fees.

This is because the second ECP is responsible for the health of your eyes during contact lens wear, and he or she may wish to verify the health of your eyes and the accuracy of your eyeglasses prescription to have the best data possible to perform a safe, successful contact lens fitting.

Duplicate testing is especially likely if the ECP performing your contact lens exam does not have access to the record of your general eye exam performed by the first doctor.

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Gas Permeable (GP) Contact Lenses

Gas permeable contact lenses are rigid lenses made of durable plastic that transmits oxygen. These lenses also are called GP lenses, rigid gas permeable lenses, RGP lenses and oxygen permeable lenses.

GP contact lenses are rigid, but they shouldn’t be confused with old-fashioned hard contact lenses, which are now obsolete. Hard contact lenses were made of a material known as PMMA. Before 1971, when soft contact lenses were introduced, just about all contact lenses were made from PMMA.

Though PMMA hard contacts had excellent optical qualities, they were not oxygen-permeable, and the front surface of the eye needs plenty of oxygen to stay healthy. Also, old-fashioned hard lenses were not as comfortable as modern GP lenses.

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could correct your eyesight and reduce your dependence on glasses or contact lenses — without having to undergo eye surgery?

It might sound far-fetched, but it’s a reality for many people. It’s called orthokeratology, or ortho-k.

Here are the top 10 things you should know about orthokeratology:

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Toric Contact Lenses for Astigmatism

Too often, people mistakenly believe they can’t wear contact lenses because they have astigmatism. The truth is, today there are plenty of excellent options for correcting astigmatism with contact lenses.

Here are the main types of contact lenses for astigmatism, in order of current popularity in the United States:

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