Can contact Lenses Correct Presbyopia?
Are you 40-something and complain about the fine print? Are they having trouble reading between the lines? Unsure if your vision is getting worse? Don't want to succumb to the half-size bifocals or reading glasses?
Don't panic you are not the only one.
Presbyopia is becoming an increasingly common problem in the contemporary world affecting over a billion people worldwide- as populations age then an increasing percentage of the population will experience difficulties in reading small print.
The chances of experiencing presbyopia’s tell-tale signs like blurred near vision dramatically increase after a person reaches 45 years old. The fact of the matter is that millions of Baby Boomers are coming of age, and are therefore seeing (or not seeing) the signs of failing vision. As people age, their eyes lose the ability to change focus from distant objects to near ones. Thus, a large percentage of this population approaching or at age 45 are suffering from presbyopia or "aging eye."
As the UK population ages, finding ways to help people combat presbyopia will become an increasingly important public health issue. Traditionally, once a contact lens wearer reached about 45 years old and started to have problems reading with their contact lenses in, the only option for the Optometrist was to prescribe reading glasses to be worn over the contact lenses - hardly an ideal solution, when the whole point of contact lenses is NOT to wear glasses!
Fortunately, advances in contact lenses and lens care technology over the last 10 years have revolutionized the way '40 Somethings' are dealing with presbyopia and vision correction.
Multifocal Contact Lenses For Presbyopia
Multifocal contact lenses now come in Dailies i.e Dailies Aquacomfort Plus multifocal or 1 Day Acuvue Multifocal, in monthly formats i.e Biofinity Multifocal or even multifocal lenses you can wear overnight for example Purevision Multifocal.
Whether the problem is reading a newspaper or seeing a street sign, many 40 Somethings are finding that contact lenses offer a more convenient and aesthetically pleasing means of vision correction. Furthermore, contact lenses don't get in the way of an active lifestyle. They allow wearers to maintain complete peripheral vision, they don't steam up, and best of all, they don't change your natural appearance unless you want them to.
If you are a 40something with the onset of presbyopia and you are already shortsighted, longsighted or have astigmatism doesn't mean you are destined to wear reading glasses, Varifocal contact lenses can deal with all these issues whilst still not letting the world know you need glasses.
How Is Presbyopia Treated?
There are several options available to treat or correct presbyopia
1. Eye GlassesThere are various options for glasses
- Bifocals - have a clear demarcation between the top and the bottom of the lens with the distance power being in the top part of the lens and the reading prescription in the bottom part of the lens.
- Progressive lenses - these offer the same near and distant vision correction but progressively through the lens from bottom to top so no demarcation line.
- Reading Glasses - These are used if you do not need your distant vision corrected or you can wear them if you wear contact lenses, convenient if you only read occasionally.
- Half Eyes - these correct the near vision with just "half a lens allowing them to be smaller and great if you don't need your distance vision corrected
Moorfields Eye Hospital says that a variety of surgical solutions are available to reduce or fully correct the need for spectacles for patients of any age. These are not usually available on the NHS.
Monovision can be achieved with LAIK surgery where the vision in one eye is altered, so one eye sees in the distance and one close to - this can take a little while to get used to but is effective for many people, mono vision can also be induced using contact lenses.
3. Contact Lenses
Contact lenses are a great way to correct presbyopia, multifocal or varifocal contact lenses are available in dailies, monthlies or even extended wear lenses. Contact lenses will need fitting by an Optometrist to get the best fit and the right options for your lifestyle and vision correction.
Can Contact Lenses Correct Presbyopia?
There are a variety of ways to correct presbyopia with contact lenses, depending on your lifestyle and the amount of presbyopia you and your Optometrist could explore one or more of the following options
- Multifocal contact lenses.
"Multifocal" is a catch-all term used to describe contact lenses that have different powers of vision in the same lens. Some examples of multifocals include concentric lenses, aspheric lenses and translating lenses. All of these lens types are designed to give you a clear field of vision in near, far and middle distances by shifting your gaze. Multifocal Contact lenses are either weighted to stay in place, or are thinned out at the top and bottom to stay in the correct orientation in relation to your lids.
Multifocal contact lenses work on a 'simultaneous vision principle' in that both distance and near vision are in focus at the same time, and you learn to ignore one and see the other, depending on the task at hand. Multifocal lenses can come with a centre near or a centre distance design, and your optometrist will judge which is best for you. Many people are able to adjust to a multifocal lens within days. Others will not be able to tolerate them and may need to try alternative methods.
Multifocal contact lenses require careful fitting by an Optometrist in order to get the correct powers to enable you to see comfortably at all distances. Sometimes the optometrist can make the smallest change to a power, either distance or near in the contact lens, and this can have a large impact on the quality of the users' vision. Aftercare appointments to make these adjustments are very important to the overall chance of success. Typically, it takes 2-3 weeks to fully adapt to Multifocal Contact Lenses
- Inducing monovision with contact lenses.
Another treatment method involves training one eye to be nearsighted and the other eye to remain farsighted. This is accomplished by over-correcting vision in one eye with a contact lens. While this may sound nauseating, the brain quickly learns which eye is for which task. Adaptation is usually quick and hassle-free. If you're still having problems adjusting after a week or so, check in with your Optometrist. Some people will not adapt to monovision. If you already have good vision and don't wear correction at all when presbyopia develops, inducing monovision with a contact lens in one eye may be the simplest way to give you back your close vision.
- Modified Monovision. Here you wear a multifocal lens, usually in your non dominant eye, which is adjusted by the optometrist to give better near vision, with some compromise in the distance, and in the other eye a standard distance lens. If you don't read a lot, or do a lot of close work, this can be an ideal solution.
- Contact lenses plus a pair of reading glasses. If you spend hours a day reading, doing needlepoint, writing by hand or doing other close work, it may make sense to wear close-vision glasses over the top of your distance contact lenses when you are doing extended near tasks.
Contact Lenses or Glasses for Presbyopia?
Choosing whether contact lenses or glasses is the best method of correcting your presbyopia depends a lot on your particular case and your personal preferences. Some people do not like the idea of eyeglasses on their faces, especially if they've never worn glasses before. Others cannot get used to contact lenses or are not keen on putting their fingers in their eyes. Your optometrist can work with you to discover what methods you are comfortable trying. It's not at all uncommon to need to try a few different solutions before finding the one that's best for you and your circumstances.
As you can see, there are many different options available for treating this perfectly normal consequence of aging. With so many options available, there's no need to go through life holding reading materials at arm's length or giving up your favourite hobbies. Speak to your Optometrist about the options he or she would recommend. There's no reason to suffer with poor vision when correction is often just an ye test away.
Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 1 Jun 2016, Last modified: 3 Jan 2023