A multifocal lens is a lens containing two or more prescriptions for correcting vision at different distances. They are designed to help people see well at various distances, especially as they age. As people reach their early to mid-forties, their eyes gradually lose the ability to focus on objects close up.  

Examples of multifocal lenses include:
     • Bifocals. They are prescribed to aid both near and far vision. They have one line in the lens.
     • Trifocals. They are prescribed to aid near, arm’s length and far distances. They have two lines in the lens. 
     • Progressives. Progressive addition lenses are multifocals with a gradual change in the lens from distance to arm’s length to near without lines in the lenses. 
     • Special occupational lenses 

Frequently asked questions:

Are multifocals only for older people? 
No. Multifocal lenses are the correction of choice for certain eye conditions such as accommodative insufficiency or refractive esotropia for children, teens and young adults. Sometimes, a young person will need a different prescription to see clearly in addition to their prescription for distance. A multifocal may be used in this case. 

Can I get rid of the telltale line in the middle of my bifocal or trifocal lenses? 

Those lines can be eliminated with no-line or progressive lenses. They gradually change in power from the distance segment to the near vision segment. These progressive lenses are the most advanced multi-functional of any multifocal. Many people prefer the cosmetic value of no lines in addition to the versatility these lenses provide. 

Don’t multifocals indicate a serious vision problem? 

The gradual decrease in the eye’s ability to focus at a near distance is a natural part of the aging process called presbyopia. Multifocal lenses merely correct these changes. Currently, over half of all spectacle lenses worn in Canada are multifocals. 

Why do multifocal eyeglasses cost more than regular eyeglasses? 

Eyeglasses are precision optical devices and must be made with care and skill. Multifocal lenses, especially progressive addition lenses are very precise and expensive to manufacture. Additional time and skill is also needed when measuring to accurately order the lenses. 

Multifocal lens technology is improving and changing. Recent advances in lens manufacturing have made digital or high definition lenses available. It corrects inefficiencies, providing a wider field of view. 

I currently wear contact lenses. Will I have to give them up? 

No. Multifocal contact lenses are available. In addition, the technique of monovision (using one eye for close vision and one eye for distant vision) is also an option. Reading glasses may also be used on top of contact lenses. Check with your optometrist to find the best option for you. 

What are some suggestions for adapting to multifocal lenses?

Getting use to your first pair of multifocal lenses might take some getting use to. It can take up to two weeks to learn how to properly use the lenses. Here are some helpful tips for adapting to multifocal lenses: 
     • Don’t look at your feet when walking. 
     • Hold reading material at approximately 40 centimeters and lower your eyes, allowing you to read out of the lowest part of your lenses.
     • Fold your newspaper in half or quarters and move it, rather than your head when reading.
     • Even though you may not need them for all task, wear your multifocals continuously for the first week or two. This will get your eyes accustomed to the lenses.
     • Put your glasses on first thing in the morning and do not switch between them and your old pair.
     • Make sure eyeglass frames are always adjusted for your face, ensuring lenses are properly positioned. If you feel they are not properly positioned, go back to your optometrist to have them properly fitted and adjusted to your face. Simple adjustments can sometimes make a big difference.


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