What is a multifocal lens?

A multifocal lens is a lens that contains two or more prescriptions for correcting vision at different distances. These include bifocals, trifocals, progressives and special occupational lenses. Multifocals are designed to help people see well at various distances, especially as they age. Bifocals (meaning two) are prescribed to aid both near and far vision. Trifocals (meaning three) are prescribed to aid near, arm’s length and far distances. 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. As people reach their early to mid-forties, their eyes gradually lose their ability to focus on objects that are close up. As a result, multifocal lenses are often prescribed to adjust to these changes.

Are multifocals just for older people?

No. Multifocal lenses are the correction of choice for certain conditions such as accommodative insufficiency or refractive esotropia for children, teens and young adults. Occasionally, a young person will require a different prescription in order to see more clearly, comfortably and efficiently at near vision than the one they require to see well in the distance. A multifocal may be used in this case as well.

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 addition 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 and many people prefer the cosmetic value of no lines in addition to the versatility that these lenses provide.

Don’t multifocals indicate a serious vision problem?

The gradual decrease in the ability of the eyes to focus at near is a natural part of the aging process. Multifocal lenses merely correct for 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 the utmost care and skill. Multifocal lenses, especially progressive addition lenses are very precise and expensive to manufacture. Additional time and skill is also needed in the measurements taken to accurately order the lenses and in dispensing them to you. Multifocal lens technology is ever improving and changing. Recent advances in lens manufacturing have made digital or high definition lenses available that correct for aberrations and provide a wider field of view.

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

Multifocal contact lenses are available. In addition, the technique of monovision (using one eye for close vision and one eye for distant vision) is very common. Reading glasses may also be used over top of contact lenses. Check with your doctor of optometry.

What are some suggestions for adapting to multifocal lenses?

  • Don’t look at your feet when walking.
  • Hold reading material at approximately 16 inches (or 40 centimetres) and lower your eyes so that you are reading out of the lowest part of your lenses.
  • Fold your newspaper in half or quarters and move it, rather than your head when reading.
  • Wear your multifocal continuously for the first week or two, until your eyes are accustomed to them, even though you may not need them for all tasks.
  • It is much easier to adapt to new glasses if you put them on first thing in the morning and do not switch between them and your old pair.
  • Make sure that eyeglass frames are always adjusted for your face so that the lenses are properly positioned.