Bifocal Contact Lenses – A Babyboomer’s Experience

I’ve recently tried wearing bifocal contact lenses. I wore single vision contact lenses all the time when I was younger. I preferred them to glasses, they gave me superior vision to glasses and they were comfortable to wear.

I was prescribed my first pair of contact lenses when I was around 20-years-old (a long time ago … I’m one of Australia’s four million baby boomers). They were the old-fashioned hard lenses; they required little care and provided great vision for many years.

My next pair of contact lenses were the newer soft lenses six or seven years later. The soft lenses were revolutionary at the time and didn’t cause the cornea distortion that was an issue with the earlier hard lenses. However, the new soft lenses required a lot of maintenance. They had to be boiled and soaked and were more trouble than they were worth so after a year or so I went back to wearing glasses.

More recently I moved from single focus glasses to correct my myopia to multifocal lenses to deal with my presbyopia (the syndrome that many people experience as they age when they find that their arms aren’t long enough to read a book or a menu!). I’ve been very happy with the multifocal glasses, I wear them all the time as I can’t see a great deal without them and I stayed with glasses until quite recently.

I like to surf and swim when I’m on holidays and we were planning a trip to Tonga and I wanted to be able to go snorkeling and to see the coral and the tropical fish so I thought I’d try bifocal contact lenses with a view to being able to swim and see at the same time!

So off I went to the optometrist. He was very helpful and explained that due to a combination of my myopia, astigmatism and presbyopia that I was unlikely to achieve the sort of vision I received from my glasses with bifocal contact lenses. However, since I mostly wanted the lenses for distance vision I was prepared to give them a go.

He ordered in some disposable acuvue bifocal contact lenses and I went back the next day to try them on.

With bifocal contact lenses one lens is designed for distance viewing and the other lens is designed for reading.

It was a little uncomfortable at first to put contact lenses into my eyes again after so many years but I achieved it without too much difficulty. The weird thing was trying to get used to one eye seeing distant objects and one eye seeing close up.

My optometrist sent me away for half an hour to see how I managed. I made it to my local cafe where I enjoyed a cappuccino and even managed to read the paper without covering up one eye! My optometrist was happy with that result so I wore the one pair of disposables (they last two weeks) and drove home wearing my new contacts…

I didn’t wear the new contact lenses the next day, however the day after I thought I’d better try them again and start to get used to them. I needed to build up my wearing time. I had little difficulty the second time although – as predicted by the optometrist – I didn’t have great close-up vision with them. Although, that said, I could manage to read quite well. Perhaps it’s not that I couldn’t see close-up … I think I was still trying to get used to the idea of one eye having distant vision and one eye having close-up vision. The lenses themselves were quite comfortable.

I wore the contacts most days while I was on holidays, and even though I wasn’t completely happy with the level of vision that I achieved with them they served their purpose of allowing me to swim, snorkel and see at the same time. For most of the time the lenses were quite comfortable. One lens irritated my eye slightly but I think that was only from long wear. The longest time I wore the lenses was for about nine hours one day when I was sailing.

Once the holidays were over and there was no more snorkeling and I was back to work in front of a computer.

I gave the bifocal contact lenses a go while using the computer – but it just didn’t work for me. The distance wasn’t right. I can read a book okay with the lenses but when I use the computer I’m too far from the screen to focus and I can’t sit any closer to overcome the problem as I have a large monitor.

I’ve seen the optometrist again but there is no other bifocal contact lens solution available for me. I tried them for about a month before abandoning the project. I ordered a new pair of glasses instead!

I’d use the contacts again if I was going on holidays and wasn’t going to be using a computer all the time but I just don’t find them practical for everyday use. I think the issue for me is the inability to focus both eyes at once on any object.

About the only time when I found them useful was when I was reading and that wasn’t the purpose of them – I wanted the bifocal contact lenses more for distance than for reading. Still, they served the purpose when I was snorkeling and swimming!