If you are like the typical contact lens wearer and have recently reached the grand old age of 40, you may find yourself holding that book a little farther away from you to clear up the letters. At some point your arms actually become just a little too short to read the morning paper, and the phone book that keeps shrinking the text size, well you know the problem.
In the past, most contact lens wearers simply switched back to glasses at this stage of their life. Those of us who are known as the baby boomers are not accepting discontinuing contact lens wear when the eye starts losing it’s ability to accommodate, or change focus between distance and near vision. Though the cause is still being argued, many eye doctors believe the continued growth of the lens in the eye, hardening of the lens tissue over time, and a small displacement of the lens forward all contribute to the loss of focusing ability for close vision that degrades between the ages of 40 and 60.
In our Northern Colorado contact lens practice, over time we have evolved what seems to work best for most contact lens wearers facing this change in life. For some people it is very traumatic, being the first experience and awareness they have of the aging of their body.
The old options were threefold:
Stop wearing contact lenses and go back to glasses
Keep wearing contact lenses for distance vision and wear reading glasses over the contact lenses when you need to work at near
Wear a contact lens on one eye for distance and a contact lens on the other eye for reading
While these methods worked for some people very well, they left much to be desired. Inevitably bifocal contact lenses were destined to be developed and they were. Soft bifocal contact lenses are made several different ways but they all share in common some form of simultaneous viewing of distance and near vision. This presents the brain with somewhat of a dilemma in learning which image to attend to. When I say image it is a little misleading. We are usually not referring to double vision but funny feelings and ghost like rings or altered depth perception appearances up close. The brain can usually adapt to this given enough time, and learn to filter out the visual abnormalities.
The types of designs we work with include:
Annular lenses with a small central zone 2-3 millimeters in diameter, to fit in line with the black pupil area. A secondary area surrounds this to the edge of the lens. The lenses usually come in a distance version where the small central zone in front of the pupil has your distance prescription for maximum distance clarity. Surrounding this is the near zone for reading which has a small overlap over the edges of the pupil.
The reverse design is usually made for the same lens with the near vision correction being a small central zone in front of the pupil for maximum reading, surrounded by a distance prescription that extends to the edge of the lens.
Some soft contact lenses achieve a similar effect by gradually changing the prescription from the center to the lens edge.
Lastly, one contact lens company utilizes a different type of optics and has multiple surrounding rings alternating distance and near focal distances resembling a bulls eye target.
So what have our years of experience taught us?
Patients who expect perfect vision are rarely happy with soft bifocal contact lenses.
People who have clear goals in their minds of the specific tasks that are important to them for seeing well with contact lenses tend to do very well.
Patients who set their expectations on being able to function about 3/4 of the time with contact lenses and expect to need some form of glasses occasionally over the contacts to read extra fine print or drive through a mountain blizzard at midnight do very well.
It takes a while to adapt and usually a few adjustments of the prescription to reach the best correction we can achieve.
A reasonable goal is to see 20/20 distance vision in your dominant eye and 20/40 distance vision in your eye that is not dominant. That usually allows enough overlap for adequate near vision without too much difference between the eyes.
The distance center eye usually ends up with a lower bifocal power than the near center eye.
Some contact lens companies are adapting this philosophy and utilizing overlap between the two lenses in the intermediate ranges of 3 to 7 feet. This a very different philosophy than trying to fit a true distance and near bifocal lens on both eyes but it seems to be what works best today.
Then there are people with very specific tasks. I have some patients who only wear contact lenses for skiing and don’t need perfect distance vision or perfect near vision, just enough to see where they are going. Contact lenses prevent the problem of eye glasses fogging under goggles. In this case under correcting both eyes a little works wonders. Or some people just want lenses for distance for a night out on the town, maybe with one lens designed to allow reading a normal sized menu. The options are endless and you can take heart from my 96 year old patient who still loves her royal blue contact lenses. It’s never to late to try something new!
Do you want to continue wearing contact even though you are struggling with your near work and computer screen? Are dry eyes, pinkeye, blurred vision or other problems like, glaucoma, problems after LASIK surgery, nutritional eyecare needs or general eye care? If you live in Northern Colorado and are interested in what a Fort Collins Eye Doctors Office can do to help pick up the phone and call now-970-226-0959. If your have dry eyes that are gritty,sandy, burning and disrupting your life we are the Expert Fort Collins Contact Lenses Optometrist Center in Northern Colorado. Relief is on its way when you contact our patient centered office where your needs come first.