Ask Dr. Beach: Multifocal Contacts

Q:   “Do bifocal contacts work like regular bifocals? Do you have to look down to be able to read up close?”

This question was posed on our Facebook Fan Page and it’s one of my favorite questions to answer.

Bifocal contact lenses work very differently from bifocal glasses.  When a person is wearing bifocal or no-line bifocal (progressive) glasses the reading prescription is towards the bottom of the lenses.  As a result, the person must move their eyes down and the clear reading area will be found.

However, bifocal contact lenses (which I prefer to call multifocal due to their ability to address far, computer, and reading distances) work on a completely different concept.   Most multifocal contacts work based on pupil reactions.   When an individual looks up close to read, the pupils constrict and become a completely different size than when that individual is looking at street signs far away.   Multifocal contacts take advantage of this natural variation in pupil sizes by placing distant and near prescriptions in different areas of the lenses.

There are several different manufacturers of multifocal contacts, and they each have their own unique method of distributing the prescription across the diameter of the lens.   The two most common designs are:

Yet, the best multifocal contact lens design will ultimately depend on the person’s prescription, their visual requirements, and pupil size.    But with several brands, and more expected in the near future, there are numerous options for those who need bifocal glasses and want to experience the convenience of contact lenses.

Do you have an eye care question that you would like answered here on the blog?   If so, let me know by email at

Take care,

Dr. Beach