Wearing Contact Lenses and Reading Glasses? You Have Better Options

Thanks to these smart innovations, you may be able to skip the dreaded readers


Contact lens options for presbyopia. Man reading to baby.

Remember the day you got contact lenses? No more foggy specs. No more bent frames. No more scrounging around for glasses you put…somewhere.

What a run! Until you hit 40-something and the world started blurring again. 

It happens to everyone: presbyopia (from the Greek for “old eyes”). As you get older, the lens of your eye becomes harder and less flexible. So the tiny muscles inside have a tough time reshaping your lens to focus on objects that are close.

If you find yourself squinting to read small print or overextending your arms to hold your book at arm’s length, you might have presbyopia.

What to do? You can dash to the drugstore and buy some readers or even get a prescription pair from your optometrist. But then your dependence on glasses is back. 

Alternatively, talk to your optometrist about a new contact-lens prescription. “We have good options for contact-lens wearers who develop presbyopia and now have another vision problem that needs correcting,” says Margaret Barrett Harrington, O.D., an optometrist at America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in Daytona Beach, Florida. 

There are two ways to go—monovision or multifocal contacts, explains Dr. Harrington. Both are available in daily, biweekly, or monthly prescriptions. 

In 2018, 45% of folks with presbyopia who chose to wear contacts decided on multifocal lenses, while 35% went for monovision lenses, according to data from Contact Lens Spectrum, an industry journal.

“I tend to try multifocal as a first option for most patients,” says Dr. Harrington. “But people who don’t have a distance prescription—and only need help to read—may do well with monovision.” 

Lot of factors go into making the right decision, so it’s important to talk with your eye doctor. Here’s an overview to help you jump-start that conversation:

Monovision Contacts

With these, you get two completely different contact lenses: one eye is corrected for distance and the other for near vision. 

“Monovison is tried and true,” says Dr. Harrington. These contacts have been around for a long time, and they still work for lots of people.

Pros: 

  • They can be a great option for people with astigmatism (an imperfection in the curvature of the eye that causes blurry vision at all distances) or other more complicated prescriptions.
  • They’re available in colored lenses.
  • They’re less expensive than multifocals: monovision contacts start at about $14 for a box of six and go up from there (depending on brand, color, or astigmatism correction).

Cons:

  • Though they’re great for near and far vision, they don’t correct for intermediate distances.
  • They may provide decreased depth perception, so they’re probably not a good choice for people who are pilots, heavy-equipment operators, or truck drivers.
  • There’s a learning curve as your eyes and brain adjust to the new visual tasks and cues. Dr. Harrington says you need to give yourself a week or two to feel fully comfortable with your new view. Be sure to bring up any questions or issues at your follow-up appointment, which is usually a week or so after your lens fitting. 

Multifocal Contacts

These give you both distance and near vision in each lens. Like multifocal eyeglasses, these lenses have a smooth, gradual transition between the prescription for distance and up-close work. Unlike eyeglasses, the prescription is throughout the lens, not just at the bottom for reading. That means you can read in a wider variety of positions, rather than just looking down.

In the past decade, the number of presbyopic adults who’ve been fitted with multifocal contact lenses has doubled, according to Contact Lens Spectrum. 

Pros:

  • Multifocal lenses provide better binocular vision—that’s your ability to see with both eyes together—than monovision lenses.
  • They provide increased depth perception, which is super-important for people who spend lots of time on the computer or who drive long distances.

Cons:

  • As with monovision lenses, your eyes will need a week or so to adapt. 
  • They’re more expensive than monovision contacts: prices start at $65 for a box of six.
  • They’re not available in a colored lens.

“I’m always surprised at how few people know that these options are available,” says Dr. Harrington. “It’s great that people who need some help with reading or whose jobs require them to look up or reach overhead frequently have good options. 


 

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