Multifocal vs. monofocal contact lenses

Written by rebecca sundt
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Multifocal vs. monofocal contact lenses
There have been many advancements in the field of vision. (Image by, courtesy of Tom Henderson)

Advancements are constantly being made in the field of vision. Advertisements show the latest, trendiest eye glasses and the most comfortable, breathable contact lenses. The number of different types of contact lenses is growing, and eye doctors are informing their patients of the benefits of each. Two types of contact lenses are multifocal lenses and monofocal lenses. Each have features that make them work in different ways.

Features of Multifocal Lenses

Multifocal lenses allow you to alternate between lenses with different powers. When you shift your gaze, it's like looking through two different lenses. This is called alternating vision. Some multifocal lenses have you look through two powers at the same time. These are called simultaneous vision lenses. Your brain learns to select which lens is appropriate to use depending on what you are looking at.

Features of Monofocal Lenses

Monofocal lenses work by having a different contact lens in each eye: one for distance vision and the other for near vision. Things that are far away may seem more blurry in one eye while things that are close look blurry in the other. With both eyes open, however, the images are clearer. The lens for distance vision would go into the more dominant eye.


Monofocal lenses comes in different forms. With mini-monovision, the near vision lens has less magnification. Varied monovision has a single vision contact lens in the distance eye and a bifocal lens in the near eye. Multifocal lenses come in variations as well. Translating lenses have a distance lens on top and a near lens on the bottom. A concentric design has a prescription in the middle with different rings of power surrounding it. Aspheric lenses are designed to have the near and distance lenses both near the pupil.


People who don't do a lot of up-close work benefit more from mini-monovision lenses. Someone who spends most of their time driving or doing other activities that require distance vision will opt for mini-monovision lenses. Reading glasses are required once in a while. Modified monovision works best for people who need better distance vision but don't want to use reading glasses for things up close. Bifocals are for people who need distance lenses but also need vision correction when working up-close, like at a computer.


Monofocal lenses do not always provide the best clarity for distance vision. Objects that are far away may be slightly blurred. The same complaint can be said for monovision lenses' correction for near vision. Reading glasses may still be required to accomplish an up-close activity. Multifocal lenses are hard for many wearers to adjust to. It takes time to get used to the power variations in the contact lenses. Your eye doctor will perform multiple tests to see which kind of multifocal contact lens is right for you.

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