Multi-Focus Contact Lenses: Trading in Reading Glasses for a New Vision of Me

I still keep several pair of reading glasses on hand, but now they’re for friends who attend my monthly spiritual gatherings in my home. Photo by Lorna Tedder.


I discovered multi-focus contact lenses by accident but began wearing them with great purpose. You’d think that as a professional in my 40’s, I’d be a good demographic for Bausch and Lomb advertising but I’m not, which is why it’s amazing to me that I found them, and found something that really works for me…after a little tweaking. So here’s the good and the bad of what I discovered for myself and how I traded in my reading glasses for a new vision of Me.

I don’t watch TV because I like to avoid all the fear-mongering of the news, so if there are TV commercials about multi-focus contact lenses, I’ve missed it. If there are radio ads, I’ve missed those, too, because I’m usually listening to an audiobook on quantum physics—not beauty tips or how to fight aging un-gracefully. I don’t read women’s magazines either, mainly because they’re filled with the type of marketing that ruins self-esteem. I had no idea that multi-focus contact lenses existed so that I could search the Internet far and wide for reviews on the contacts or even personal stories (like this one) of what made the process work and where I hit some bumps in the road. But multi-focus contact lenses found me, anyway…exactly 2 years after I finally gave in and started wearing reading glasses.

Why I wanted multi-focus contact lenses:

I’ve worn glasses and contacts since I was 13. I’m not afraid of either but I’ve always preferred the convenience factors of contacts. And then suddenly I was having to wear both my contacts and glasses for my up-close work. I was lucky, I suppose, that I didn’t have to have reading glasses until most of my peers had had them for several years.

Not that I didn’t make the best of reading glasses (aka the oh-so-youthfully nicknamed “readers”) when I started wearing them right after my 45th birthday. I bought funky animal prints, geometrically-skewed kaleidoscope prints, and rhinestone and pink Elton-John-ish “dating” glasses. At that time, I was dating men between 35 and 47, and they’d invariably laugh about my reading glasses when I pulled them out to scour a menu at a nice restaurant. Most of my dates had to try them on and look silly but cute in public…and use them just long enough to read the menu for themselves! Then at 46, I began dating a man half my age and have continued to date sexy, fantastic men in their 20’s ever since. The last thing I wanted to do was let the boy take me out to dinner and then find myself fumbling in my purse for my reading glasses while a dippy Ruby Tuesday’s waitress flirted with my “son.” The only thing worse was pulling out reading glasses to check the small print on my birth control—argh!

But hating my reading glasses was never about vanity. I mean, I can pull off the sexy librarian look just fine, thank you, but do I want to? All the time? Who cares if the guys like it—it’s annoying when it’s 24/7/365.

It took at least a year for me to learn to cope with my hatred of the sheer inconvenience of reading glasses. I eventually had a pair in every room of the house, in my car, in my purse, on my desk at work, and wherever else I might suddenly need to read .2 font on the back of a medicine bottle or on the bottom of a contract.

Reading became so inconvenient that I gave up printed books in favor of audio books and stopped reading newspapers altogether. The constant put-them-on-pull-them-off was annoying, and every day I had a dozen conversations with my boss where I pulled off my readers to look up from my computer and talk to my boss who handed me some kind of small print so that I had to put them back on to read it and then pull them off to talk to him again. Ugh.

After confirming that I was not and would never be a candidate for laser surgery, I had almost resigned myself to a lifetime of contact lenses with reading glasses playing a significant part of everyday life when I put the desire out (Law of Attraction, you know?) for some sort of better solution to come to me that would allow me to read whenever and whatever I wanted without the shackles of reading glasses (or the constant clink of them in my purse). At a visit to my dentist’s office, I was told NO CELL PHONES ALLOWED due to the landlines’ picking up the static of my Internet connection, even when my phone was on silent. I put my phone away, heaved a big sigh, and actually opened a magazine. I landed on a page that featured multi-focus contact lenses and how you can see both near and far with them (and in-between) and never put on another pair of reading glasses again. Wow. I was hooked. Multi-focus contact lenses — just what I’d been looking for!

Getting multi-focus contact lenses:

When I asked if my beloved optometrist prescribed multi-focus contact lenses, the receptionist looked at me as though I were crazy and said, “Of course! We sell lots of them!” Actually, I wanted to scream, “Then why haven’t I heard of multi-focus contact lenses in the past two years and four visits here?” But she was way too sweet and upbeat and I was simply happy to know that I might have found my answer.

My eye doctor had to perform an exam for a new prescription, which my usually mediocre vision insurance (Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida–Federal employees) covered because it was a new prescription, to my surprise. It was time for my annual exam anyway and to renew my old lenses—a 30-day brand that I admit I wore day and night for 30 days at a time, against my optometrist’s advice. The doc put in the new multi-focus contact lenses and told me to come back in a week.

In a week, he tweaked the power in the left one to make it a little stronger without losing the distance vision. He told me I’d tolerated the multi-focus contact lenses very well and that each person is different in how we respond to the lenses, the multiple powers in them, and the light around us. Because the eye may dilate past the up-close or distance powers (for lack of a more clinical description), sometimes the power we need for either up-close or distance vision might not be where we need it, resulting in problems such as not being able to see signage on highways at night or read books at the beach. Some people, I was told, have to turn their face just so, in order to change the position of the power in certain light.

For me, I didn’t notice any particular differences in the first week except having to look “down” through my multi-focus contact lenses in certain light—and that the compact fluorescent lights at my mom’s house made reading a book nearly impossible. The same went for the dimmed lights in the Olive Garden in Destin, Florida. Impossible to read the ecru-colored menu and tiny print. (“Er, could I have a flashlight with that menu, please?”)

At the beginning of week three, my doc tweaked the power in the other eye and asked me to test it for a week. By the fourth visit, I was happy with my new contacts and ready to order several months’ supply—and take advantage of a special rebate deal that Bausch and Lomb was offering. These multi-focus contact lenses, even without the rebate, were cheaper than my usual brand.

So what’s the good and the bad of my new multi-focus contact lenses after a month? It’s specific to my eyes, of course, but here’s my personal review of what works for me and what doesn’t:

The Bad (or at least, the I’m-not-that-fond-of this):

I cannot sleep in the lenses longer than a couple of hours (for a nap, perhaps). I certainly can’t sleep in them all night or wear them for a straight 30 days. These are a lot thicker than the 30-day lenses, which had the density of Saran Wrap. This was probably the most difficult for me to deal with. I like being able to see when I wake up in the middle of the night–an old habit from when my children were very young.

I had a mild headache with nausea for about 3 to 5 days when I was getting used to the stronger up-close power with the same distance vision as before. This was similar to the kind of headache you get when changing to a new glasses prescription. I almost gave up on this until I was told I’d get used to it, and I was mostly there by the next day.

I didn’t notice it until I did a lot of night driving about 3 weeks into the trial process, but my distance vision at night is blurry in the far distance. Very far distance. Maybe 20 cars ahead, the traffic lights will be…double vision. Six green lights instead of three. Closer than that is just fine, but a lot of night driving makes my eyes feel tired and I have a slight nausea-headache effect.

You know how when you have your eyes dilated for a glaucoma test and all the lamps look strangely bright? That’s been a noticeable difference at night, beginning about an hour before twilight when the light starts to shift. Headlights and traffic lights, as well as neon and digital signs, have an odd halogen-light shine to them. To me, at least. The vision is still perfect, but it makes my eyes a little tired.

Compact fluorescent and dim bulbs make my eyes feel tired, too. This is most often in certain businesses, like the Okaloosa County Tax Collector’s office in Niceville, Florida. However, I’m also one of those people who see flickering in fluorescent bulbs, even the expensive ones.

The Good

Most importantly, I can see out there and I can see up here! That’s simply put but the magnitude of difference for me is H*U*G*E.

I can’t wear the lenses overnight or for 30 days, but the extra thickness (comparatively) makes it easy for me to take them out and put them in without them “taco-ing” on my fingertips.

In summary

So far, so good. They do take some tweaking and getting used to, but thus far, I prefer the minor inconveniences to the major inconvenience of reading glasses. That’s just me, of course, but maybe something in my own experience will help you either decide if they’re right for you or to adjust to your new contacts.

Update: Seven months later!  I am still loving these lenses.  I have just now started to notice some changes so that I need to update my prescription, so I’m glad I didn’t buy a year’s worth, even for some of the nice discounts that were offered at the time.   I usually wear a pair for two weeks, never overnight, before changing to a new pair.  Driving in traffic at night is a chore after more than 30 minutes because it tires my eyes and I get a slight double-vision effect at a distance, still.  I can still see well enough to maneuver my way home, but the effect is similar to being in a 3-d movie without the special glasses.  I also still see a strange glare on lights at night, mainly headlights, tail lights, and neon signs that flash–and I still want to shoot out every halogen headlight within five miles.  That minor vision deficiency is a trade-off I’m willing to make because I can still easily drive to the grocery store two miles away or a nearby boyfriend’s house after dark, and if I plan any long-distance trips for a departure time early enough in the day that I arrive before sunset.  I knew when I started this that these lenses wouldn’t be a 100% solution for me, but they have been and still are the best solution for me.