Progressive lenses and multifocal contact lenses are optical marvels because both correct two visual defects with a single lens: near and distance vision.
Progressive lenses can do this thanks to their design. The eye looks through the corresponding viewing range and is corrected accordingly. The more precisely the viewing range is tailored to the wearer and the frames, the more natural their vision becomes.
Multifocal contact lenses work in a totally different way. They sit directly on your eye and move with the eye. In general you can say that there are three methods which turn contact lenses into multifocal contact lenses with different powers for near and distance vision.
- The monovision method is an older, but nevertheless, simple solution to the problem: a contact lens for near vision goes in one eye, and a contact lens for distance vision goes in the other. Habit and the brain do the rest. It's important to note that this "monovision" impairs 3D vision. If there's too great a difference between the right and left eye, then this solution no longer works. And when it comes to getting your driving license, optimum correction of your visual performance is, of course, really important.
- Alternating systems go one step further. This method only works with hard contact lenses, which are currently undergoing a renaissance. The lens is made heavier on the bottom so that it does not rotate on the eye. The power for near vision is incorporated into the lower part of the lens. The power for distance vision is integrated into the upper part. An optimum fit is important so that the lens sits comfortably on the eye.
- The simultaneous system is the best in its class and integrates the utmost in optical finesse with help from lenses which unite the individual powers for near and distance vision in a single lens. Different designs are used. The two distances for near and far are arranged in circular rings on the lens. There are designs where the distance range is in the middle and the near zone is outside. These designs are the most common. There are lenses with a ring for the transitional zone in between or with powers that alternate ring by ring.
Both powers are perceived at the same time. Our brain gets used to seeing the "right" image up close and far away.
Personal fitting by a qualified optician is also an absolute must for multifocal contact lenses as a part of a thorough consultation. Multifocal lenses must be adjusted to fit the pupil size exactly.
Nevertheless, when it comes to presbyopia, progressive lenses are sometimes the better choice. Multifocal contact lenses don't work for everyone, because not everyone's brain can easily "switch" between near and far without effort. In general, people who already wear contact lenses have an easier time with multifocal contact lenses. Older people and those with substantial differences in prescription power will feel better with glasses. People who opt for multifocal contact lenses need more time and patience at the beginning than those who choose progressive lenses.
And the lens designs for progressive lenses are more flexible and easier to use. Special solutions that work with glasses only partially work with multifocal lenses, e.g. solutions for people working at a computer, special vision support in the near range like Digital Lenses or optimised designs for safer driving such as with DriveSafe.