Bifocal contacts allow for both distance and near vision without using reading glasses over your contact lenses for people with presbyopia (a condition where it becomes more difficult to focus up close that generally occurs for most people in their early to mid-forties). Bifocal contacts generally allow for distance and near vision, but most people will find that there is some compromise to both the distance and near vision with these lenses. However, because they allow for freedom from glasses, these lenses can make a big difference in your lifestyle.
There are a variety of bifocal soft contact lenses. Some of the more common bifocal contact lenses include 1 Day Acuvue Moist Multifocal Contact Lenses, Air Optix Aqua Multifocal Contact Lenses, Dailies Total 1 Multifocal Contact Lenses, and Biofinity Multifocal Contact Lenses. All of these lenses have their own particular features and which one will work best for you depends greatly on factors such as the optics of your eye, the stability of your tears and ocular surface, and your lifestyle and visual needs. Due to this variability, we often find that we are able to find a good bifocal contact lens solution for patients who have had trouble with bifocal contacts in the past and had given up on this option.
However, while the majority of patients (both in our practice and in research studies) prefer bifocal contact lenses to other methods of dealing with presbyopia, there are other options. These include simply wearing contacts that are focused in the distance and putting reading glasses over the contacts for near work. This is a good option if you do only minimal near work, or you still have fairly good near vision without reading glasses and only need a little boost for extended focus at near.
Another option is monovision, which refers to setting the focus of one eye at near and the other eye at distance. This was a common option before bifocal contacts were invented, but is less popular nowadays. However, it can still be a good solution for patients who are unable to adapt to bifocal contacts or as a trial before Lasik surgery (as monovision Lasik is an option to preserve near vision for Lasik patients in there forties and beyond). However, monovision, whether achieved via Lasik surgery or contact lenses, results in a loss of binocular vision and therefore a expected decrease in binocular depth perception.