Over 40? What you need to know about restoring your vision


Last year, Mark Pennie found he was straining his eyes to read in dim light, and seeing the text on his smartphone and GPS was becoming more difficult. At 53, his situation was common for people his age. Pennie was diagnosed with presbyopia.

This condition affects nearly 1.7 billion people worldwide — a number expected to increase to 2.1 billion over the next five years — and typically occurs in middle age. It is caused by the loss of elasticity in the lens of the eye. As people reach their early to mid-forties, their eyes gradually lose their ability to focus on objects that are close-up.

Presbyopia historically has been corrected with prescription glasses with bifocal or progressive lenses or by reading glasses. It is often managed with prescription glasses with bifocal or progressive lenses or by reading glasses over contact lenses. There is an alternative outside these traditional options: multifocal contact lenses.

Multifocal contact lenses feature power variations that allow for good vision from near to far and everything in between, all within one lens. The lenses are designed to facilitate both visual tasks like reading a book up close and then looking into the distance. Alcon Dailies Total1® contact lenses, are single-use multifocal lenses that became available in Canada last year, giving patients with presbyopia a comfortable alternative to burdensome reading glasses.

Pennie, who recently retired from the armed forces and is now a project manager at a wastewater plant, says multifocal contacts are ideally suited to his visual needs and his outdoor lifestyle. A long-distance motorcyclist who often ventures onto rough, off-road terrain, he also frequently treks into the bush on horseback for overnight rides.

“With glasses or even single-vision contacts,” says the Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, resident, “you can’t read your speedometer or your GPS when you’re on your motorcycle, so you can’t navigate easily.”

He adds that putting on a helmet is awkward for anyone wearing glasses, whereas with contact lenses, “I can protect my eyes from rain, wind or dust by putting on goggles and can read whatever I need to read.”

Multifocals certainly solved Pennie’s problem, he says, and when asked to describe their effect on his life, Pennie exults, “Freedom!”

“Even single-vision contact lenses were a game-changer for me when I was in the military,” Pennie says. “I wore them all over the world. In places like Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, you don’t want to fumble or worry about your vision.”

At that time, he says, he didn’t need reading glasses. Now, at 53, he does, and multifocal lenses make it simple for him to enjoy his two favourite sports and function at optimal level.

“Multifocal contact lenses are useful for almost anyone,” says Edmonton optometrist Dr. Michael Kim. “Typically, presbyopia kicks in after the age of 40 and people have issues reading up close. Most patients see it as a sign of aging and, though they could use reading glasses over the top of [single-vision] contacts, the last time I checked nobody over the age of 40 wanted to seem older.”

I can just put in a new pair of lenses in the morning and I don’t have to worry about cleaning anything

“The big, big benefit of multifocal contacts is that they give patients choice,” says Dr. Kim. “They are a good option for almost everybody. Only a very small subset of people with particularly strong prescriptions or astigmatisms cannot wear them. They work phenomenally well for the vast majority of patients.”

He explains that, with Alcon Dailies Total1® multifocal contact lenses, the near-vision correction is addressed at the centre of the lens and that its aspheric design means that the power gradually blends toward the distance.

Adding that these multifocal contact lenses are “very exciting for the whole industry,” he points out that, as well as being highly effective in terms of visual acuity, they score well because of their comfort, convenience and healthy properties.

“Nine out of 10 of our patients say they can’t feel the lens on the eye,” he says. “And there is no problem with peripheral vision, as there can be with progressive lenses in glasses. Also, the daily disposable lenses are a healthy option, particularly for people with busy lives. With a monthly contact lens, which is put in the eye for 30 uses, you have to be very diligent about cleaning, storage and changing the solution. With daily lenses, you are using them once, so there’s no chance of contamination or deposit buildup. Alcon Dailies® contact lenses, are a healthy option.”

“The daily disposable are the only kind I’ve ever used,” says Pennie. “Whether I’m doing an overnight motorcycle trip in the dirt or an overnight horseback riding trip, I can just put in a new pair of lenses in the morning and I don’t have to worry about cleaning anything. I’m sold on daily disposable multifocals and would never go back to wearing anything else. These contacts really free you.”

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Alcon Canada.