Contact lens options fit range of vision needs and lifestyles
Karen Shuh wakes each day at 6:30 a.m. and pops in her contact lenses. On weekdays, she is out the door at 7:30 a.m. to get her son to the school bus, and then herself to the office. After work most evenings, Shuh is either off to the rink to watch her son play hockey, or she’s getting him to another extracurricular activity. “It’s go-go-go in our household until I take my contacts out around 10 p.m.,” says the busy single mom.
“I’ve worn contacts from the start,” recalls Shuh, who has depended on vision correction for nearly three decades and recently made the switch to multifocal contact lenses on the recommendation of her optometrist. “Personally, I feel that I look my best without glasses,” she says.
In addition to her self-image, Shuh chooses contact lenses because they best fit her lifestyle, she says. “I’m an active person. I really need an every day, all-day solution.”
Her lenses serve her well for her athletic activities, including hiking and biking. They also meet her needs at work. “In the office, I’m in front of a computer or checking emails on my cell phone,” says Shuh, who is the director of business development for a private label supplier.
When she learned she had presbyopia at an eye exam over two years ago, Shuh was relieved to hear that multifocal contact lenses would meet her busy lifestyle needs.
Presbyopia, which results from the loss of elasticity of the lens of the eye, is part of the normal aging process, says Toronto-based optometrist Michael Kaplan. “When we reach the age of 40 or 45, we lose some of our ability to focus up close.”
Dr. Kaplan recommends regular eye examinations for best vision outcomes. “This includes looking at the health of both the front and the back of the eye, plus taking a history of systemic diseases, the use of medications, the type of work a patient is doing, and how they use their eyes,” he says.
“For the refraction part of the exam, which relates to vision correction, we determine whether a person is near-sighted or far-sighted, or has astigmatism or presbyopia.”
“With presbyopia, people typically say, ‘I have difficulty reading the menu, the text on a pill bottle, or the price tag on an item for purchase,’” he explains. “That’s a sign we need to help them with a pair of reading glasses, multifocal glasses or multifocal contact lenses.”
Dr. Kaplan has found that only a small percentage of people with presbyopia are aware that there are multifocal contact lenses available for such vision needs. Yet the benefits of providing a seamless near-to-distance vision, plus a better peripheral vision unobstructed by a frame, might appeal to many Canadians since various activities require frequent changes in viewing distances.
“Let’s say you are driving. You look at the road, dashboard, perhaps the GPS, and have to switch from far to intermediate or even near distance seamlessly,” says Dr. Kaplan. “The same applies in an office environment, where you interact with coworkers and switch between different screens such as desktop and hand-held. Or when you play golf, you want to follow the ball’s trajectory across the fairway and then mark your score card.”
With glasses, the wearer has to move the eyes up and down for accessing the section meant for near, intermediate and distance vision, says Dr. Kaplan. “If you want to read something on the top shelf, for example, you have to tip your head back quite a bit to see it. With a multifocal contact lens, you don’t have to do that.”
What’s more, technology improvements have made contact lenses very easy to use, he adds. “In the past, conventional contact lenses would last for a year or longer. But that meant they would get dirty, which could lead to complications. Today, we have daily disposable lenses, which give excellent vision and comfort because they’re always clean and new.”
Shuh has also noticed the change. “It used to be that you would definitely know that your contacts are there. Today, they feel like nothing at all,” she says. “For me, multifocal contact lenses are a perfect solution. In the morning, I put them in. At night, I throw them out. And that’s it.”
Projecting a youthful image
Dealing with presbyopia isn’t fun. Since it’s a recognizable part of the natural aging process, having to reach for reading glasses sends a clear signal that the wearer has reached a certain age. Yet while many actively look for measures for addressing other indicators of aging, such as crow’s feet or wrinkles, yellow teeth or grey hair, for example, only 5 per cent of Canadians ages 40 to 59 currently wear contact lenses for presbyopia.
A survey conducted by marketing research group Leger in collaboration with vision care leader ALCON found that almost half of Canadians in their mid-life admit that it is important to them to look younger, and the majority (93 per cent) of adults age 38 to 54 undertake a variety of steps to make them feel younger, including skin regimes and spa treatments.
The survey also shows that 30 per cent of Canadians say they would rather wear contact lenses than reading glasses; and 16 per cent would rather squint than wear reading glasses. About one in five agree that they would or currently avoid wearing reading glasses because they would make them look older.
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