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In the past, if you had astigmatism and needed bifocals you could only wear glasses. Advances in contact lenses mean that even with both conditions, there are choices beyond glasses.
In astigmatism, the cornea (lens) of the eye is oblong instead of round. It is usually accompanied by vision problems like nearsightedness or farsightedness, correctable by glasses, contacts or surgery. According to the American Optometric Association, most people have some amount of astigmatism.
Contacts for Astigmatism
Contacts used to treat vision problems in people with astigmatism include rigid gas permeable (RGP), toric and soft. The type used depends on the severity of the astigmatism, with soft lenses used for the least severe astigmatism. All can be prescribed for people who need bifocals.
Types of Lenses
RGP lenses are firm and mold to the eye to reshape the cornea. Soft lenses are made of thin plastic or silicone. Toric lenses can be made of soft or RGP material, and are weighted so they cannot rotate on the eye.
Bifocal and Multifocal Contacts
Bifocal contacts have two powers (prescriptions) per lens, and multifocal contacts have two or more prescriptions per lens. The prescriptions are in layers, either stacked (like bifocal glasses) or circular from the middle to the outside of the lens.
Bifocals and Astigmatism
RGP torics are frequently prescribed for people with astigmatism who need bifocals-the firm RGP material helps keep each prescription in the correct place on the eye. Less severe astigmatism can be treated with regular soft bifocal or multifocal contacts.