Get to them before they drop out

Why we need to capture the opportunity of keeping presbyopes in contact lenses, writes Ian Pyzer

Brain on sunbed

We all know that presbyopia is an issue every patient will face. However, is there more we can do as practitioners to prepare patients for what’s to come, and to educate them about the available options? There is a missed opportunity we’re seeing with a certain type of patient – someone I could call a ‘long-term lens lover’ (LLLs).

Who are they? These patients have enjoyed wearing their distance prescription contact lenses and have adopted coping mechanisms to deal with their presbyopia. Like other presbyopes, they are taking steps to try and overcome their difficulty when reading, such as increasing the font size on their mobile phone, holding menus at arm’s length, and increasing computer screen brightness. They want to continue wearing contact lenses; however, as they are not familiar with the option of multifocal lenses, as their presbyopia progresses they may stop wearing their contact lenses altogether and switch to spectacles.

What makes this group special is that they love their lenses and it would be easy to keep them in contact lenses if they were offered multifocal lenses as an option. This presents an opportunity: not only for us to better help our patients, but also our business. With 1.6 million presbyopes in the UK (aged 40 to 55) who have been wearing contact lenses for more than three years, this group represents 25% of all contact lens wearers. According to a UK Incidence study and Johnson & Johnson Vision estimates from 2016, 25% of dropouts are due to presbyopia, making these patients low hanging fruit.

Tips for engaging patients

If eye care professionals do not have a conversation with patients early on about the options for addressing presbyopia, a previously enthusiastic wearer may appear resigned to giving them up. Here are five steps we should take to help stop LLLs from dropping out.

  1. Introduce patients to what presbyopia is and mention multifocal contact lenses, before they start to exhibit symptoms – it’s better to be too early rather than too late
  2. Tell patients about how multifocal contact lenses work, how quickly they can adapt to them and their relative benefits versus varifocal spectacles – dispel any concerns and tell them about their gaze-independent benefits
  3. Be positive about the performance of multifocal contact lenses and relay the successful outcomes of your other patients, while explaining that there will be occasions, like when driving at night, where they may still prefer to wear their glasses. Your positivity will encourage them to give multifocals a try
  4. Tailor your recommendation to the patient by linking it to their lifestyle needs and symptoms, and consider offering a free trial – knowing what your patient’s visual needs are at work, leisure and for their hobbies, will help you to tailor your recommendation
  5. If an LLL has previously been fitted with monovision (one eye corrected for distance and one for reading), the practitioner might choose to communicate that a better long-term solution to presbyopia would be multifocal contact lenses due to the better binocularity and intermediate vision they provide, thereby extending the number of years they may be able to wear them for.

Ian Pyzer is Johnson & Johnson Vision’s professional and education development manager for UK and Ireland and a contact lens optician.

Image credit: Getty/akindo