Never look past the lenses: Optimizing your eyeglass experience

Getting excited about sporting your new, stylish frames is great. You should feel good about how you’re going to look with your new prescription. But sometimes the emphasis on appearance alone overshadows the most important part—the lenses.

The overall importance of your lenses

A healthy consideration of which lenses are best suited for you is vital to getting the most out of your prescription eyeglasses. The lens material and specific treatments you choose not only influence your visual acuity and comfort, but also protect your eyes from long-term visual and physical harm.

Even if you’re mostly concerned with how your glasses look, the material you select influences how thick the lenses are and how they fit within the frames you like. Understanding your options might also save you money, since the best combination for your prescription may not be the most expensive.

Lens materials

Although glass lenses still provide excellent optics, plastic lenses have almost entirely replaced them in the market because they’re impact resistant, thinner, and lighter.

CR-39 plastic—First introduced in 1947, lenses made from this plastic are still popular today because of their low cost and excellent optic qualities. They’re slightly thicker than newer plastic lenses, but are great for simple vision corrections like near- and farsightedness.

Polycarbonate—Significantly more impact-resistant than CR-39 plastic, polycarbonate lenses are popular for children’s eyeglasses. They block UV light and are lighter than both high-index plastics and CR-39.

High-index plastics—These materials refract light at a higher rate than polycarbonate and CR-39, so the lenses can be made with far less material. They are thinner, impact resistant and block UV light, but are slightly more costly.

Lens coatings and treatments

Coatings and treatments protect and enhance the effects of the lenses to ensure the consistency of your vision correction. Depending on what type of material, frame and prescription you have, some lens treatments arenecessary to prevent damage to your lenses and your eyes.

Anti-scratch coating—All lenses made from plastic materials are softer than glass lenses, making them susceptible to scratching. A factory-applied anti-scratch coating makes them more resilient.

Anti-reflective (AR) coating—High-index plastics reflect significantly more light than other lens materials, reducing the contrast and clarity, especially at night. An AR coating eliminates the problem for all types of lenses.

UV-blocking treatment—Protecting your eyes from long-term sun damage prevents additional vision loss. The lens materials that don’t naturally block UV light require an additional treatment.

Photochromic treatment—Lenses darken in response to sun exposure. This increases visibility during bright days and reduces the need for an additional pair of prescription sunglasses.

Blue-light coating—Reduces eyestrain from excessive exposure to blue light from smartphones, computers, televisions and the sun. Increases life of your lenses and improves visual comfort.

The best advice? Ask your eye doctor

Far too often, a prescription is determined by your optician and then it falls on you to decide about the frames and lenses of your new glasses. While there are many doctors who make it a priority to discuss the best  lens combinations beforehand, there are also some who won’t. Always ask. Their advice is invaluable, because they know your eyes best.

During your next appointment, talk with your eye doctor about the ideal lens materials and coatings for your prescription glasses. If you don’t have vision insurance, find out how VSP can help you save on your next eye exam or pair of glasses.