Remember how the advent of HDTV made previously grainy TV viewing a now-strikingly clear experience? Much like how HDTV revolutionized TV, a new optical technology is poised to do the same thing, forever changing the way we see. Called digital—or “free-form”—lenses, these cutting-edge lenses are like high-definition for your eyeglasses, making everything you see seem exponentially sharper, clearer and more vivid.
"Digital lenses are the new standard for your eyeglasses,” explains Matthew Alpert, O.D., board member and chairman of optometric innovation at VSP Global.
While most traditional lenses are made using a dated, abrasive grinding process, digital lenses are manufactured using precise laser technology. The result? Lenses that are nearly six times more clear than traditional ones, with enhanced nighttime vision and peripheral vision.
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Furthermore, unlike traditional lenses, digital lenses also have the added benefit of being individually tailored to suit the patient’s unique vision needs. “Your eye doctor will take precise measurements to tailor a lens not only to your unique prescription, but also to where your frame sits on your face and how far apart your eyes are,” Alpert explains. “Everyone’s eyes are different, and digital lenses use precise measurements to give you the best, most customized vision possible.” To do this, the patient’s eyes are digitally scanned by specialized, automated equipment, which collects a number of data points on each eye, mapping minute variations in the shape and surface of the eye. The resulting prescription is written to the nearest 1/100th of a diopter, or the amount of correction needed for normal vision. In comparison, traditional lenses are rounded to the nearest one-quarter diopter.
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If you’ve worn glasses your whole life, you might be wary of this new technology, but virtually anybody is a good candidate for digital lenses, Alpert says, from those with severely impaired vision to those who don’t need a prescription.
Those who need single-vision lenses can experience impeccable clarity and the most precise prescription possible with digital lenses. Progressive digital lenses—for those who need glasses to help them see up close, far away and in between—offer clear vision at any distance,” he says.
In addition to prescription digital lenses, there are also special, non-prescription digital lenses designed to shield your eyes from the potentially adverse effects of blue light, a high-energy wavelength of light emitted from fluorescent lights as well as from the screens of computers, TVs, tablets and smart phones. According to Alpert, blue light can damage your eyes over time, potentially leading to eye trouble later on—yet another reason to consider switching to digital lenses.
As people are using digital technology more frequently, blue light is definitely something to be concerned about,” he notes. “In fact, frequent exposure to blue light can lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a leading cause of vision loss in the 60+ crowd. But special digital lenses can protect your eyes from this harmful blue light.”
Frequent technology users, children younger than age 18, post-cataract patients, and individuals at risk of AMD, in particular, should consider blue light-blocking digital lenses.
Given all of the benefits of digital lenses, will traditional eyewear soon become a thing of the past? Alpert suspects that may be. Over the next few years, he anticipates a gradual shift away from traditional lenses as more and more individuals gravitate toward digital alternatives. “The old technology is still very common but will become less so over time as this new standard becomes more commonplace,” he explains.
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