Susan starts her workday at 9am and spends the morning checking emails on her laptop, texting her daughter who’s off at college, and capturing talking points on her iPad for her afternoon meeting. She takes her lunch outside in the park by her office and then heads back inside for a staff meeting and more time at the laptop. At the end of the day she goes to yoga and then drives home after dark to have dinner with her husband and 15-year-old son.
Susan’s typical day may sound familiar to many of us – it’s a combination of looking at screens, spending time outdoors, exercising, driving, and relaxing with our family. Like 64% of American adults, Susan also wears glasses and it’s important that they help her see her best during all of her different daily activities.
Many of us think more about the frame than the lenses when picking out a new pair of glasses. It’s important, however, to choose the best eyeglass lenses for your lifestyle to avoid vision issues like digital eye strain and blurry night vision. To ensure your glasses work to their fullest potential, we’ve put together a quick guide to eyeglasses lens materials and treatments.
Your Guide to Eyeglass Lenses
Glass – Glass was the first type of material used in eyewear but is no longer commonly used because it’s much thicker and heavier than plastic and it can break easily, potentially injuring your eye.
CR-39 Plastic – A basic CR-39 plastic lens is the least expensive option but it does have its downsides. Unlike higher-end plastic lenses, it doesn’t come with a scratch resistant coating or UV protection. It’s also thicker and more fragile than other higher-end plastics, such as polycarbonate or trivex.
Polycarbonate – A lightweight, impact resistant plastic, polycarbonate is the top recommended lens material for kids. For athletes who have a higher chance of sustaining an eye injury, polycarbonate is also the safest option. The downside is weight – polycarbonate is slightly heavier than trivex or high-index lenses.
Trivex – For most prescriptions, trivex is the best option. It’s lighter weight than polycarbonate while still providing a similar level of impact resistance.
High-Index (1.67 or 1.74) – A high-index lens is the thinnest, lightest option and is highly recommended for prescriptions above a plus or minus 3.00D, to cut down on thickness and weight.
UV Protection – UV protection comes with all lens types except for CR-39 plastic and glass. Cumulative exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays can lead to vision problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration as you age, so your optometrist will always recommend lenses with UV protection.
Anti-scratch coating – Your lenses can easily scratch if dropped or cleaned using an abrasive fabric such as wool or even a paper towel. All lens materials come with an anti-scratch coating for extra protection, except for CR-39 plastic and glass. You should also always clean your glasses properly to avoid damaging the lenses.
Anti-reflective (AR) coating – An AR coating helps reduce glare and annoying reflections on your lenses that can impede your vision or just ruin an otherwise perfectly good photograph. We recommend AR to all our patients because reducing glare makes such a significant difference in your vision. It’s especially important now that most of us spend much of our days looking at a screen, whether it’s our laptop or iPhone. An AR coating also improves night vision, removing the ‘halos’ you may see around car and street lights with untreated lenses. For stronger prescriptions, it helps reduce aberrations caused by the thick edges of the lens.
Transitions or Photochromic Lenses – For those of us who wear glasses 24/7, transitions can be a welcome solution to the hassle of switching between prescription sunglasses and untinted glasses. This special treatment causes the lenses to automatically darken to either a gray or brown tint when exposed to sunlight. These lenses, however, do have a few limitations. Transitions won’t darken in the car because your car windows block out the UV light that activates them. They also aren’t polarized, and they take time to fully transition from clear to tinted and vice versa – a minor inconvenience when going in and out of shops, for example, in downtown Santa Cruz.
What’s your lifestyle?
You can help your optician make more informed lens recommendations by sharing about your lifestyle. What types of activities do you participate in throughout the day? How often do you plan to wear your glasses? Providing a clear picture to your optician will help you choose the best eyeglass lenses for your lifestyle so that you always see your best.