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Eyeglasses lenses and coatings

Eyeglasses lenses, coatings, and edgings options

Your lens selection may be dictated by your prescription and your daily activities. For instance, some people can’t get accustomed to progressive lenses, even though they eliminate the annoyance of lined bifocals and trifocals. But often you’ll have a choice of polycarbonate or high-index lenses, or you have to decide whether to buy an anti-reflective coating. Your eye doctor and optician can guide you, but here’s what you need to know to make sure you’re getting good advice. Prices are what we found for single-vision lenses excluding the eyeglass frame.

  PROS CONS SUMMARY
LENSES
Glass
$68-$180
Good optical quality Heavy; breakage may cause eye damage; transmits UV light Avoid
CR-39
$39-$129
Good optical quality; least costly Thick with heavy prescriptions; not the best choice for drill-mounted, semi and rimless frames; scratches Bad for sports or for people who do not have two healthy eyes. Good for mild prescriptions
Polycarbonate
$50-$180
Highly shatter-resistant; thinner and lighter than CR-39; good for mid price thinner lenses to avoid coke bottle thicker prescriptions More costly than CR-39 The choice for children, sports enthusiasts, and others who are likely to break glasses or for people with only one healthy eye.  Good for semi-rimless frames
High-index
$99-$275
Thinner than polycarbonate; lightweight May be expensive Good for heavy prescriptions. Functions best with anti-reflective coating
Trivex
$100-$135
Lightweight; thinner and optically superior to polycarbonate; natural UV protection; impact-resistant. New material with limited availability; scratches. Best choice for drill-mounted, rimless or semi-rimless frames.
COATING
Scratch-resistant
$10-$25
Protects lenses. Usually an option, with lenses Additional expense, if needed Add, if not included
Anti-Glare or Anti-reflective
$30-$125
Improves clarity, especially for night driving and computer use. Reduces reflections, making eyes more attractive Additional expense Especially good for drivers and computer users
Ultraviolet protection
$10-$25
Blocks ultraviolet light. Additional expense Worth while extra precaution
EDGES
Polished
$10-$25
Removes milky appearance of rimless and semi-rimless glasses Additional expense Worth while for rimless and semi-rimless glasses.
Rolled and polished
$10-$40
Reduces perceived thickness of high prescription lenses Additional expense Worth while for thicker lenses
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UV Eyewear Protection

UV Eyewear Protection

Avoid UV Radiation damage of the sun with UV eyeglasses protecton.

Eyeglass manufacturers, retailers, and advertisers have long been delivering alarming messages about the damaging effects of ultraviolet light on the eye–so much so that many eyeglass wearers pay as much as $25 extra for a ­UV-blocking coating for their lenses.

CR-39 plastic lenses allow a significant part of the UVA spectrum to reach the eye.  Clear-plastic prescription lenses do not block out all of the dangerous part of the UV spectrum, UVB, which can result in cataracts, or the clouding of the eye’s lens. Polycarbonate, and thinner high-index plastic lenses do a better job of blocking ultraviolet radiation, UVA.  While there’s been some speculation that UVA might contribute to macular degeneration, a deterioration of the retina that can lead to blindness, researchers now believe that the lens and cornea of the eye prevent UVA rays from reaching the retina.  Still, optometry experts do recommend that you get UV protection on CR-39 lenses just to be safe.

There’s further evidence to suggest that UV protection cannot guard against other damaging effects of sunlight. Research now shows that visible violet, blue, and green sunlight is much more likely than invisible, ultraviolet light to contribute to macular degeneration. (People with blue eyes, fair skin, and a family history of macular degeneration are especially susceptible to damage from such light.)

What can screen out those harmful visible rays? Plain, old-fashioned sunglasses, Good says. For best results, choose sunglasses with a moderate amount of blue-blocking amber or brown tint. (Green tints are the next best choice. Grays provide the least protection.)

Also, because up to 50 percent of sunlight can reach your eyes from around your frames, choose glasses that fit closely to your face and wrap around your temples. “Transitions,” and other polychromatic lenses, which darken in reaction to sunlight, provide some protection. But they don’t work well in cars, where the windshield and the roof block much of the UV radiation that Transitions need to trigger the maximum darkness change.

If you are out in strong sunlight, wear a brimmed hat or visor. And if you smoke, stop. Smoking is more damaging to eye health than normal exposure to the sun.

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