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Buying eyewear? Ask for lens quality

When buying new glasses, people rely on the advice of their optometrists to make sure their choice is the right one. Indeed, the prescription must be correct to ensure optimal vision and visual comfort. However, there are stark differences in the quality of lenses and coatings available. With so many choices, it can be challenging to decide what is best and what is worth wearing – or not. Consumers should not shy away from asking questions or requesting demos.

This is advice from Ruahan Naude, a specialist in the optometry industry for over 20 years and the Chief Executive Officer and founder of Dynamic Vision South Africa. He says that not all lenses are equal in quality.

A pair of glasses with a reflection of forest trees in them

“As with most consumer products, there are those which are premium options, offering better quality, and then there are lower grade alternatives that often come with a compromise. When it comes to vision, there should not be a compromise.

“When you purchase lenses from an optometrist, you will not know which lenses you are buying unless you ask. Do your homework on lens manufacturers before your visit and look out for these trusted brands when you go to the optometrist.

“Ask to view and experience demo lenses. Compare the thickness of each lens and take note of how clear they are. Remember to ask questions about cleaning, durability as well as warranties. Quality lenses will come with a warranty. If you are purchasing glasses with photochromic lenses, test them out properly by taking them outdoors to experience the outside tint and how quickly it changes.

“With an inferior, low grade lens or coating, you will experience some discomfort with your vision, almost a feeling of blurred vision when you look through the lenses. This is more prevalent once you have experienced first grade quality lenses and thereafter use a pair of inferior spectacle lenses. You can be assured of the quality of lenses when your optometrist provides you with a guarantee card of the specific grade lenses that you are prescribed. This card looks similar to a credit card and is only available on quality grade spectacle lenses, such as SEIKO.”

There are many different lens materials available on the market, some are designed to be sturdy and impact-resistant, and others are designed to make the lens thinner. The most commonly used materials for making lenses include plastic polymer, which is cost-effective, lightweight and offers excellent optical qualities. Polycarbonate, which is lighter and more impact resistant than plastic polymer, and a high-index plastic, is lighter and provides a higher refraction index. Lenses that are made from a material with a high refraction index will be thinner than those made from materials with a lower refractive index.

Patients with a high prescription should consider high index lenses which will give them a thinner and more attractive looking lens, according to Naude. When it comes to lens design, he explains that aspheric lenses are flatter than conventional, spherical lens designs. They don’t magnify the wearer’s eyes and improve the clarity of peripheral vision.

“If it is important to you that your lenses do not ‘bulge’ and that your eyes don’t appear magnified, you should opt for an aspheric lens. Though aspheric lenses are available in plastic, it is best to choose an aspheric lens produced from a high index polymer,” recommends Naude.

The wide choice of lens coating options can further complicate the decision-making process. Naude advises that all lenses should have an anti-reflection coating applied to the lens surface to reduce unwanted reflection and to improve cosmetic appearance.

There are many cheap anti-reflection coatings on the market that simply don’t last. Premium coatings are more durable, easier to clean and offer reduced reflections while ensuring good adhesion to the lens. They have up to seven layers of coatings on the surface, hard coats for strength and dust, as well as water repellent layers. Once again, it is essential to ask questions about different coating options.

Paul Nicholls, Area Sales Manager at SEIKO Optical says that continuous research, development and innovation should assure wearers that they can get the most advanced technology, superior viewing fields and the best optics when buying eyewear from an optometrist.”

Naude concludes: “Consumers should arm themselves with knowledge before deciding on lenses and coatings. The quality of your lenses and coatings will influence your vision and comfort. You also want to avoid unwanted expenditure down the line when poor quality coatings wear off, become scratched or don’t do what they are supposed to do. Quality lenses assure quality vision and protect your eyes in the long term.”

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