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What Makes Progressive Lens Designs Different?

If you are over the age of 40, and reading small print is becoming more and more difficult, your optometrist may recommend you wear progressive lenses or a type of ‘no-line’ bifocal.  There are many benefits to wearing glasses with a progressive lens. Cosmetically, there is no line, so no one else can tell you are wearing reading glasses. Furthermore, they are true multifocal lenses, providing a more natural and seamless progression from distance vision, to intermediate vision, to near vision.  With a progressive lens, you can easily see to drive, look at your computer and also gaze down and look at nearby paperwork all with the same pair of glasses. However, there are hundreds of different progressive lens designs on the market today and it can be difficult as a consumer to know what makes each lens different and which would best suit your needs.

Not All Progressive Lenses are Made Equally

Chances are you have seen a wide variance in pricing when shopping for a progressive lens. Some optical retailers advertise progressive lenses for as little as $200, while others state their lenses are upwards of $900. Why is there such a huge difference in progressive lens price? Some progressive lenses can be sold very inexpensively because they are an older, traditional design. They are created by back-side of the lens custom surfacing and often are optimal for spherical prescriptions, or for those who do not have astigmatism.  They have a very small clear area for reading, with large areas of peripheral distortion or ‘swim effect’ in the lenses. This is because the power progression from distance to near vision has created unwanted aberrations in the lens. Some progressives are made with different lens materials that can also affect the clarity of your vision. It is always important when shopping around for new lenses to compare ‘apples to apples’ and ensure you know exactly what design of progressive you are getting, as well as what material it is made of, what coatings are on the lens etc, as this will dramatically affect pricing. If you are an individual who is very sensitive to small changes in your prescription, or variances in lenses, or who has a high prescription, then an older technology progressive will probably not be a good fit for you even if the price point is lower. A newer, more accurate and customized progressive will probably assist you in making day-to-day activities easier.

Different Scratch and Anti-Reflective Coatings Affect the Pricing of Lenses

Just as companies such as Apple are always designing better, quicker and more advanced computer and cellular technology, so are lens manufacturers, as they are always trying to improve their products. The newest anti-reflective coatings on the market today come with UV filters, oil and water repellent layers which make the lenses easier to clean and more smudge-proof, harder scratch-resistant coatings and even blue-light filters. These coatings require more precision and time to manufacture and are therefore more expensive than older-generation coatings.

Newer Progressive Designs are Highly Customized and Must Be Fit With Care by an Optician

The newest progressive lens designs are not semi-created in a lab before you have purchased them, they are 100% customized to your exact prescription and visual needs and to how your eye fits in the particular frame you have chosen. A fully customized lens will take into account the distance from your eyelids to the back of the lens, the wrap and tilt of the frame on your face, where exactly in the frame your eye sits and often, your comfortable reading distance and your dominant eye.  These measurements need to be taken by a trained optician to ensure accuracy. These lenses cost more because they are a customized, tailored product that will only work for you, in your frame, and are unique to your visual needs. This type of new technology drastically reduces unwanted aberrations in the lens, eliminating a large amount of swim effect and widening the intermediate and near corridor so you have more usable vision. They are therefore, much easier to adapt to.  While older technology progressives may cost less, they are often pre-made lenses taken out of stock and are therefore not customized.

Not All Progressive Lenses are Digitally Surfaced

Older progressive lenses are often more inexpensive because they are not digitally surfaced. They are made via a stock tool that polishes the prescription into one side of the lens with the reading addition polished into the opposite side of the lens. Digitally surfaced lenses are made with the reading addition and the rest of the prescription all on the same side of the lens. The prescription is often more accurate in the lens, affording ‘high definition’ vision or higher clarity and resolution to the wearer. This is especially helpful in low light situations. These lenses can also be tailored specifically to the variations each wearer has. They are more costly because they are more accurate, customized and take longer to manufacture.

Article Written By: Kaitlin McAlpine

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