Choosing Your Eyeglass Lenses — What to Know Beforehand

If you have never purchased eyewear before, choosing your lenses can seem more difficult than choosing your frame, since you cannot actually see the finished product until you come in to pick up your completed eyewear.

It is the job of  a licensed or certified optician to properly educate you on the thousands of lens options available to you. The task of choosing lenses can seem overwhelming, but as long as you have trust in your optician the process of choosing your lenses should be effortless.

The lenses are the most important part of your purchase, and choosing the lenses that best suit your prescription needs and lifestyle can make a world of difference.

Things To Take Into Consideration When Choosing Your Lenses

There are two primary prescription types: myopic (-minus, for nearsighted people), and hyperopic (+plus. For those who are farsighted). Both types can also correct for astigmatism. Astigmatism is the inability for your eyes to focus clearly on an object .

Most patients describe uncorrected astigmatism as blurry vision. It is very common and easily corrected.

There come a time in everyone’s life when we need a prescription that makes it easier to see fine print. This is called presbyopia. As we age, the eye loses its ability to focus.

This will happen to everyone, and it is not something you can escape without corrective surgery, even if you have never needed eyewear before. You may notice you tend to hold things like menus or magazines at arm’s length, or when you are writing or performing close work you experience eye fatigue or headaches.

Most people go to the drugstore to purchase readers, but that usually isn’t the best option, as your prescription is as unique as you are.

What Are My Options When Choosing Eyeglass Lens Materials?

There are several lens materials, but the most commonly recommended are plastic, polycarbonate, high-index, and Trivex.


This is the most economical lens on the market, but because of its affordability it lacks in areas such as UV protection, impact resistance, and lens weight and thickness. If you have a smaller prescription and are looking for a backup pair of glasses, this is a good option for you.

But if you have a more difficult prescription or are going to be using your eyewear while driving or sporting, you may need a different product. Your lenses may be thicker than you anticipated, and the impact resistance of other materials makes them the better choice. For these reasons this lens is not even an option for children.


This is the second most economical and popular material on the market. Polycarbonate has 100% UV protection and is lightweight compared to plastic. It has superior impact resistance, 10 times more impact resistant than plastic and 60 times more than the FDA requires, making this lens the choice for children, people who play sports, and people who wear rimless/semi-rimless eyewear frames. It can also be made in an aspheric design, making the lenses thinner.


Because of their ability to bend light more efficiently, these lenses can be designed to be thinner, which reduces the weight of the lens. They are more cosmetically appealing and more comfortable to wear—important considerations if you’re choosing your lenses based on their comfort and style.

Generally, the higher the index, the higher the cost to the patient, making it important to choose the index that best suits the prescription. Your optician should be able to help you decide.

The highest index materials are used primarily for the strongest prescriptions. High-index materials are a blend of plastic and polycarbonate, and lenses made of these materials have some impact-resistant qualities but are still not as suitable for sporting or for children as they are not quite as impact-resistant as polycarbonate.

Most high-index lenses block at least 99% of UV radiation, but their main benefit is that they are lightweight and thin.

Below is a quick chart for the commonly recommended high-index product compared to plastic lenses.

When choosing where to purchase your lenses you should know what is being recommended, because some opticians will recommend aspheric polycarbonate as their high-index offering, so be sure to ask.

Product Thinness & WeightCompared to Plastic
High-Index 1.67 40% Improved
High-Index 1.70 55% Improved
High-Index 1.74 60% Improved


This is the newest material on the market, and it was originally developed for military applications. This lens rivals polycarbonate for its impact resistance and UV protection.

It does have a lower index of refraction, making it slightly thicker than polycarbonate, but it is currently the lightest material on the market. In addition to the benefits of UV protection and impact resistance, it is also chemical resistant, making it a good lens choice for patients who are regularly exposed to chemicals, such as hairstylists, engineers, etc.

This lens is the best choice for rimless and semi-rimless frames, but it will be thicker when your prescription is a +/-4.00 or higher. One drawback is its limited availability due to its being the newest material in the optical industry.

Progressive Lenses (no-line) – Why They Are The Most Common Choice

These lenses are the best choice for patients who need correction for both their near and distant vision, because a progressive lens provides a seamless progression vertically of many lens powers for all viewing distances; compared to the bi-focal with two, the average progressive lens has about 20.

It best mimics natural vision. This range of clear vision comes without lines, so it looks to others like a single-vision lens.

It may be difficult to decide which progressive lens to choose, as there are hundreds of them and each facility chooses about ten to recommend based on cost, the vendor they purchase from, or other administrative reasons.

Some facilities still continue to recommend progressive lens designs that are decades old. The difference in the visual experience between designs is tremendous, and it is important to choose a reputable facility that specializes in the latest technology.

If you are shopping around, you should compare lenses with similar technology because the newer designs are more expensive. A facility that is much cheaper may not provide the same design quality.

Because the lens accommodates the need for multiple viewing distances, there will be areas of blurred vision on the far edges. Some of the newer high-definition lenses eliminate this distortion or blur altogether, making those lenses easy to adapt to.

When your optician informs you that there will be an adaptation period for a first-time wearer, they are being honest. Sometimes the adaptation is immediate and sometimes it may take a few days. The key is to wear them without taking them on and off throughout the day.

Depending on your needs and lifestyle, there are several additional features for you to choose from. The most popular are non-glare, photochromics, and polarization.

Each feature enhances and protects vision while improving everyday life.  If you want to learn more, see the lens features and benefits article.

Sources and References:
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