With so many prescription lens options available it can be difficult and overwhelming trying to figure out which lens will work best with your prescription, and also the best lens option for how you intend to use your eyeglass or sunglass.
Do you wear your glasses daily? Are you concerned with lens thickness? Or lens weight? Are you going to be recreating in them? Do you need a shatter proof lens? Do you need the most scratch resistant lens?
Below we’ve done our best to not only recommend the optimal lens type for your needs but also break down the primary differences between lens types to help better guide your decision when selecting a new prescription sunglass or eyeglass lens.
CR-39 Prescription Lenses
CR-39 Rx lenses are commonly used for both prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses. This is a plastic prescription lens that is a great value option as it is often times much less expensive than a polycarbonate lens but still provides great optical clarity and has a high resistance to abrasions. CR-39 lenses are not going to be as thin, lightweight, or impact resistant as a polycarbonate lens. For this reason we do not recommend CR-39 lenses for sports performance where there is a risk of high velocity impact from objects or debris.
Polycarbonate Prescription Lenses
Polycarbonate lenses are going to be your most common prescription sunglass lenses as they are the most impact resistant lens available. All of the major sunglass brands that have their our prescription eyewear labs such as Oakley, Smith, Bolle, Maui Jim, Kaenon and Wiley X use a polycarbonate lens for the majority of their Rx sunglass lenses. Not only is a polycarbonate lens the most impact resistant and shatterproof it also provides patients with superior optical clarity while being extremely lightweight. Polycarbonate lenses have almost become the exclusive lens choice for patients with an active lifestyle, sports performance, or safety eyewear needs because of these features.
What is the benefit of a polycarbonate prescription eyeglass lens? Not only are polycarbonate eyeglass lenses the most durable option the fact that they are extremely lightweight makes for a great eyeglass lens as it keeps your glasses from being heavy and uncomfortable for all day wear.
Polycarbonate prescription lenses are recommended for patients looking for a durable, lightweight, shatterproof lens with superior optical clarity. If you are a daily eyeglass wearer we would definitely recommend a polycarbonate lens as it will withstand the wear and tear of daily life. For any sports such as cycling, mountain biking, golf, tactical, hunting, tennis, motorcycle riding, or any activity where there is the potential for high velocity impact or debris to the eyes we would absolutely recommend a polycarbonate lens.
Digital Prescription Lenses
Digital prescription lenses offer a “high definition” viewing experience. The creation of the digital lenses is optimized with computer controlled surfacing equipment that goes beyond the precision of standard tools used to process prescription lenses. Digital lenses provide sharper vision, better peripheral vision, improved color contrast as well as less glare at night. With a Digital lens your percise prescription will go from edge to edge of the lens which eliminates any peripheral distortion.
Digital lenses are recommended for high wrap sunglasses as your precise prescription will go from edge to edge of the lens, eliminating any peripheral distortion. For this reason patients with higher prescriptions notice the most benefit from a digital lenses.
High Index 1.67 Prescription Lenses
High index lenses are primarily designed to be used by patients that have a prescription in the range of -3.50 or stronger. For patients with a strong prescription, regular glass or plastic lenses can be thick and heavy. The “high-index” plastic lens materials bend light more efficiently than standard glass or plastic lenses.
This means less material can be used in high-index lenses to correct the vision of patients who have strong prescriptions thus making high-index plastic lenses both thinner and lighter than conventional glass or plastic lenses.
High-index lenses come in a wide variety of “indexes”, with the most common being 1.67 and 1.74. Lenses with a refractive index of 1.67 will typically be about 40% thinner than a standard plastic lens.
High-index Rx lenses are typically recommend for prescription eyeglasses where patients have a total power of -3.50 or higher. A 1.67 high index lens is best suited for prescription ranging from -3.50 to -6.75. It’s important to note that a high index lens will be a thinner lens that will allow high prescription patients to fit into a larger range of prescription eyewear but it is not a polycarbonate lens it is an engineered plastic lens. The primary difference being that the high index lens is not a shatter proof lens which isn’t a huge deal for everyday eyeglasses but it does make these lenses less ideal for sport performance or an active lifestyle.
High Index 1.74 Prescription Lenses
The same information as the high index 1.67 lenses above holds true for the 1.74 high index lens. However, the 1.74 is a high index that is recommended for patients with a -7.00 prescription or higher. Patients with prescriptions weaker than -7.00 will not see significant benefits in a 1.74 high index lens.
Transition Prescription Lenses
Transition lenses are also sometimes referred to as “photochromic lenses” as the term “Transitions” is actually the brand that makes photochromic lenses. Transition lenses automatically adjust their tint depending on the level of UV light that hits the lenses. So simply put these lenses will be clear when indoors and a sunglass lens when outdoors.
The benefit of a transition lens is that it allows you to have two primary uses for one pair of glasses as they function as both clear eyeglasses and tinted sunglasses.
Transition prescription lenses are recommended for patients looking for a great value in their eyewear as it eliminates the need for multiple pairs of Rx glasses. They are also a great option for patients who find themselves going from indoors to outdoors frequently and are unable to see without their corrective lenses as it eliminate the need to have both sunglasses and eyeglasses with you at all times. They are also a great option for athletes who perform their sport in extremely low or no light conditions and end in bright light conditions or vice versa
The biggest drawbacks that patients find with transition lenses are that they won’t transition while driving and they typically won’t be as dark of a sunglass lens and as non-transition sunglass lens tints will be.
If you are considering Oakley transition lenses it is also important to note that any of the transition lenses that have an “Iridium” coating will not transition to a completely clear lens due to that mirrored coating on the lens. They will become extremely light when indoors but not completely clear.
Progressive Prescription Lenses
(Also known as No-Line Bifocals, Multifocal Lenses, Varifocal Lenses) Progressive lenses correct both near and distance vision by offering a smooth transition from the top to bottom of the lens, unlike bifocals which just offer two separate viewing areas. Progressive lenses have a graduated lens power that starts at the top to correct distance vision and gradually changes as you go down the lens for near vision correction.
Patients will only need progressive lenses if they have a reading magnification. With that said, not all patients prefer to have a lens that corrects both near and far depending on the primary use for their glasses or sunglasses. For example, most tennis players do not have a need for a nearsighted correction as the sport does not require them to read or view anything up close. In this case the nearsighted correction would make the distance correction portion of the lens smaller which is the primary need in tennis. The same can be true for cycling, golf, and running. However, with fly fishing most patients find it essential to have a progressive lens as it allows them see both up close and in the distance, which is a crucial part of the sport.
Polarized Prescription Lenses
Polarized prescription lenses are going to reduce the glare from reflective surfaces such as water, snow, and pavement. With a polarized lens rather than having light reflected back into your eyes it is filtered out which provides clearer vision and less strain on the eyes.
Polarized Rx lenses are recommended for patients who will be using their prescription sunglasses for activities such as boating, fishing, skiing, baseball and softball, or running or cycling on wet pavement. Outside of those sports often times the decision on selecting a polarized or non-polarized lens is personal preference. For instance some patients prefer to golf in a polarized lens while other opt for a non-polarized lens as a polarized lens eliminates the glare that is reflected off the dimples of the golf ball making it harder to spot while in flight. Polarized lenses also make it difficult to read LCD screens such as car dashboards or cycling computers. So these are important consideration to take into account when selecting a polarized or non-polarized Rx lens
Polarized lenses reduce glare from different surfaces, such as water, so instead of seeing the light reflected back into your eyes it is filtered out and clarifies your vision. Polarized lenses are ideal for getting the clearest view possible, but are recommended especially for boating, fishing and any outdoor sport.
Mirrored or Iridium Coated Prescription Lenses
Prescription mirrored lenses (what Oakley’s refers to as an Iridium lenses) are lenses that are designed to balance light between reflection, transmission, and absorption. Resulting in a prescription lens that optimizes contrast while also minimizes glare.
Mirrored Rx lenses are recommended for athletes who need high contrast lenses that provide greater definition between objects and cut the glare on reflective surfaces such as wet pavement, water, and snow. Different mirrored tints will achieve the optimal balance of light for a given environment, if you are unclear as to what tint will work best for you please contact one of our lens specialists via live chat, phone, or email and they will gladly give you recommendations based on your eyewear needs. Also, it is common for mirrored lenses to be chosen for aesthetic reasons as they give the lens a distinct look.