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What You Need to Know About Ordering Eyeglasses

 You may not know this about me, but in addition to being a MOM and a blogger, I also keep hours as an optician. An optician is the person you see at your eye doctor at the end of your eye exam who helps you pick out and order glasses or contact lenses. With all the online eyeglasses ordering that is available these days, you might think - there is an actual job for this? Yes. And I'm going to tell you a little bit about why you need an optician and why ordering eyeglasses is not as simple as plugging in a glasses prescription and pressing add to cart.

I'm going to give you a little eye anatomy lesson: your eye is able to see things by how it perceives light. There are all these little light receptors called rods and cones in there that allow you to perceive color and contrasts. You have a lens at the front of your eye that bends the light entering your eye depending on how it contracts with muscle movements. That allows for focusing the light on the back of your eye - the retina, which is directly connected to your brain and allows you to perceive an image. Now, this is where genetics and other factors come in - some people have "refractive errors/differences" in the way they perceive light. Eyeglasses work by refracting light entering your eye at a certain angle so that your vision is modified to allow for a clear image on the retina. Pretty cool, huh? 

When an optometrist writes your eyeglasses prescription, they are writing the "refractive correction" for your eyes. This is the technical order for the manufacturing of an eyeglass lens with specific curvatures that will bend light in just the right way to correct your vision. The higher the number, the bigger the curve your eye needs for refractive correction. Ok. So now you might have a better understanding of how eyeglasses work on a basic level. Some people can't see anything in the morning when they wake up without their eyeglasses, some people have mild prescriptions only discovered necessary when they start getting headaches at work or school. There is a broad range of kinds of prescriptions and what each person's need is for wearing them. 

So you have your new prescription in hand after your exam and you are going to order eyeglasses. The first thing you'll need to do is pick a frame to hold the lenses. Frame fitting is very important because the more centered your eye is in the lens, the better results you will get aesthetically with the manufacturing of the lens and the better the lens will fit the user. You don't want the frame to sit too low on the brow, or too high on the nose. You don't want the temples (arms/sides) of the frame to be too tight against the head or too loose, too long or too short. The frame should feel generally comfortable to the wearer - adjustments can be made but you never want to start off with a bad fit. 

Next, you are going to talk about lens options with the optician. This is the part of the process where the optician recommends the best lens design, materials and treatments for your needs based on your use goals and your prescription requirements and limitations. Generally speaking, the lens design is usually categorized in a few regular categories of multi-focal (progressive), bi-focal or single vision. The lens design that will be best suited for your needs will be indicated on the prescription written by the doctor; however, sometimes a person will have specific design needs based on the planned usage of the glasses. For example, sometimes a person only wants to use the glasses for one specific task. In this case, the doctor or the optician will modify the prescription to accommodate the specific need. 

The material that the lens is made out of is an important consideration as well. A standard lens is generally made out of a plastic called CR-39. CR-39 is optically very clear and great at transmitting light but it is not shatterproof and can be inappropriate for certain users. Polycarbonate is another common material- this material is shatterproof and is ideal for thinness for certain prescriptions but it is not the best at light transmission and some users are sensitive to the distortions that it can cause. Then you have Trivex, which is a similar material to polycarbonate but has less distortion. At the top of the price list is high index material - this material is ideal for higher prescriptions where the lenses will turn out very thick otherwise. It is the thinnest and lightest material you can make eyeglass lenses out of but it is also the most expensive material. Still, it is necessary in some applications. 

You might be wondering, what about glass? Glass material is actually still available in some lens designs, however, as you can imagine it is not the safest material to have in front of your eyes. It has excellent light transmission and possibly produces the best refractive results of all materials but its propensity to shatter makes it an unpopular choice. 

Lastly, you have an array of lens treatment options to consider. The most important treatment to add to any lens, in my humble opinion, is the anti-reflective or anti-glare coating. If you've ever worn glasses driving at night and experience oncoming headlight glare, you know that while glasses ultimately provide vision correction, they also create certain problems. Eyeglass lenses are inherently reflective surfaces as they are polished for clarity. When you place a reflective surface in front of your eye, you unintentionally cause visual distortions. An anti-reflective coating reduces the reflective property of the lens and allows for more precise light transmission, resulting in clearer vision. Added bonus, you can see your eyes in pictures and not just a white flash on the glasses lenses. 

I feel like I'm just getting warmed up here, but I realize that this was supposed to be a quick post giving some pointers on what to consider when you are purchasing eyeglasses... so I should wrap up for now. If this has been overwhelming, GOOD. This is why it's good to know a good optician if you need glasses - they already know all this stuff and will give you their expert recommendation on the best frame and lenses for your specific needs. I didn't even start to talk about the tailored lens measurements that the optician takes to make sure your lenses are positioned accurately in front of your eye.

There are a lot of considerations when it comes to fitting someone with the right frame and lens options - and it all really affects the final product and how useful the glasses are for the wearer. I hope that this "brief" article gives you a little insight into the process of ordering eyeglasses and encourages you to seek out expert advice the next time you are ready to update your glasses. Cheers!

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