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A large proportion of us wear corrective eyewear.  You can get reading glasses for a pound in town or you can pay £400 quite easily.  So, when it comes to choosing, what should you know before you enter the optician's.

Be aware that older people can (and should) get a free test and prescription annually. This will include the pressure test where a light puff of air is directed at the eye. This is to detect for pressure in the eyeball which can precede AMD (Age Related Macular Degeneration) which, if left untreated, can lead to blindness. The optician also looks for cataracts and will recommend if you need to have them attended to.

The optician will, obviously, wish to sell you a pair of glasses if you require them. But do not be embarrassed to just ask for your prescription. In the past I have sent a copy of my prescription to an on-line company and have been very pleased with the result and the price has been much less. (e.g. If you have a good frame, which you like, do not hesitate to ask the optician or on line manufacturer to fit the new lenses to it.


1. Size Matters

If, after an eye exam, you decide to get a new pair of glasses, don't let fashion trump function. Many people suffer from presbyopia, a naturally occurring stiffening in the lens of eyes that reduces the ability to focus at close-vision tasks. (You may know it as reading at arm's length.)

If you previously wore prescription glasses and now have presbyopia, you'll probably want multifocal lenses with various "strengths." But may want to avoid tiny, fashionable styles. "They're not good for older patients who need bifocals, trifocals or progressives," says Robert Rosenberg, O.D., an optometrist.. Typically, multifocal lenses require a vertical height of at least 1.25 inches.

2. Lens Materials

While specs are called "glasses," glass lenses have largely been replaced by high-tech plastics — lighter, thinner and less likely to break if dropped. Choices include:

Basic: Also known as CR-39, this lower-priced choice is usually what's included in single-vision offers for "buy-one-get-one-free" and "complete pair for under £100." Some opticians may recommend additional UV treatments, "but it's usually a gimmick," says Rosenberg. Most plastics require no additional UV treatments.

Mid-index: Slimmer and lighter than basic, these are more compatible with anti-reflective and photochromic treatments. But they may require thicker lenses for those with strong prescriptions for far sightedness, limiting frame options.

High-index: This most expensive plastic is thinnest, lightest and provides the best clarity and comfort — and avoids that " bottle bottom" effect for strong prescriptions. Scratch-coating and UV protection are usually included. The downside: Many insurance companies don't cover the full cost. And because high-index lenses reflect more light, an anti-reflective coating is advised.

Polycarbonate: Originally designed for use in fighter jet canopies, this material produces lenses that are virtually unbreakable — ideal for active adults, kids or those with vision in only one eye. These lenses offer similar benefits to high-index (and typically include scratch resistance and UV protection) but may cause color distortions.  

The latest and greatest: "High-definition" lenses engineered from a digital scan of the eyes. They can cost about £150 more than high-index lenses "but the result is like looking through a high-def TV," says Shirley Earley, another optician. "Images are sharper and clearer and colors are more vivid.

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