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Guide to the Different Types of Ophthalmic Lenses, Curves and Coatings

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With so many different types of ophthalmic lenses on the market, it’s easier than ever for optometrists to correct vision problems. This sheer variety, however, can be overwhelming for the uninitiated.

Most consumers are shocked to learn that it's much more work to choose the right lens than it is to choose a pair of designer frames. You need to ensure the selected lenses fit the diagnosis and lifestyle of the person wearing them.

A patient’s ideal pair of lenses can be found where coating, curvature, composition, and focalization meet. Continue reading for quick overview of the different types of ophthalmic lenses, curves, and coatings.

Different Types of Ophthalmic Lenses

When you choosing the material for a lens, it’s important to know how, why, and where someone will be using it. Optometrists used to craft lenses solely from fragile glass. A single drop could spell the end of an expensive investment (and clear sight).

Today, however, optometrist can choose from an array of different types of ophthalmic lenses, including:

  • Plastic: Out of all the materials listed, plastic is the most economical. While plastic lenses offer superior optics and vision correction, they are prone to scuffing and scratching. Plastic is best-used in people with minor visual impairments.
  • Polycarbonate: These lenses are lighter, thinner, and much more durable than standard plastic materials. Polycarbonate lenses are best for stronger prescriptions because it has the ability to correct vision without adding thickness, which may cause the wearer's appearance to be distorted. Most importantly, polycarbonate lenses are virtually indestructible — making them the ideal solution for active adults and children
  • Trivex: Using Trivex results in ophthalmic lenses lighter, thinner, and 10 times harder than plastic. This material also offers ample protection against harmful UV rays. Due to their ability to withstand heavy impacts, Trivex is recommended for patients with active lifestyles.
  • High Index: This new material revolutionized the eyeglass industry. Light, comfortable, durable, and extremely thin, high-index lenses are coming to dominate the industry. Due to its superior clarity, most optometrists recommend high-index lenses to people with severe visual impairments. As is to be expected, however, these lenses can cost a pretty penny.

The Bodacious Curves of Ophthalmic Lenses

While you can grind lenses into an endless array of shapes, optometrists typically choose one of the following three silhouettes:

  • Concave: These lenses curve inward. Doctors typically prescribe these lenses to treat nearsightedness.
  • Convex: If your patient suffer from farsightedness, they'll need a convex lenses. By capitalizing on its outward curve, these lenses help bring your immediate surroundings into focus.
  • Cylindrical: Some individuals suffer from a deformation of the cornea, better known as astigmatism, and a cylindrical shaped lens will help compensate for this condition.

The Different Focal Options for Modern Lenses

Before Benjamin Franklin invented the bifocal, people who suffered from both near and farsightedness had to result to a variety of kooky solutions. Today, one pair of glasses can treat a variety of issues.

  • Single Focus Lenses: For people suffering from one eye condition, a single focus lens will do the truck.
  • Bifocal Lenses: These lenses hold two different prescriptions. While the top half is best-suited for correcting long-distance vision, the bottom will help you focus on your nearby surroundings.
  • Trifocal Lenses: For someone suffering from a variety of vision conditions, optometrists might prescribe a trifocal lens with three separate focal points.
  • Progressive Lenses: The newest of the four focalization types, these lenses offer the benefits of multifocal lenses without the drawbacks of unattractive lines. Transitioning between the three viewing distances is seamless in progressive lenses.

Different Types of Coatings for Ophthalmic Lenses

Like a glaze in the optometrist’s toolkit, it takes normal lenses and allows them to fulfill a variety of different purposes. The four most common coatings for different types of ophthalmic lenses include:

  • Anti-Scratch: This durable coating makes it harder for patients to leave scuff marks on lenses.
  • UV Protective: Ultraviolet rays are notorious for wreaking havoc on unprotected eyes. This coating serves as sunblock for the eyes.
  • Photochromic: For patients sensitive to sunshine, these photochromic transitional lenses darken or lighten based on light saturation in the area.
  • Anti-Reflective: This coating prevents glare, reflections, and diminishes halos around light.

Contact Keeler Ophthalmic Instruments

Even though the above list isn't exhaustive of the different types of ophthalmic lenses, it still results in 240 combinations. At Keeler Ophthalmic Instruments, we know a thing or two about the different types of ophthalmic lenses.

For 100 years, we’ve positioned ourselves at the forefront of the ophthalmic industry. In addition to expert advice, we offer high-quality equipment and residency opportunities for students in optometry school.


Contact a Keeler Ophthalmic Instruments representative today.

About the Author Eugene VanArsdale

Eugene is the Director of Marketing Communications at Keeler Instruments. He has been with Keeler since 1982 and is co-holder of two patents for the company. Eugene has a true passion for the eye care industry and has dedicated himself to understanding the ins and outs of the optometric and ophthalmic equipment market.