Eyeglass Lenses: An Embarrassment of Riches?

Are there too many optical lenses on the market? Is the plethora of choices a challenge for ECPs? And are patients losing out as a result?

“What’s new in optical lenses?” might be a good conversation starter except for the fact that there is SO MUCH that is new.

When I asked Namita Karir, the new director of operations for Josephson Opticians in Toronto, if there are too many lenses on the market, she laughed: “Absolutely,” came the reply.

Lucky for her, Karir is in the high-end/luxury niche market, so she only sells what she considers to be ‘the best of the best’. This reduces her choice load.

Nonetheless, she does sometimes find the wealth of options overwhelming. “Some lens suppliers have so many lenses in their portfolios that my eyes cross when they tell me about them. If they have confused me, how am I supposed to sell to the end user?”

Lana Belvis, optician and owner of Inspired Eyes Opticians in Kelowna, B.C., doesn’t find the amount of choice overwhelming, because she focuses on products that consistently give her and her clients amazing results. “As opticians we must learn about the lenses inside and out—what makes them special, are they better for this application or that, what are the lab policies regarding warranty, what are the features of the coatings, what do the lenses cost,” says Belvis. “It’s our job to wade through the choices and make recommendations the client can trust. We make strong recommendations based on our knowledge and expertise and an understanding of the client’s situation.”

Noting that there are, “some really cool new single vision lenses on the market,” Karir feels that opticians (including herself) can ‘get lazy’ and short-circuit the conversation with the customer by recommending only products they are familiar with. “I wonder if opticians are making the effort to tell customers about the cool new lens features that are available. I frequently prime my staff to let people know what is out there. We all need an occasional reminder to get out of our comfort zones.”

Doug Gaudet, optician and owner of Gaudet Optical in Halifax has a contrary point of view. “Our clients rave about the progressive lenses we most commonly dispense and so it can seem counter-productive to start experimenting with another product when we are already successful. And some new lens designs can be rather extreme. I have been advised to tell a patient that it may take a week or two to get used to their new lens. For the amount they are paying, clients should get pure and instant gratification. Delivering a product that gets great reports from users is worth way more to me than a spec sheet on new lenses, which we seem to get weekly.”

It is apparent that making one’s lens product stand out in the crowd and be noticed, and then tried, is no small feat for lens manufacturers. Let’s see what they have on offer as we enter the third quarter of 2018.

David Rips is CEO and president of Younger Optics. As the last independently owned lens manufacturer in the world, Rips has strong views on the lens market. “I don’t think there are too many lens products on the market. Every single patient that walks through the ECP’s door has different visual needs. Just as with medications, one product might work well for one person and poorly for another. Lenses are no different.”

Rips is delighted to announce the expansion of Younger’s polycarbonate composite multifocal technology to include Transitions® XTRActive® FT28. “Here’s an example of what makes Younger so special,” he explains. “A few years ago, we came up with a way to have a photochromic bifocal design on polycarbonate. We use composite technology: the back of the lens is pure polycarbonate and the front is Trivex®, and this is what carries the photochromics. This was a true ‘first’. It is not a laminate, which was done in the past, and poorly I might add, but a bond where the two materials become one. We originally brought it out in grey and brown and are now building out all the product extensions.”

Another innovative product from Younger is the NuPolar® Infinite Gray™ photochromic polarized lens. “This is the only sun lens with a polarizing filter that addresses the number one complaint that people have with this technology: they either find the lens too light or too dark. The NuPolar Infinite Gray gives wearers the best of both worlds: it is light when it needs to be and darkens in response to UV rays,” says Rips.

Is Paul Faibish, president of Plastic Plus, jaded? I doubt it, but he does admit that the new IOT Drive lens, the inMotion™, “Is the first lens that has given me a ‘wow’ experience in a number of years.”

inMotion was developed to give drivers a superior driving experience, both day and night. It has retained all the excellent benefits of IOT’s Drive lens, while also providing wider distance (28 per cent) and intermediate (20 per cent) visual fields.

“This is an incredible, premium lens for night driving,” says Faibish. “The intermediate vision is good, and the distance is unbelievably panoramic. The distance Rx has advanced compensation, and the power is reduced by up to one-quarter diopter, which adds to the visual quality. The result is that people experience less fatigue when driving at night. The only lenses I wear now for night driving are inMotion lenses.”

A great occupational lens for long-distance drivers, inMotion also satisfies the 43 per cent of older drivers who feel insecure driving at night due to age-related loss of visual capacity. It is well known that night myopia causes up to two lines of visual acuity loss for both ametropes and emmetropes. Standard progressive lenses can make it uncomfortable to drive by giving an inadequate distance visual field or limited peripheral vision. inMotion was developed to maximize intermediate and distance vision, which are the areas most used for driving. It offers optimized vision of the road, dashboard and mirrors.

Each inMotion lens is unique, fully personalized to each wearer, in order to obtain the ideal surface for each prescription and base curve.

Essilor presents the expanded Eyezen+ lens collection for single vision wearers. All four Eyezen+ designs, including Eyezen+ First, benefit from the Smart Blue Filter innovation that filters harmful blue-violet light while letting beneficial blue-turquoise light pass through, and W.A.V.E. technology that improves contrast perception and enhances vision in challenging light conditions. Eyezen+ Initial 0.4, Active 0.6 and the new Active+ 0.85 feature Eyezen Focus technology that supports eye focus efforts. Moreover, the lenses are available with Fit and Eyecode personalization, for maximum comfort. Protection from harmful blue-violet light and UV rays can also be maximized by combining Eyezen lenses with the Crizal Prevencia coating.

“Studies show that 92 per cent of Eyezen+ wearers are happy with the product, that three out of four report milder headaches, and eight out of 10 report a dip in posture-related pain, feel less visual fatigue and are less bothered by bright screens,” explains Marion Aymond, junior product manager.

Also from Essilor, Varilux X series lenses, launched one year ago, are still at the forefront of technology and are now worn by more than one million people worldwide.

“What makes Varilux different from other progressives,” explains Product Manager Martine Ahier, “is that Varilux is more than a lens. It is a concept led by innovation, developed with the help of eyecare professionals throughout the world, and focused on the wearer.”

Since the invention of the first Varilux progressive lens by Bernard Maitenaz in 1959, Varilux has relentlessly pushed the boundaries of innovation. A single Varilux lens may combine up to 30 patents, making a visible difference for patients’ vision. As well, Varilux lenses have been evaluated by more than 12,000 people over the past 40 years, ensuring an outstanding 96 per cent satisfaction level for wearers.

Riverside Opticalab Group brings the Persona Office Plus lens to market, as the newest offering from the Persona HD collection. “The Persona HD lens was first introduced in 2006 and has now evolved to a full family of lenses that can satisfy everyone’s needs,” says Alain Després, VP of marketing.

The Persona Office Plus is like a progressive lens design in many ways but with some important differences: it places the emphasis on the lower portion of the lens and then works up the lens to reach the upper zone. The additional enhanced upper zone allows for easier mobility as well as flexibility from close to far viewing.

Designed to satisfy the visual requirements of anyone seeking a task-specific solution to help with extended computer use, reading sheet music and hobbies like sewing, this versatile lens has a very wide bottom portion, while the upper portion is used to see people entering the room, or to focus on a computer monitor or the far side of a machine. “The flexibility of the Persona Office Plus allows for easier mobility and comfortable viewing from close to far,” says Després. “Wearers are now reporting improved distance viewing compared to most computer or office lenses.”

ECPs can customize the Persona Office Plus for the best balance of vision for each patient. The ECP may specify, in addition to the distance Rx and ADD power, a dynamic power (digression) used to calculate specific near and intermediate viewing distances.

Quality and exceptional viewing comfort are in store for every patient who needs a task-specific lens for close work with the Persona Office Plus.

Maui Jim weighs in with the fashionable Kami brand frame with Dual Mirror lenses, created with patented PolarizedPlus2 SuperThin (ST) glass. The two-tone mirror coating is available in three dual colour options:

  • Gold to Silver Dual Mirror, HCL Bronze base lens
  • Blue to Silver Dual Mirror, Grey base lens
  • Silver to Black Dual Mirror, Neutral Grey base lens.

Available in plano only, the Dual Mirror offers high-contrast AR coating to eliminate stray light, with category three light transmission of 8-18 per cent.

Earlier this year Transitions Optical hired the Center for Generational Kinetics to conduct research on awareness of photochromic lenses among Canadians in various age groups. They found that close to half (about 42 per cent) of all eyeglass wearers are willing to try Transitions® brand photochromic lenses, with Boomers (born 1946-1964) and Gen X (born 1965-1980) most likely, at 42 per cent, followed closely by Millennials (born 1981-1995) at 41 per cent. What a great opportunity this presents to ECPs.

“Consumers are curious about Transitions brand lenses,” says Patience Cook, director, North America marketing. “While a clear majority have heard of Transitions lenses, many have no preconceptions about them. This creates an excellent opportunity for eyecare professionals to introduce the many options from Transitions, including our new style colours and style mirror lenses There is less awareness among younger consumers, to whom the Transitions XTRActive style mirrors are likely to appeal. We find a wow effect not just with younger wearers but also with younger ECPs.”

The conversation about Transitions lenses becomes even easier when ECPs realize that 58 per cent of all eyeglass wearers say they are most influenced by ECPs when making purchase decisions.

“We sometimes underestimate how much consumers look to eyewear to create a sense of personal style,” says Cook. “Transitions Signature style colours and Transitions XTRActive style mirrors invite a new, fashion-conscious wearer to create a personalized look with their lenses and frames. There is a perfect fit with trends toward bold colours and personalization in apparel and other consumer goods, like shoes.”

Centennial Optical is working with Riverside Opticalab to bring Signet Armorlite’s Kodak Unique DROTM and Kodak Unique DRO HD progressive lenses with Dynamic Reading Optimization TM (DRO) to Canada. Exclusively available to independent ECPs, the DRO can virtually eliminate oblique astigmatism, giving the eyes greater comfort and allowing the wearer to read longer. Near vision is optimized without sacrificing distance vision.

So, is there too much choice in optical lenses? I’ll leave it to you to decide, while pointing out that lens manufacturers are outdoing themselves to present relevant products that consumers want. These products perform better all the time and meet a wider variety of consumer needs than ever before. All of which makes this a great time to buy optical lenses.

By Paddy Kamen

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