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Debunking the Myths About High-Index Lenses

The modern world is full of new inventions for glasses wearers. There are half a dozen different useful coatings including anti-scratch, anti-reflection, and anti-fog. The bifocals that we’ve had for centuries have been advanced to ‘progressive’ lenses which are lineless bifocals for more optimal distance focusing. Even prescription shades have gotten easier to acquire with the addition of photochromatic ‘transition’ coatings that can change a lens from clear to tinted and back again based on the brightness of the surrounding light. However, these aren’t the only options that are improving the bespectacled world as we know it.

High index lenses open up an entirely new world of advanced lens materials and possibilities for people who wear glasses. Made from particularly dense plastics, these lenses have the ability to become thinner than average lenses even for very strong prescriptions. While this is incredibly exciting for some, there are also a surprising number of myths floating around about high-index lenses that we’d like to clear up.

“Everyone with high-index eyeglasses must have terrible eyesight”

This is an easy to understand misconception, but anyone can get a pair of high index lenses, even if your prescription is relatively gentle. The reason for this myth is because stronger prescriptions tend to have thicker lenses so people with “terrible eyesight” have more to gain from high-index lenses than people who normally have fairly thin lenses. This means that it will be more common for people with bad eyesight to invest in high-index lenses, anyone who wants a thinner lens can join in the fun.

“Reflections from high-index lenses are dangerous”

High index lenses are denser than other lens materials. This is what allows them to bend light more efficiently and thus require less material to serve the same prescription. However, this density also increases the likelihood that the lenses will reflect a flat beam of light off of their surface rather than allowing all the light to pass through. While it’s true that high index lenses are extra reflective and that reflections are dangerous, this problem is incredibly easily solved. Most high index lenses actually come automatically with an anti-reflective coating which improves visual clarity and removes the reflection problem entirely.

“You can’t play sports in high index lenses”

For some reason, people seem to have gotten it in their heads that high index lenses are more fragile than normal lenses. In fact, the dense plastic unless crafted incredibly thin is about as durable as normal plastic lenses. You don’t want to sit on them but if you play in your glasses, you can play in high-index lenses as well. Many sports and safety glasses choose to use high-index lenses simply to allow for a sleeker design meaning it’s not only safe to play sports in high-index lenses, sometimes it’s advisable.

“Wearing high-index lenses means you’re probably really smart”

Ah, the old ‘people in glasses are smart’ argument. We’ve all heard it, dealt with it, and played it up to our advantage from time to time but most people in glasses know the truth. The health of your eyes has little to nothing to do with your actual effective intelligence. A very small percentage of the glasses-wearing population need them as a result of eyestrain from reading too much but most people need glasses due to a genetic predisposition or illness later in life. It is pretty smart to get high-index lenses but you don’t have to take a test to qualify, so we don’t advise using this as a way to determine the wearer’s intelligence.

“Wearing contacts is better than investing in high-index lenses”

Contacts don’t work for everybody, but between people who love their contacts and everyone who doesn’t need glasses, it might seem like they are the ideal choice. There are dozens of unique reasons why a person might choose to wear glasses instead. Some jobs create an environment that is bad for contacts like manufacturing, construction, and lifeguarding. Strong prescriptions often require contacts that are too thick to be comfortable and many eye conditions can’t be compensated yet with soft lenses. Even allergies can make contacts a bad idea. For everyone who still wears glasses, high-index lenses are a great way to improve both your visual clarity and the appearance of your glasses.

“High index lenses are lighter than normal lenses”

This is one of the most common myths about high index lenses and it’s an easy mistake to make. High index lenses are thinner than normal lenses and have better visual clarity meaning that they’re easier to see through from both sides with anti-reflective coating. However, they are not lighter than normal lenses most of the time. This is because what makes them high-index is the density of the lens material, bending light more tightly as it passes through more clear plastic particles. High index lenses are about the same weight as normal lenses of the same prescription, only thinner and more densely packed. This is why high index glass lenses are surprisingly heavy given how thinly they can be crafted.

“High index lenses can’t be rimless”

Another myth you see floating around the internet is the idea that high index lenses can’t be fit into rimless and semi-rimless frames. The idea is that they’re brittle to be safe in a rimless frame and too thin to hold the wire for semi-rimless. For all of you dreaming about sleek rimless glasses without the thick lens edges, these myths are entirely false. If you choose the right index for your prescription you can essentially set the thickness of your lenses to the requirements of your favorite frames. Stronger prescriptions will want something in the 1.6-1.74 range where weaker prescriptions should consider something in the mid-range of available indexes for a sleek look and just the right amount of lens thickness for your frames.

“There’s no point in getting advanced lenses when you wear glasses either way”

For some people, the thickness of a lens doesn’t matter and the opinion doesn’t appear to be influenced by prescription. If you just don’t notice the thickness of your own glasses or those that other people are wearing, that’s fine. But most people who wear glasses have taken note of their lens thickness and would like to diminish it. Some would rather be looking through a formless hologram so the thinner, the better. High index lenses still have benefits for those who don’t care about lens thickness like visual clarity and frame selection.

“Getting Lasik is easier than trying a new kind of lens”

Most people in who wear glasses, at least in developed countries, consider getting Lasik eye surgery at some point in their lives but actually taking the risk of permanent eye damage for an optional benefit is an incredibly personal decision. Getting Lasik is expensive, but it’s never just a matter of money. Most people aren’t willing to risk what happens if it goes wrong. High index lenses, on the other hand, harmlessly bend images into focus for your imperfect but healthy eyes and can serve you for a decade if you take good care of them.

The hype is real, but these myths are not. Whether you’re looking to improve the quality of your vision, the profile of your lenses, or both, high index lenses are a great investment for anyone who wears glasses. You can put them in sports glasses for activewear, in goggles for underwater adventures, and of course in your new pair of stylishly thin eyeglasses for everyday use.

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