Lens Choices

Polar Rise
What’s new and what’s available as manufacturers expand their polarized lens lines
By Brian P. Dunleavy

By now, most optical professionals understand the benefits of polarized sunlenses. Designed to reduce uncomfortable glare off reflected surfaces such as snow, ice and pavement polarized lenses promise wearers enhanced visual comfort in the outdoors over a standard tinted sunlens.

Now moving past the technical problems that plagued earlier versions of the product, polarized manufacturers have focused recent development efforts on expanding design and material options within the category in an effort to grow the potential prescription wearer population. Among the noteworthy developments: “fashion-tinted” polarized lenses, increased selection in high-index plastic materials and the proliferation of “latest-generation” progressive designs in polarized.

Leading the “colorization” of the category is Specialty Lens Corp. (SLC) and BelOptix. A self-proclaimed “niche” manufacturer, SLC earlier this year released its “Shooters” line of “tinted” polarized lenses (designed primarily for outdoor sportsmen but also with fashion applications) in yellow, orange, violet, red, blue, green and “rainbow.” BelOptix, meanwhile, offers photochromic polarized lenses (that, like all photochromics, can adjust darkness to different lighting conditions) in nine “fashion” colors: brown, gray, amber, purple, yellow, blue, green, vermilion and persimmon.

SLC and BelOptix are by no means the only players in the color field. KBCo. sells polarized lenses in gray, brown, copper, “solid silver” (mirror), blue-green (with MiraPol mirror), “hi-contrast” amber, yellow, apple green and sky blue. Visioneering’s PolarLens brand is available in gray, brown, yellow, violet, green, orange, blue and pink (the latter billed as a driving or computer lens), in various lens designs and materials. Manufacturers Action Optics and International Polarizer also offer “fashion” colors in polarized. SLC and Vision-Ease (through LensCrafters only) also sell Melanin polarized lenses, equipped with a synthetic form of melanin (the human skin’s natural defense against the sun’s rays), for additional sun protection.

Leading the growth in high-index plastic polarized lenses is Optima, with the release of PolarTec, the first 1.60-index plastic polarized lens. SLC, KBCo., Visioneering, Melibrad (Polar-Ray) and Shar Optical (Polar Tech) also offer polarized lenses in the mid- to high-index plastic category (1.56 or 1.57) and several manufacturers, most notably Vision-Ease (through its SunRx division) and Younger Optics, offer polarized polycarbonate lenses, considered by some to be the ideal combination for outdoor sport enthusiasts (given poly’s impact resistance and UV blocking capability). Many of these manufacturers, of course, continue to market polarized products in glass and conventional hard-resin plastic as well. Of particular note, is Action Optics’ 8-base wrap polarized lenses in conventional hard-resin plastic, in both plano and Rx.

In addition, Younger is at the forefront of the progressive evolution in polarized, using its NuPolar technology. Not only does Younger offer its own Image progressive design, but it also shares NuPolar with other progressive lens manufacturers, including Varilux (Comfort and Panamic), Hoya (GP Wide), AO-SOLA (b’Active and Percepta), Kodak (Signet Armorlite), Zeiss (Gradal Top) and others. SLC also has several progressive designs in polarized, including its newly released ShortyPAL, a short-corridor progressive. In addition, BelOptix, KBCo. (Fusion 1), Vision-Ease, Visioneering, Melibrad and Shar also offer polarized progressives. At most manufacturers, these products complement existing products in bifocal and trifocal designs.

For whatever polarized products you’re looking for,  check with your wholesale laboratories to learn more about the products out there and discern which one (or ones) will work best for your patient base.

when dispensing polarized lenses…
… take patients outside the shop to demonstrate how these products work in different lighting conditions.
… recommend them to all patients, not just outdoor sports enthusiasts. Remember: Polarized lenses can block glare off white pavement and black asphalt as well as the hoods and windshields of cars in addition to snow and water. This makes them an excellent option for patients who need more sun protection when driving.
… don’t let price be a deterrent. Lenses with polarized filters can cost as much as $300 more than standard lenses. But patients should expect to pay more for performance.
… tell patients polarized lenses are fine for skiers, in most instances. Wearing polarized lenses makes ice patches on the slopes appear gray—but they’re still visible. The advent of tinted polarized lenses (in red, violet, orange and blue) makes the category even more appealing to sports patients—even skiers, who find red-type tints to be helpful on the slopes.
… remember the LCD issue. Readouts on LCD (liquid crystal displays) may be rendered invisible through polarized lenses; therefore, these lenses are not recommended for use by highway patrol officers and pilots. Additionally, pilots may need to see the reflections off the surface of water in order to properly judge depth during take-off or landing.

L&T’s expert opinions: Timothy Donovan, optician and owner, Optical Options, Aspen, Colo.; William Long, OD, PhD, associate professor, University of Missouri-St. Louis School of Optometry; Paul Glaser, optician and owner, Captree Opticians, Babylon, N.Y.; and Julie Preston, OD, PhD, ophthalmic optics professor, Ohio Sate University School of Optometry.