Types of Eyeglasses

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Eyeglasses are more popular now than ever. They've become a staple in modern fashion despite advances in contact lenses and vision correction surgery. Even people with perfect vision are adding non-prescription eyewear into their wardrobe.

With so many different frames, lenses, and treatments available, it can be overwhelming to pick a new pair of glasses. This guide will explain all the different types of glasses available. 

Types of Prescription Eyeglasses

Before you start shopping for new glasses, it's essential to visit your eye doctor for an eye exam and determine exactly what type of vision correction you need. Your optometrist will write you an eyeglass prescription. You can use this to visit an optician or shop online for your new glasses.


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Here are the different types of prescription lenses:

Single Vision

Single vision lenses are the cheapest and most common type of eyeglass lenses. They have the largest field of vision because they only correct vision at one specific distance (either far or near). If you are nearsighted farsighted, or have astigmatism, you’ll most likely be prescribed single vision lenses.

Single Vision Lens - Vision Center

Bifocals

Bifocal lenses are multifocal, meaning they have two different "powers" in them—these different sections of the lens correct distance vision and near vision. Bifocal lenses are prescribed for people with multiple vision problems, such as presbyopia (age-related farsightedness) and myopia (nearsightedness).

Bifocal Lens - Vision Center

Trifocals

Trifocal lenses are similar to bifocals, except that they have an additional power to correct intermediate vision. The intermediate portion may be used to view a computer screen, for example.

Trifocal Lens - Vision Center

The main shortcoming of bifocals and trifocals is that they have a distinct line between each field of vision. This makes the sections of the lens produce drastically different vision. Most people get used to this and don’t have an issue, but this drawback has led to the development of more advanced lenses, such as progressives.

Progressives

Progressive lenses work for anyone who needs bifocals or trifocals. They provide the same correction for near, intermediate, and distance vision without the lines between each section. Many people prefer these lenses because the transition between fields of vision is smoother. However, progressive lenses have a smaller overall field of vision, which causes some people to return to bifocals or trifocals.

Progressive Lens - Vision Center

Other Types of Glasses (Non-Prescription)

Non-prescription glasses serve a variety of functions, including preventative eye care, safety, and fashion.

Reading Glasses

Reading glasses are available over-the-counter (OTC) or via prescription. They improve your ability to see things up close, especially when reading books, newspapers, laptops, and phone screens. 

OTC reading glasses work well for people with the same vision in each eye and good distance vision. These come in strengths from +1.0 to +4.0.

If you are suffering from digital eye strain, double vision, or getting headaches from your reading glasses, you should get an eye exam and see if you need prescription glasses.

Reading Glasses Frames - Vision Center

Digital Protection (Blue Light Blocking)

Blue light glasses, also called computer glasses, are becoming more and more popular, especially among the millennial generation. Most adults spend a significant portion of their day on their computers, phones, and tablets. These glasses can help prevent digital eye strain and help improve your sleep schedule.

Blue Light Blocking Computer Glasses - Vision Center

Safety Glasses

Many professions use safety glasses, including construction, science labs, electrical work, plumbing, auto repair, and more. They can be purchased very cheaply for basic protection. If you need vision correction, you can get goggles that fit over your regular glasses or buy prescription safety glasses. They can be fitted with the same lenses and treatments as regular frames.

Safety Glasses Frames - Vision Center

Sunglasses

You can purchase sunglasses with or without a prescription. They can have polarized lenses, or UV protection treatment.

Sunglasses Frames - Vision Center

Non-Prescription (Fake) Glasses

There has been an increase in popularity in non-prescription glasses recently. These are mainly fashion accessories, but they may also serve as safety glasses in certain low-risk situations.

Rayban Frames1

Types of Lenses and Lens Treatments

Besides the standard prescriptions, there are a variety of lens options when choosing your glasses. Your optometrist may suggest one or more lens treatments, while you may want to add others based on your lifestyle or career.

Glass Lenses

Glass lenses provide excellent visual acuity. However, they are very heavy and prone to cracking and shattering. Their substantial weight and potential safety issues have caused them to become unpopular. They are still available, but most lenses are made of some type of plastic now.

Plastic Lenses

Most lenses these days are made out of plastic because they can produce similar results to glass. Plastic is cheaper, lighter, and safer than glass.

High-Index Plastic Lenses 

High-index plastic lenses are even thinner and lighter than most plastic lenses.

Polycarbonate and Trivex Lenses

Polycarbonate plastic lenses are standard in safety glasses, sports goggles, and children’s eyewear. They are lightweight and impact-resistant, making them much less likely to crack or shatter.

Similarly, Trivex is a lightweight and durable plastic that can be used in high-risk environments. These lenses are also thinner than basic plastic lenses, but not as thin and lightweight as high-index lenses.

Aspheric Lenses

Aspheric lenses are flatter and thinner. This makes them a great choice for stronger prescriptions that need thicker lenses. They also reduce unwanted magnification of the wearer’s eyes. They may also increase visual acuity in some cases. 

High-Definition Lenses

Some companies use computer-controlled surfacing technology to create free-form or wavefront lenses to take your visual acuity to the next level. These will be much more expensive than traditional lenses.

Photochromatic (Transition) Lenses

Photochromatic lenses, commonly known as Transitions, are a popular choice. They darken when they are exposed to UV rays, which eliminates the need for sunglasses. They are available in all prescription lens types.

Scratch-Resistant Coating

Applying a clear scratch-resistant coating to the front and back of lenses increases their durability and helps them last longer. Most modern lenses come with scratch-resistance built-in, but if yours don't, you can usually add it for a small additional cost.

Anti-Reflective Coating 

Anti-reflective coating, also called AR coating or anti-glare coating, eliminates reflections from your lenses. This increases comfort and visibility, especially when driving, reading, or using a screen at night. It also makes your lenses nearly invisible so that others can see your eyes through your lenses.

Anti-Fog Coating 

Anyone with glasses in a cold climate is familiar with the instantaneous fogging effect when you go from a cold environment to a warm one. Anti-fog coating can help eliminate this effect. There are permanent anti-fog treatments available, as well as weekly drops to treat your lenses yourself.

UV-Blocking Lens Treatment

Think of this as sunblock for your eyeballs. Adding a UV-blocking dye to your lenses will reduce the number of UV rays that reach your eyes. UV light contributes to the development of cataracts. 

Types of Glasses Frames

Choosing the right eyeglass frames is very important. You should find a pair that fits your lifestyle, is comfortable for long-term wear, and expresses your personal style. 

Frame Materials

There are two main types of material used to make glasses frames:

Plastic Frames

Manufacturers use several types of plastic to make frames, including zylonite, nylon blends, and castor seed oil. 

Plastic Glasses Frames - Vision Center
PROS
  • Variety of colors
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Lower cost
CONS
  • Less durable
  • Color can fade

Metal Frames

There are many different metals used to make glasses frames including:

- Monel
- Titanium
- Beryllium
- Stainless steel
- Flexon
- Aluminum

Metal Glasses Frames - Vision Center

The price of metal frames varies depending on the material used. They can cost the same as plastic frames or reach double to triple the price.

PROS
  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Corrosion-resistant
CONS
  • Can be more expensive
  • Can have negative skin reactions
  • Fewer colors to choose from

Frame Types

There are three types of frames:

Full Frame

Full frames completely outline the lens. They are the most durable frame type, and we recommend them for thick lenses.

Full Frame Glasses - Vision Center

Semi-rimless Frame

Semi-rimless frames cover the top portion of the lens. They are lighter and more comfortable but expose the lens to chips and cracks.

Semi-Rimless Frames - Vision Center 1

Rimless Frame

Rimless frames provide the largest field of vision and are the most lightweight option. However, they are more delicate than other frames.

Rimless Frames - Vision Center
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Face & Frame Shapes

One of the best ways to narrow down your frame options is to determine what face shape you have. Here are the seven basic face shapes and what frames usually go well with them.

Round Face Shape - Vision Center

Round Face Shape

Round faces have a circular appearance with no strong edges or angles. Your face is short, with your cheekbones being the widest part. Frames with sharp angles will help balance out your features.

Ideal Frame Types:

  • Rectangle
  • Browline
  • Clear nose bridge
  • Bold colors

Best Glasses for Round Face Shape

Heart Face Shape - Vision Center

Heart-Shaped Face

A heart-shaped face has a broader forehead, prominent cheekbones, and a narrow chin. Round frames help soften angles, while rectangular frames, or frames that are wider at the bottom, can add balance.

Ideal Frame Types:

  • Round
  • Geometric
  • Frameless

Best Glasses for Heart Shaped Face Shape

Square Face Shape - Vision Center

Square Face Shape

A square face shape has a similar height and length. You have a wide, angular jaw and a broad forehead. Rounded shapes that are wider at the top will complement your face shape and add softness, while oval and rectangular frames will add balance and structure.

Ideal Frame Types:

  • Round
  • Browline
  • Cat-eye
  • Oval
  • Rectangle

Best Glasses for Square Face Shape

Oval Face Shape - Vision Center

Oval Face Shape

An oval face shape has balanced proportions. Your cheekbones are wider than your forehead, you have no sharp angles on your jaw or chin, and your face is longer than it is wide. Frames that are just as wide or wider than your cheekbones will help maintain your natural balance.

Ideal Frame Types:

  • Rectangle
  • Square
  • Oval
Oblong Face Shape - Vision Center

Oblong Face Shape

An oblong face shape is longer than it is wide, similar to an oval shape. The difference is an oblong face shape has a long, straight cheek line. Thick, angular frames will balance the round features.

Ideal Frame Types:

  • Full Rim
  • Square
  • Rectangle
  • Wayfarer
Diamond Face Shape - Vision Center

Diamond Face Shape

Diamond-shaped faces are the rarest. They have narrow, angular jaw lines, prominent cheekbones, and narrow foreheads. Rounded frames will add softness and balance.

Ideal Frame Types:

  • Round
  • Oval
  • Browline
  • Cat-eye
Triangle Face Shape - Vision Center

Base-down Triangle Face Shape

A base-down triangular face has a broad jawline, wide cheeks, and a narrow forehead. Glasses with a wider top rim help to balance features.

Ideal Frame Types:

  • Browline
  • Cat-eye
  • Aviator
  • Wayfarer

Eyeglasses FAQs

What are the different types of glasses?

The main types of glasses are single vision (monovision), bifocals, trifocals, progressives, toric lenses, and prism lenses.

What are the different types of frames?

The three main categories of eyeglass frames are full-frame, semi-rimless, and rimless glasses. They can be made from metal or plastic and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.

What type of lenses are there for glasses?

The main types of lenses used for vision correction are single vision (monovision), bifocals, trifocals, progressives, toric lenses, and prism lenses.

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Author: Michael Bayba | UPDATED July 7, 2020
Resources

Pościk, Adam, and Marcin Jachowicz. “Mechanical Properties of Protective Spectacles Fitted with Corrective Lenses.” Taylor & Francis, 13 Oct. 2016, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10803548.2016.1234131

Monteiro, Mayla Myrina Bianchim et al. “Optical and nonoptical aids for reading and writing in individuals with acquired low vision.” Arquivos brasileiros de oftalmologia vol. 77,2 (2014): 91-4. doi:10.5935/0004-2749.20140023

Jones-Jordan, Lisa A et al. “A comparison of spectacle and contact lens wearing times in the ACHIEVE study.” Clinical & experimental optometry vol. 93,3 (2010): 157-63. doi:10.1111/j.1444-0938.2010.00480

Hoskin, Annette K et al. “Spectacle-related eye injuries, spectacle-impact performance and eye protection.” Clinical & experimental optometry vol. 98,3 (2015): 203-9. doi:10.1111/cxo.12283

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