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How to get the thinnest lenses for your prescription, part 1

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Unless you’re going for a look that says, “Kick me, I’m a nerd,” you probably want a pair of glasses with the thinnest lenses possible.

But if you have a strong prescription and you’re ordering your glasses online, figuring out how to get the thinnest lenses possible can be perplexing.

Not to worry.

We’re going to make it easy for you.

All you’ll need is your prescription and a handy online tool that will estimate how thin your lenses will be.
This handy online tool is the Lens Thickness Calculator. It can be found at the OptiCampus website

Before we talk about how to use the Lens Thickness Calculator, let’s look at the factors that can thin your lenses:

1) Your prescription. This you cannot change to get a thinner lens. Doing so would be counterproductive, in that you would not be able to see well if you take it upon yourself to lower your prescription below what your eye doctor has prescribed.

As a general rule, single vision prescriptions result in thinner lenses than multifocal prescriptions, all things being roughly equal. Multifocal prescriptions are those with an NV-ADD (Near Vision reading ADDition). Having an NV-ADD, or just an ADD, as it’s usually written, enables you to get bifocals and progressive glasses.

In addition, prescriptions with astigmatism corrections – if you have this, there will be numbers in the Cylinder (CYL) and Axis (sometimes abbreviated X) fields – generally result in thicker lenses than those without astigmatism corrections.

2) Your lens index. The lens “index” is short for the lens’s “index of refraction.” That means how much the lens bends the light that enters it. That’s what refraction is. Bending the light focuses it right into the middle of your visual sweet spot, the retina, so you can see well.

You can change the index to thin the lens, up to a point. After that point, the law of diminishing returns kicks in. The lens that is recommended for your prescription will be the thinnest lens. Choosing a lens index that’s higher than the recommended lens index won’t make the lens thinner, and you’ll end up paying more for no improved result.

If this is confusing, don’t worry. We’ll clearly explain where the point of diminishing returns shows up when we look at the various lens indexes. In addition, you’ll be able to see it too, when you start playing with the Lens Index Calculator.

3) Your lens width. This can have a considerable effect on your lens thinness. Once you have settled on the correct lens index, having determined that going to a higher lens index number won’t result in a thinner lens, the lens width (also known, weirdly, as the “eye size”) will be the last, and in some situations, the most important factor in thinning your lens.

OK, are you confused enough yet?

We'll fix that in How to get the thinnest lenses for your prescription, Part 2.

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