The Safest Choice for Kids
If your child needs prescription eyeglasses, keeping his or her vision safe should be your first priority. Glasses with polycarbonate lenses offer the highest degree of protection to keep eyes out of harm's way.
The polycarbonate material used for eyeglass lenses was developed by the aerospace industry for use in helmet visors worn by astronauts.
Polycarbonate also is found in bulletproof windows, airplane windows and riot shields used by police. Polycarbonate eyeglass lenses are 10 times more impact-resistant than glass or regular plastic lenses, and they exceed the FDA's impact resistance requirements by over 40 times.
For these reasons, you can rest easy knowing your child's eyes are safe behind polycarbonate lenses.
Tough, Thin, Lightweight Polycarbonate Lenses
Polycarbonate lenses help protect your child's vision by holding up to rough-and-tumble play or sports without cracking or shattering. Many eye care practitioners insist on polycarbonate lenses for children's eyeglasses for safety reasons.
And people with vision in only one eye are well-advised to wear glasses with polycarbonate lenses to protect their remaining vision, even if they don't require prescription eyeglasses to see clearly.
Polycarbonate lenses offer other benefits as well. The material is lighter than standard plastic or glass, which is good news for youngsters with strong prescriptions. Glasses with polycarbonate lenses are noticeably lighter, so they don't constantly slide down on the nose.
Polycarbonate lenses also are about 20 percent thinner than standard plastic or glass lenses, so they are a good choice for anyone who wants slimmer, more attractive lenses.
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Glasses with polycarbonate lenses also protect your child's eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Glasses with impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses are the safest choice for kids, and options include clear lenses, photochromic lenses and sunglass lenses.
The polycarbonate material is a natural UV filter, blocking over 99 percent of the sun's damaging UV rays without the need for special lens coatings.
This is particularly important for children's eyewear, because kids typically spend more time outdoors than adults.
Some researchers believe that over 80 percent of a person's lifetime UV exposure takes place by age 18.
Overexposure to UV rays has been associated with cataracts and other eye problems.
Though polycarbonate is an extremely impact-resistant material, it can be easily scratched if not protected with a surface coating.
Most polycarbonate eyeglass lenses come with a factory-applied, scratch-resistant coating to keep the lenses clear for as long as possible, even when worn by children.
Also, polycarbonate lenses typically are sold with a warranty against scratches for a specified period of time. Ask your optician for details.
About the Author: Gary Heiting, OD, is senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 25 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear industry. His special interests include contact lenses, nutrition and preventive vision care. Connect with Dr. Heiting via Google+.
[Page updated April 2010]
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