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Specialty eyewear: Glasses for all seasons, for all reasons

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Specialty eyewear — eyeglasses designed specifically for certain tasks — can help you optimize your vision for nearly any scenario.

While "one size fits all" might be true in some situations, it's rare that one pair of eyeglasses is adequate for all activities of a busy modern lifestyle. Examples of specialty eyewear include computer glasses, driving glasses and protective eyewear.

According to a survey by The Vision Council, the most important reasons for purchasing specialty eyewear include:

  • For a specific activity such as computer use, work, hobbies, sports or driving.

  • To see better in general.

  • For the safety features that create an increased enjoyment of sports by protecting eyes from harm.

  • For cosmetic reasons or because the wearer wants a different look.

Can you benefit from specialty eyewear? The descriptions below should help you decide.

Computer glasses reduce digital eye strain

The more time you spend at a computer, the more you risk developing eye strain and other symptoms of computer vision syndrome. That's because during computer use, your eyes must remain focused and perfectly aligned at a specific distance for long periods of time. Also, viewing the light-emitting display of a computer or other digital device tires your eyes more quickly than reading an ink-on-paper book, magazine or newspaper.

Computer glasses are designed specifically for intermediate and close-up distances, the zones most associated with computer use. Computer-specific eyewear gives you the best correction for these distances and helps you avoid what's becoming known as "digital eye strain" — eye fatigue and discomfort associated with the use of computers, smartphones and other digital devices.

If you're over age 40 and have presbyopia, general-purpose progressive lenses or bifocals usually aren't the best choice for computer glasses. This is because these multifocal lenses don't have a large section of the lens dedicated to the "intermediate" distance typically used for viewing computers and digital devices.

A better solution is a separate pair of computer glasses with single vision lenses specifically prescribed for this intermediate viewing distance, or specialty "office" or "computer" progressive lenses that have the largest section of the lens designed for this distance.

In some cases, trifocal lenses work acceptably well for computer work if you have presbyopia — especially if you need to be able to see clearly across the room when working at a computer.

Your eye care professional can help you choose the best design for computer glasses, based on your visual needs.

Whatever lens design you choose, your computer glasses should include anti-reflective coating. AR coating eliminates distracting reflections in your lenses that can increase your risk for digital eye strain.

Also, consider photochromic lenses for your computer glasses. These light-sensitive lenses not only protect your eyes from UV radiation but also filter some blue light, decreasing glare when looking at screens.

Specialty eyewear for work and hobbies

Some people discover that their regular glasses are suitable for everything they do except for certain tasks associated with their job or hobbies.

For example, if you wear bifocals, you may find that — unless what you're reading is in your lap — you must tip your head back all day long to use the reading zone in the bottom of the lenses.

You can avoid neck discomfort by purchasing special work glasses that have the reading segment placed higher up in the lenses. Special-design bifocals and trifocals for work-related tasks often are called occupational lenses.

If your hobbies include close-up work such as beading, needlepoint, crafting or anything requiring intense focusing at very close distances, a separate pair of reading glasses may be helpful — perhaps with stronger lenses than you normally would use for reading.

If both your eyes need the same correction, then you can purchase several pairs of inexpensive reading glasses, also called "readers," almost anywhere: drugstores, bookstores and even craft stores.

But if each of your eyes has a different correction need, which is very common, then you'll want to order a custom pair of readers from your eye care practitioner to accurately address the prescription needs of each eye.

Of course, safety glasses are a must to protect your eyes from flying debris when you are working with power tools as well as hand tools such as hammers and saws.

Sports eyewear enhances performance

By changing the lens tint of sunglasses, you can improve your visual acuity on the tennis court, golf course or the slopes.

Sport-specific eyewear can enhance performance by improving visual clarity while protecting your eyes from injury. Within this category, you'll find both eyeglasses and sunglasses with impact-resistant polycarbonate or Trivex lenses.

Sport eyeglasses, sport contact lenses and protective sports eyewear all are great options for athletes.

Driving glasses reduce glare

Driving glasses come in two categories: sunglasses designed specifically for driving and prescription eyeglasses. Sunglasses for driving feature polarized lenses that reduce glare and make it easier to see in bright sunlight.

Drivers who have been in accidents often claim that they couldn't see the other car or a pedestrian because of glare reflecting off the road or the sun shining in their eyes. And studies have shown that glare can be a causative factor in automobile accidents.

Polarized sunglass lenses reduce glare and make it easier to see in bright conditions, and polarized lenses tinted specifically for driving increase contrast for sharper vision.

Prescription eyeglasses for driving should always include anti-reflective coating. AR coating reduces glare from light reflecting off the front and back surfaces of your lenses and allows more light to enter your eyes for better vision when driving at night.

RELATED READING: The importance of healthy vision for road safety

Safety glasses protects your eyes

Many people buy specialty eyewear for increased eye safety. This eyewear can be in the form of safety glasses, sports goggles or shooting glasses.

Safety eyewear is made of ultra-durable materials and provides more coverage than regular glasses, especially when the frame has a wraparound design or includes top and side shields. Many safety frames also include spring hinges for added durability.

All safety eyewear should include lightweight, impact-resistant polycarbonate or Trivex lenses for comfort and superior eye protection.

Specialty eyewear for fun and fashion

Maybe you want more than one pair of eyeglasses simply so you can match your eyewear to different outfits or moods.

To help you find the frames that will look best on you, read our articles on matching eyeglasses to your personality and lifestyle and choosing frames that complement your face shape and coloring.

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