What is an anti-reflective coat?
An anti-reflective coat is a layer applied to glasses to improve your vision, reduce glare, and eye strain, and improve the appearance. The coating reduces reflections from the front and back surface of lenses to improve activities such as night driving and computer use. When reflections are eliminated, the wearer’s eyes may be more easily viewed, increasing their eye contact with others.
In the past, anti-reflective coatings spotted, peeled, and scratched easily. If your patients have complained about these problems in the past, you should give an anti-reflective coating another chance! These problems have been virtually eliminated as technology has improved.
What kinds of anti-reflective coatings are available?
Typically anti-reflective coating can be broken into two categories: standard and premium. Premium anti-reflective coatings last longer and are available with extras features. For example, most have a surface treatment that seals the layers, repels water, and allows for easier cleaning. Some surface treatments may repel both water and oils, but these are typically upgrades. Additionally, you may find anti-reflective coatings that protect against blue light, scratches, and can even repel dust.
Blue-light anti-reflective coatings may be beneficial for computer/tablet/cellphone users. Some early studies have shown that blue light can contribute to retinal disease, lens changes, and dry eye problems. Furthermore, it has been proven that exposure to blue light suppresses the production of melatonin and disturbs sleep cycles. It is best to advise your patients to avoid cell phone use several hours prior to sleeping or to view with blue-light protective glasses.
While studies regarding the positive or negative effects of blue light may be controversial, most optometrists will recommend blue-light anti-reflective coatings; they will not cause any harm and may be proven to be beneficial as more studies are conducted in the future.
There are a number of names in the anti-reflective market that have their own proprietary anti-reflective coating, including four major lens manufacturers as well as a myriad of small labs. If possible, recommend patients go for the premium product, with a two-year warranty, and make sure that the anti-reflective is created through a vaporized process (more on that to come).
Some quality names include:
- Shamir Glacier
- Essilor Prevencia
- Zeiss DuraVision Platinum
If your patients have vision insurance, their insurance plan may dictate the type of anti-reflective coating you should recommend. Co-pay amounts are set by their insurance company, and typically, patients will have to cover a higher co-pay for a higher quality anti-reflective coating. Patients may take issue with paying for something they feel is “extra” or an “add-on,” but I always advise my patients to upgrade to the premium offerings. Glasses are something your patients use everyday, and the premium anti-reflective is worth the price! The charts below reflect typical charges for VSP and Eyemed patients for easy consultation. There are always exceptions, but these seem to be proven for a majority of plans. I’ve tried to include some in each category from each manufacturer.
Is there a difference between anti-reflective coatings?
There are a hundreds of types of anti-reflective lenses on the market, and doing proper research is immensely important. Quality can be substantially different between manufacturers. As a general rule, warn your patients that they do not want glasses ordered in a day. These lenses will not be of the highest quality.
Premium, anti-reflective coatings can take several days in the lab as the different layers of treatments are applied. We like to tell people it takes time because the coating is “baked into the lens.” The quality is improved drastically because you are unable to separate the lens from the different layers of applied treatment. This also prevents the spotting, peeling, and scratching mentioned earlier.
In contrast, some standard lenses have factory-applied anti-reflective coatings on both surfaces. These tend to come with shorter warranties and tend to break down more easily.
The process of creating premium, anti-reflective coatings requires substantial technology. The process looks something like this:
- Lenses must be cleaned and inspected for visible defects. (Any scratch or defect can cause problems with the coating.)
- Lenses are loaded into a vacuum sealed chamber and are rotated.
- A beam of electrons vaporizes the coating material, adhering them to the surface of the lens.
Every anti-reflective coating is made from its own formula, but most consist of a layer of metallic oxides. The more layers in the anti-reflective coating, the more reflections are neutralized. Some premium coatings can have 7 layers or more.
Depending on the manufacturer, each anti-reflective lens will reflect a certain color. Most tend to be green or purple. Spectacle lenses with a blue-light anti-reflective coat may appear bluer in color.
Do I need anti-reflective coating on my glasses?
You should always recommend that your patients order glasses with an anti-reflective coating. I stand by that they will be unhappy with the quality of their vision without it. I always educate my patients that the lenses in my phoropter have an anti-reflective coating on them. If they do not purchase it on their glasses, they will not see as well as they did when I checked their vision.
Today's anti-reflective coatings can eliminate almost all of the reflections from eyeglass lenses, allowing 99.5 percent of light to pass through the lenses and enter the eye. Everyday activities such as watching TV, attending movies, and reading on a tablet will be much more enjoyable with an anti-reflective coating.
It’s not only important for decreasing glare, but the proper coating also does wonders to improve the appearance of glasses and the person wearing them! Those of us who work with people require the ability to share eye contact. Regardless of where someone works — in sales, on TV, in healthcare — their ability to connect with others depends on our ability to see and read each other's eyes.