Eyeglasses

I am so grateful that I live in an era that can correct many issues related to poor vision!! It’s easy to take glasses for granted, but for thousands of years, people born with poor eyesight had to find ways to muddle through life, never seeing things clearly.

I have worn eyeglasses since I was three years old. I am told the first night I had my glasses I was amazed to discover stars in the night sky. I still love to gaze at stars. In high school I was struggling in several classes until we realized that my prescription needed to be updated. Once I had new glasses, and could see the board more clearly and my grades improved.

More recently I started to have increased number of migraines and was having trouble driving at night. I discovered that my glasses had become progressively more clouded. I now have new lens and these issues have improved.

In several countries, it’s possible to purchase eyeglasses for less than US$10, but if you go to a typical optometry clinic in the USA you will likely be quote several hundred dollars for something basic, and more than a thousand if you do high quality frames and want high quality lens which are complex (e.g. progressives). VSP insurance can drop this cost significant, but is still quite expensive.

The reason for these high prices? The company Luxottica has a virtual monopoly on eyeglass frames with more than 80% of the world wide market sold under a wide range of brand names.

There are several companies in the US that have tried to make glasses more affordable. The price leader is Zenni Optical whose cheapest frames are US$6 and a full package with basic lens can be less than US$30. A company that has gotten a lot of press is Warby Parker that focuses on stylish / hip glasses at a reasonable price with a good try at home program and return policy. Originally an Internet only company, they now have show rooms in multiple locations.

I still typically use a local optometry clinic, Mountain View Optometry, because I appreciate their customer service including the periodic adjustments, and because I love frames made by Flexon which are not available through low cost outlets. Flexon makes the only frames that I haven’t broken in a year of wearing. My previous pair of frames were worn daily for 9 years. This year they were retired to be my backups, and I have a new pair of Flexon frames which my wife tells me are much better looking.

Every few years I try Transitions lens which automatically darken in sunlight. So far, I haven’t been satisfied with them. The first problem is that I often want to have the extra light blocking while driving. The UV blocking of the car windows prevented Transitions lens to significantly darken. In the last few year they have really DriveWear which is somewhat better. More significant for me is that I have found it I want light blocked in general, I really want to reduce glare using polarized lens. Historically, you could get Transition lens that were polarized and passed around 40% of light through, e.g. they won’t go clear. There is a new lens, Transitions XtrActive Polarized which ultimately goes from 0% clear and unpolarized to 90% light blocking that is polarized. They sound great, except that when in a car, they don’t transition much due to UV blockage.

I hope that in the future there will be even more effective ways to help vision. There is some promising work with partial cellular reprogramming was able to reverse cellular aging and address age- and injury-induced blindness in mice.

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