When I was in eighth grade, I had these black wire glasses with turquoise accents. My friend had helped me pick them out, and said they would look awesome on me. Little did any of us know, they would turn into the absolute worst pair of glasses I ever owned. Every part of the frame broke at some point, the nose pads would get twisted, and the lenses would fall out constantly. Since the place I bought them from did free repairs, I brought in the glasses at least ten times before accepting that the frame just wasn’t going to work out.
Since then, I have befriended the opticians and sales associates at the LensCrafters I frequent and they have helped me get a better eye for what glasses work best for people with low vision, and what frames won’t break so quickly. Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years about buying glasses.
How quickly can the glasses be made?
Most glasses with a low prism and/or bifocal can be made in an hour, which has been an incredible blessing, especially if I break my glasses beyond repair. Glasses with higher prism are made offsite in about a week but I have gotten them as quickly as four days after I placed the order. If the glasses have to be sent offsite, I get a spare pair as soon as my prescription is done being tweaked.
I have a gray tint in my polycarbonate lenses to help with light sensitivity, and have also had brown and purple tints in the past. Currently, I have a “level two” amount of tint in my glasses, but the lab tech can tint glasses as dark as you need them. Find a lab tech who has lots of experience tinting lenses for low vision. I have two favorite lab techs that tint my glasses the way I like them and can match tints by looking at preexisting lenses. Because these lenses look like sunglasses, I often have people ask me about them in public- read how I answer their questions here.
Pick frames for your lenses
Figure out the thickness of your lenses and find a frame that can accommodate thick lenses, if needed. Do not try and get away with the thin wire frames if you have prism, like I tried to do, but don’t resign yourself to wearing coke bottle or eighties fabulous glasses either! The optician will be great help in this. My personal favorites are Buddy Holly glasses- read about what I mean here.
Look at designer frames
After I finally gave up on the black and turquoise glasses, I got a pair of Coach frames that were more expensive. I never had a single problem with the frame and rarely had to bring them in to be replaced. The frame I chose was even able to accommodate my prism of 20 in a super subtle way. My sunglasses are Ray Bans frames and have been the same way. While there are some exceptions, the designer frames are awesome quality and can accommodate thick lenses with ease.
I am a petite person and the very large frames that are in style overpower my face. I found that medium sized frames with rectangular shaped lenses work best for me. Don’t sacrifice functionality for style, however don’t be upset if you can’t rock oversized glasses like everyone else.
Automatic fitting technology
A lot of eyewear places now have automatic fitting technology that is done by taking a flash photo of the customer wearing the glasses. If you are sensitive to flashing lights, or bright lights, request to be manually measured, citing light sensitivity as the reason. I have a note in my file that says flashing lights are a migraine trigger for me and I must be manually measured for glasses.
Don’t buy a spare pair after getting a new prescription
Wait until the eyes adjust to the new prescription before getting a second pair. Because we buy so many glasses, if there is a special on buying two pairs of glasses, the optician will make a note in my file to honor the promotion when I get my second pair of glasses a few days after I adjust to the prescription.
If you have low vision, always get the extra protection plan that gives free repairs and touch ups. Every few months, I have to get my tint done again due to fading from the sun and I need the backs of the glasses adjusted so they don’t slip off my face. Also, this plan guarantees a replacement pair of glasses if I break them beyond repair. Since I cannot function without my glasses, this is extremely important.
Understand that some vision isn’t corrected to 20/20, even with glasses
Instead of asking me which line on a chart I can read, I’m asked which line appears the clearest. I will never be able to read the small text on the chart, no matter what my reading prescription is, because I have a print disability. If the optician starts to panic that it’s impossible to read small font, explain that you have eyesight that is partially, but not fully, corrected by glasses. If they start asking uncomfortable questions or argue if that is possible, find a new optician or go to a different location for glasses.
Build a relationship with the people at the store
Going to a place where everyone knows your name, or at least your vision, is a great way to ensure high quality glasses. Try to frequent the same place so they can understand your likes and dislikes, and thank them often for helping you! I like to think that my ophthalmologist gives me the raw materials I need to see, and then the lab tech turns the materials into a finished product that lets me see the world around me, and run into fewer walls.