The Ins and Outs
of Computer Glasses
Talk to anyone in the United States
today, and nine times out of 10 they use some sort of
technology during the day. Maybe they are at a job where
they are on a computer for eight hours a day, maybe they are
addicted to their smartphone or tablet, or maybe they love
spending their free time in front of their personal laptop
surfing the Internet.
And statistics like these prove it:
About 82 percent of Americans frequently work with a
computer or a hand-held device, according to the American
Optometric Association's (AOA) Eye-QTM survey.
Nearly 75 million people in the United States currently
use tablets and that number is expected to hit 117 million,
or 47 percent of Internet users in the United States, by
2013, according to an article on DigitalTrends.com.
The number of smartphone users in the United States is
expected to grow to 110 million people by 2015, according to
This increase in technology use has also driven an increase
for eye and vision issues related to staring at a computer
screen for long periods of time. According to the AOA, a
survey of optometrists indicated that 10 million primary eye
care examinations are provided annually in the United States
mainly because of visual problems of computers users on the
To help meet the needs of their patients, ECPs may want to
consider offering computer glasses and/or occupational
lenses in their practice.
What They Are
According to Robert Escobedo, master optician at the
Southern California College of Optometry, computer glasses
and occupational lenses are specifically for patients who
are on the computer for a long period of time and more than
just a few hours.
“(The patient) would get a very wide viewing area for the
computer screen and it would take a lot of the strain off
their eyes if they're on the computer for more than four
hours a day,” Escobedo says, when discussing the patient
benefits of computer glasses.
Computer glasses are also different from normal prescription
glasses as they are made specifically for the
computer-viewing range of between 26 and 32 inches, says Joe
Croft, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Gunnar Optiks.
Escobedo adds that many times computer glasses or
occupational lenses will have an anti-reflective coating to
help cut down on the glare from light emitted from the
computer screen itself, or glare of fluorescent lighting off
the monitor. “And some people like a tint, so they have
certain tints that they recommend for indoor lighting and
for the computer screen that can be an enhancement for the
lenses also,” he says.
When prescribing computer glasses for a patient, Croft says
it's important for ECPs to understand the problems of
long-term computer viewing so then they can look for those
problems in their patient and help them find a solution.
The first, says Croft, is fixed focal distance for long
periods of time. “You get your focusing mechanism locked
down on a target for a long time, and those muscles are
flexed and they aren't getting a lot of chance to relax,” he
explains. Next is blink rate, so ensure that a patient has
proper tear production and retention, says Croft. Helping to
fix the patient's quality of life and cutting down on
“extraneous visual noise” is also important.
When prescribing computer glasses or occupational lenses for
patients wearing progressive lenses – which correct for far,
intermediate and near distances – Escobedo says there is an
option for ECPs called occupational progressives that may be
a benefit to that patient. “For somebody who's on the
computer, the channel where the computer power is in the
progressive lens isn't wide enough for somebody to get a
real good use out of it when they're working on the computer
for more than four to five hours a day,” he explains.
“That's when a computer progressive would work for that
patient a lot better.”
Making the Sale
For ECPs that are considering offering computer glasses or
occupational lenses to their patients, how can they make
sure their patients are purchasing?
Croft suggests the first step is to make sure there are
“quality of life” type questions in the new patient
questionnaire that will get patients thinking about their
computer usage, such as how long do they work on a computer
each day, do their eyes feel tired after being on the
computer, etc. “If they get their patient thinking about
computer eyewear, it becomes very easy to then start
prescribing computer eyewear,” he adds.
At SCCO's Eye Care Center, Escobedo says they post material
in the optical dispensary to let patients know they offer
computer lenses, and they also have pamphlets available to
help ECPs educate patients on these types of offerings. “A
lot of patients don't even know they make a special
occupational lens for computer users,” he adds. “But the
important thing is in the exam chair to ask the lifestyle
questions that would help that patient realize that those
are available to them.”
Croft also says that offering computer glasses in a practice
can be a great way to encourage second pair sales. And
taking it a step further, by offering over-the-counter
computer glasses for 20/20 users, a practice can potentially
see frame sales from patients who have had corrective
surgery or are wearing contact lenses.
For the Future
If you're not currently offering computer glasses for your
patients, should you be?
Escobedo believes the computer glasses and occupational
lenses business at SCCO's Eye Care Center will continue to
grow due to the “computer age” we are currently in and
patients becoming more aware that these options are
Croft agrees and says it's a growing field and he encourages
all ECPs to “jump on the bandwagon” and not only help their
patients, but their bottom line as well.
“It would be a shame for them not to (add computer glasses
to their practice) because this is a fast moving train and
they can jump on board now or possibly be left in the dust,”
Croft adds. “We see that the ECPs who bring them in do
phenomenally well with it. And if they're not the ones
offering it, then it might be the guy across town who