Making the case for computer lenses

A knowledgeable optician is obviously an asset to an ophthalmology practice that is wanting to make computer lenses available to a greater number of its appropriate patients.

A comment I hear often is how focused we have become on digital devices. One need only look briefly into an ophthalmologist’s waiting room or any other place where people have a few moments of quiet time to observe them grabbing for their mobile devices; checking email, sending text messages or streaming either video or audio content. For the very young, who are digital natives (the first generation to grow up in a world that has never been without mobile devices) there is the problem of becoming addicted to those devices. Beyond that, our young face the dangers of a lifetime of blue light emission, which research is beginning to suggest can damage the retina and alter sleep patterns1. They are also facing a growing tendency towards myopia.2

De GennaroBefore there were mobile devices however there were computers. About 40 years ago those computers shifted from (what were known as) ‘main frames’ to personal computers (PCs). I would have to think very hard to think of someone who does not use a PC in some way on a regular basis. Many people like myself are at a PC or computer workstation for 8-10 hours a day between work and leisure activities. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 100 million people spend more than half of their workday at a computer.

It goes without saying that our eyes were not designed to do as much work at near as we are asking them to perform today. Visual fatigue has become a common disorder, as have related headaches and backaches. The number of articles in the literature on the subject is growing. The profession has even coined the terms Computer Vison Syndrome (CVS) and Digital Eyestrain to explain the phenomena.

Since the category is very broad I would like to focus on just one issue; CVS. Almost 20 years ago, a new category of progressive addition lens (PAL) came to market. It was originally marketed as a ‘computer lens’. This PAL is similar to other progressives in the respect that it has a variable focus but that is where the similarity stops. Computer lenses are designed for occupational use, so to speak, not for general use. It is not surprising then that individuals who try to use general purpose PALs often do so unsuccessfully.

When skillfully prescribed computer lenses will allow a patient to go about their computer work in relative comfort for long periods of time. It is disappointing therefore to learn that only 5% of Americans own and use computer lenses.3 Equally disappointing is the fact that when asked why they do not use computer lenses respondents said they didn’t know they were available.4 That finger points directly at those of us who examine eyes or encounter patients in dispensaries.

My experience


My experience is that when doctors do not recommend task specific eyewear, like computer lenses to patients it is often because they do not feel comfortable doing so. Generally that discomfort is due to a lack of familiarity with what is available and what the lenses can do. The following then should be considered a primer.

Computer lenses are designed to have longer and wider reading and intermediate zones, much longer and much wider than standard PALs. Those zones are located precisely where a computer user would need them most. The goal is to provide the patient with two wider fields of vision. When working, this would make it unnecessary for the patient to move his or her head, either up and down or side-to-side to see clearly. The upper portion of the lens contains the patient’s intermediate Rx, while the lower portion contains the reading Rx. Since the patient has the correct Rx for the distance being viewed, accommodation is at a minimum and head position can be natural.

There are newer iterations of computer type lenses, referred to as either Office Lenses or Near Environment Lenses. These lenses will contain a third, narrow zone at the very top. This zone is used for ‘far intermediate’ viewing, 10-12 feet. An office worker could use such lenses to see across an average room without having to remove and replace his of her glasses. By the way, these lenses are perfect for use by ophthalmologists while working in the clinic.

I own and use computer lenses and have owned office glasses. I keep a pair on my desk. I put them on when I sit down to work and I exchange them for a pair of standard progressive lenses when I get up. If I’m going to read for a long period of time I might keep the computer glasses on. They are perfect for reading book, magazine or newspaper.

A knowledgeable optician is obviously an asset to an ophthalmology practice that is wanting to make computer lenses available to a greater number of its appropriate patients. As with all PALs, a high degree of product knowledge is one of the keys to success. Making sure you optician is up to date with the latest lens technology will go a long way toward achieving your goal.


Light and Eye Damage. Gregory Good; OD, PhD. American Optometric Association 2014

Special Report. Optometry and Vision Science

Digital Eyestrain Report 2014. The Vision Council



Arthur De Gennaro is president of Arthur De Gennaro & Associates LLC, an ophthalmic practice management firm that specializes in optical dispensary issues. De Gennaro is the author of the book The Dispensing Ophthalmologist. He can be reached at 803/359-7887,, or through the company's website: He maintains a blog at

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