Article Date: 3/1/2006

Achieving Success with Photochromic Lenses
Make the most of this modality to improve your dispensary production and protect your patients.
MICHELLE BOYLES, managing editor

From 2004 to 2005, the photochromic lens category saw an increase in sales of about 5%. That's impressive when you consider the 2% decrease in overall lens sales. What's more, photochromics have continuously gained a larger percentage of the market share, increasing incrementally from 12% in 2002 to 16% in 2005. In an era of increasing competition, adding this consistently popular option to your dispensary arsenal could make a big difference in your bottom line.  

With all the lens options available today, adding a new option for your patients can be a big decision. But the doctors we talked to estimate 15% to 25% of their patients leave the office with photochromic lenses. Anne Marie Newcomer, O.D., of Homosassa, Fla., reports her office has close to a 51% capture rate for new frames and about 20% of those get photochromic lenses. Here, O.D.s who have proven successful with photo-chromics offer tips on dispensing these lenses to your patients.

Captive audience

Rule number one in dispensing is that you, the doctor, must recommend lens options to your patients in the exam room. This holds true for photochromics. "Talk to patients in the exam room about reduced glare, increased contrast acuity and the importance of UV protection. They'll listen," says Dr. Newcomer.

Dr. John Scibal of Morehead City, N.C., takes this concept a step further, "It's important to prescribe [photochromics] rather than ask patients if they are interested. When you write it down, it becomes gospel," he says.

Talking to your patients directly also helps avoid confusion. Dr. Newcomer notes that many patients get confused about lens options they've heard about from friends. "It's amazing how many people get Transitions and progressives mixed up," she says. Discussing the options with your patients will clear up any misunderstandings before they get to the dispensary. Dr. Scibal says, "It's surprising how many people have never thought about [the option]. No one ever recommended it to them before."

Create a niche

While all patients can potentially benefit from photochromic lenses, a patient questionnaire can help you determine which patients may have a greater need for these lenses. Dr. Scibal's office distributes a lifestyle questionnaire to patients with the general office paperwork. "One question is, 'Do you spend a lot of time outdoors,'" he says, "If they check yes, it's an easy lead in to discuss the benefits of photochromic lenses." Other questions that can give you an idea of the patient's predilection for photochromics include, 'Do you wear your glasses when driving? Do you play any outdoor sports? Does your job require you to go outside?' Be creative and come up with questions specific to your patient base.

In the meantime, though, there are certain groups our experts say will gain the most benefit from photochromic lenses.


You may not think of this group first for photochromic lenses, but they make sense for a child's active lifestyle. Parents are generally enthusiastic about this option. "They don't want to have their kids worry about having an extra pair of sunglasses," says Dr. Newcomer. This also means only having to replace one pair of glasses should the child lose them, a common problem.

Elderly patients

Optometrist Richard Colo, of Suffield, Conn., points out, "As we get older, we need to get as much light into the eye as possible." This was a problem with older photochromics because they didn't get as clear as today's generation, which posed a problem for night driving. Dr. Colo says you can now feel comfortable prescribing these for your older patients because the light transmission is so much higher.

Dr. Newcomer notes your baby boomer patients will enjoy the convenience aspect of photochromics. She believes this will be an important market in the future.

Service professionals

Patients who work in the service industry are often switching between indoor and outdoor environments. Dr. Scibal says in his practice, patients in the construction industry have responded well. Other service areas to consider: pest-control professionals, HVAC technicians, plumbers, landscapers, etc.


Delivery personnel are also required to go from light to dark situations as they go from the delivery truck to each office, then back to the truck and on to the next location. Lighting can even vary from office to office, making these patients ideal candidates for the photochromic option. Outside sales representatives fall into this category as well because they often visit clients in multiple locations in a given day.

Previous photochromic patients

Patients who dropped out of photochromic lenses due to indoor transmittance problems in the first generation will be amazed by the clarity of new lenses. "When we show [these patients] the difference, they are much more satisfied with the product," says Dr. Newcomer. What's more, she says patients who try the new lenses want them again. "So there are no drop outs like before," she says.

Sports enthusiasts

Dr. Colo deals with many patients in clay target sports. He believes this is a specialty market that will evolve into a major player in the photochromic lens arena. "Any type of sport that involves depth perception or pursuit movement will benefit from letting as much light into the eye as possible. No modality can do that better than photochromics," he says.

One lens for all

When discussing photo-chromics with any patient, it's important to go over health benefits. Dr. Newcomer's office is in sunny Florida, so she discusses UV protection with all her patients. You may also want to mention the added benefit of an AR coating to reduce glare without affecting light transmittance.

Overall, today's photochromic patient is highly satisfied, making these lenses a great choice for all your patients. "I find it's extremely rare that I put a patient in a photochromic lens and they don't like it," says Dr. Colo.

Photochromic Lens Sales

OPTICAL LENS SALES                            2004                             2005
Total number of lenses sold        67,842,594            66,401,678 Photochromic lenses sold            9,934,566              10,454,137
Percentage increase                     -2.1%                      5.2%
* Based on information from Transitions Optical and Vision Council of America (VCA).





Photochromic Availability

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Optometric Management, Issue: March 2006