Transitions® Vantage™ Adaptive Lenses: Clear Lenses that Darken and Polarize in Response to Solar UV

by | August 2012


Unlike any previous ophthalmic lenses, Transitions® Vantage™ Adaptive Lenses polarize and darken in response to sunlight. For patients who are excited by new technology, these lenses offer a premium eyewear experience.

Products claiming to be “new” or “unique” are everywhere these days, but many of them are little more than tweaked versions of earlier models. So it is very exciting when a product like Transitions® Vantage™ Adaptive Lenses enters the market. Activated by ultraviolet (UV) light, Vantage is the first ever variable polarized lens—it is non-polarized and virtually clear indoors, becoming polarized and darker (because it’s also photochromic) in the presence of UV. It is the first virtually clear lens to become polarized and darken in the presence of UV wavelengths.

Polarized Lenses

Prior to Transitions Vantage, all polarized lenses were made by sandwiching a thin film of polarizing filter between two pieces of lens material. The layer of material that became the back surface of the lens was often thicker to allow a prescription to be ground in. Such laminated lenses are permanently polarized.

Polarization works by blocking horizontally oriented rays of light that cause disturbing and even blinding glare. Polarized lenses allow individuals to see better in bright-light conditions, making them a boon to people who spend time outdoors. In addition to blocking disturbing and disabling glare (such as light reflected from the windshield of an oncoming car), polarized lenses can also sharpen vision in many outdoor activities. On a sunny day, many outdoor objects with flat surfaces—even small ones—will reflect light and cause glare problems. A polarized ophthalmic lens cuts down on this visual “noise,” so objects appear more sharply defined and more intensely colored.

Before Transitions Optical created variable polarization, all polarizing filters were relatively dark. As a result, up to now all polarized lenses have been strictly sunglasses; great outdoors, but unsuitable for indoor use. Transitions Vantage lenses are polarized only in the presence of UV. When indoors, the lenses are almost clear and are not polarized.

A Variable Polarized Lens

In original Transitions® photochromic lenses, UV-sensitive organic dyes are embedded in the front 0.15 mm of the lens. The dye molecules are clear when UV levels are low; but in the presence of UV, the molecules shift their molecular structure and darken. This reaction reverses when the UV exposure is removed, and the dyes to return to their clear state. (Temperature also affects lens color, with excessive heat causing the dye molecules to shift towards their clear state.)

Transitions Vantage lenses employ similar photochromic dyes, but the photochromic dyes in Vantage lenses have a twist. They darken in response to UV; but as they darken, they align. So not only do they absorb light when activated, they also align in such a way to perform as a polarized lens (Figure 1). Vantage lenses are like regular Transitions VI lenses in that they are virtually clear indoors and darken quickly outdoors; but Vantage lenses do one more thing: when they darken they become polarized. Transitions Vantage isn’t a polarized sunlens that darkens outdoors; rather, it’s a clear lens that darkens and becomes polarized in the presence of UV.

Finding Its Place

Polarized lenses are a wonderful option for almost any outdoor activity, and for patients who want their indoor lenses to function well outdoors, Transitions Vantage lenses are ideal. But because the degree to which they darken and polarize depends on temperature and ambient UV, they are not the lens of choice for every outdoor application.

For example, like other photochromic lenses that are clear indoors, Transitions Vantage lenses provide limited benefit for wearers inside a car. Windshields are designed to block UV, and Vantage lenses do not darken or act as a polarized lens inside an automobile. Since polarized lenses can be very beneficial for daytime driving, Transitions Vantage wearers may want to leave a pair of regular polarized sunglasses or polarized clip-on lenses inside their car for use in driving. Also, like all photochromic lenses, Transitions Vantage lenses do not darken as well at high temperatures.

Those limitations aside, Vantage lenses are very broadly useful. They are excellent multipurpose lenses—fulfilling all indoor and most outdoor needs. They do everything a standard photochromic lens can do plus they are polarized. Everyone who goes outdoors in the daytime can benefit from a polarized lens, and for patients who wear Transitions Vantage as their everyday lens, there will be a polarized photochromic lens in place whenever they step outdoors.

Transitions Vantage Adaptive Lenses can be a cost-effective and convenient route to a premium eyewear experience. Although Vantage lenses will command a premium price, they are laden with features that for many patients will make the price seem reasonable. The “ideal” Vantage patient is someone who wants the latest and best technology and is looking for more in a lens.

Vantage in Practice

For patients interested in a polarized lens, the question is: Which will best meet their needs: a fixed polarized lens or a variable polarized lens? There are advantages to both. Whether the patient will do best with one or the other—or with both—depends on the patient’s visual and lifestyle needs.
Vantage is a great lens for home, work, shopping, sports, and all the activities in between. There may also be savings in having one pair of glasses that performs a multitude of functions.

The primary limitation is that Vantage lenses will not darken and polarize while driving a vehicle. And since they require UV activation, there will be less polarization when the wearer is in shade or when the weather is cloudy. For driving, a pair of polarized sunglasses or polarized sunwear may be all that’s needed. But some will prefer a different solution, such as a standard polarized sunglass.

Selling Premium Lenses

An important key to selling premium lenses is to wear them yourself and have the staff wear them too. Saying, “This is what I wear,” is the strongest recommendation an eyecare professional can make; and wearing a product gives everyone the experience required to speak knowledgeably about its features and benefits. Manufacturers understand this and typically offer coupons to reduce the expense.

It is also useful to ask patients, face-to-face or on an intake questionnaire, “How do you protect your eyes from glare and UV?” This can start a useful conversation—one that is critical because patients often have little idea of the eyewear options available to them. Once the doctor finds out what patients need, he or she can recommend solutions.

Similarly, asking patients, “What type of eyewear do you wear when you drive?” can start a conversation that covers polarized lenses for daytime driving and anti-glare lenses for nighttime. These are all important topics that patients may not even consider unless prompted.


By blocking horizontally oriented light rays, polarized lenses reduce glare and eyestrain and enhance the patient’s outdoor visual experience. Transitions® Vantage™ Adaptive Lenses offer these benefits in lenses that, while virtually clear indoors, darken and polarize in response to ambient UV. These lenses are a versatile option for patients who want eyewear that includes advanced features like variable polarization.

Jenean Carlton, BA, ABOC, NCLC, is president of Carlton and Associates, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in educational programs for the eyecare community. A Refractive Eyecare staff writer assisted in the preparation of this manuscript.

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