What Are Polarized Sunglasses?
You will often see sunglasses marked as providing UV protection and being polarized. As light travels through space, it acts as a particle and a wave, meaning that it vibrates and moves across multiple directions.
When it reflects off of a surface like water or metal, it reorients and vibrates in only the horizontal direction. This change is called polarization, and it acts to concentrate light rays.
More light enters the pupil and hits the retina as light concentrates. A pair of polarized sunglasses have lenses that are treated to filter out this horizontal light. While UV protection relies on special dyes and pigments that absorb the radiation, polarized lenses use what are essentially thin vertical slats that break up and block horizontal light waves from passing the lens.
You won’t notice these vertical lines directly when you wear the glasses. But the effect they have on filtering concentrated polarized light is enormous.
Benefits of Picking Polarized Lenses
Polarized lenses naturally reduce the amount of light entering the eye, whether you are in an area where sunlight is reflecting off surfaces or not. But the real benefits come if there is an intense amount of reflection occurring. You’ll see the most significant benefits of opting for polarized sunglasses when:
- Driving your car or riding a motorcycle.
- Water sports, fishing, or going to the beach
- Outdoor activities in snowy conditions
By reducing glare, you will see boosts to visual clarity and help prevent fatigue.
1. Visual Clarity
Not having to squint or look around glare makes it much easier to see things clearly when out in bright sunlight, whether you are trying to focus on small writing, sports balls, or road lines. Lowered glare increases depth perception and allows you to focus on what is essential more easily. Sun glare is a noted risk factor for driving accidents, especially around intersections.
2. Reduced Fatigue
Constantly having to deal with sun glare over extended periods of time outside can greatly fatigue your eyes, reducing the speed at which you can focus on objects. Overexertion over time leads to eye strain which can leave your eyes feeling sore, tired, and hard to keep open.
3. Drawbacks to Polarized
While opting for a pair of polarized sunglasses is recommended, there are a few scenarios where non-polarized lenses are safer. If your vehicle has a vital feedback display that uses LCD screens, polarization can make those very difficult to read. And in some snow sports like skiing, glare reduction can make it challenging to detect icy patches.
Sunglasses and Eye Health
Sunglasses are essential to wear for maintaining good vision throughout your life. Don’t be fooled by a dark pair tinted pair that look nice either. Be sure to pick one that protects against UV radiation and, if appropriate, has polarized lenses.
Wearing sunglasses regularly while outdoors, even on slightly overcast days, can help:
- Protect against UV radiation
- Keep dirt and debris from damaging the cornea
- Improve visibility by reducing glare
- Lower the chance of headaches caused by fatigue
For those with an existing eyeglass prescription picking out a pair of sunglasses isn’t as simple as selecting a pair you like with the 100% UV sticker. You will need to take into account your existing eyesight considerations. Most brands offer a version of their lenses that provide these protections and can still be matched to your prescription's needs.
Eye Care Specialists
If you have selected a pair of sunglasses and want to really know if they provide the correct amount of protection for your eyes, think about taking them into your annual eye exam. Your optometrist may be able to test the lens to verify UV protection levels and polarization.
Asheville Vision and Wellness has been helping patients throughout the mountains of western North Carolina with their eye care needs since 1989. We provide comprehensive eye care from annual exams, management of chronic conditions, glasses and contact lenses.
Our experienced staff can help you and your family determine the right glasses and sunglasses to keep your vision safe.