Ultraviolet rays from the sun are incredibly damaging to our eyes. They can cause glaucoma, cataracts, and many other eye conditions to develop. According to WHO, 20 percent of cataract cases are avoidable with proper UV eye protection. Proper eye protection is important any time of year. But, choosing the right sunglasses is no easy task with so many choices available. There are many models and styles, making shopping for glasses much like shopping for cars.
Additionally, the price range of glasses, both prescription glasses and sunglasses, is staggering. You could spend $10 and you could spend $1000 on a single set of glasses.
On top of that, selecting the correct lenses for your needs is particularly difficult. Polarized lenses are among those choices. They are incredibly popular and also more expensive than normal protective lenses.
Polarized lenses offer specific protection from UV rays and are particularly suited for some activities. But, despite popular theory, polarized lenses don’t provide significantly increased UV protection. Their main advantage lies in their function.
Understanding Polarized Glasses
Sunlight is absorbed or reflected in many directions. Sunlight reflected from a horizontal surface, like land, water or hoods of cars is often reflected back horizontally, producing a very strong glare. For us, it means that ground reflections cause a lot of interference with our vision on water or pavement.
Normal sunglasses provide basic protection against both vertical and horizontal UV rays. However, they don’t diminish the glare from reflected horizontal rays.
Polarized glasses have a built-in, laminated filter that permits only vertical light rays to pass through, and almost totally blocks horizontal rays to eliminate glares. This is most noticeable when boating or fishing because you’ll be able to suddenly see through the surface, when normally you would see the reflections from the sun and sky above.
Polarized lenses are most commonly associated with sunglasses, though there are normal prescription glasses with polarized coating as well. If you need the power of polarized lenses without the help of sun protection, speak with your doctor or optometrist about this.
Who Needs Polarized Lenses?
The people who find the greatest use for polarized lenses are those that work around or on the water, like fishermen and boaters. Because such lenses reduce glare, it is easier for fishermen to view deeper into sea for fish or any obstacle.
This can make a huge difference in fishing, since an angler can get a more accurate look at fish habitat. For a boater, this can mean the difference between life and death, since they are able to perceive underwater obstacles, and the more complex movement of underwater currents.
These aren’t the only uses for polarized lenses. Consider driving, especially on road trips in the summer: horizontal rays of light constantly bounce off the road, increasing eye fatigue and discomfort. You can instantly reduce this glare with polarized glasses.
Any activity that involves rapid changes in lighting conditions, such as hunting under the heavy canopy of a forest, may benefit from polarized glasses, since they also partially eliminate the glare of light directly on the glasses.
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Pros and Cons of Polarized Lenses
A high quality pair of sunglasses may include polarized lenses. A polarized lens offers the following advantages over non-polarized lenses:
- Increases visual comfort. Since your eyes aren’t constantly challenged by glare, it is easier to view objects in bright conditions.
- Enhances clarity of vision and contrast for ground level objects and for seeing into water.
- Reduces eyestrain. Frequent adjustments to the glare from reflections is taxing on the eyes and can lead to eye fatigue.
- Conveys colors faithfully.
- Diminishes reflections and glare.
- Polarized lenses make it difficult to view LCD screens. They create the effect of making the images on the screen disappear at certain angles. Pilots or operators of heavy machines are discouraged and often prohibited from using polarized lenses. You might have difficulty operating an ATM with polarized glasses.
- Though recommended for skiing, they may actually compromise contrast in certain light conditions, making it difficult to distinguish between patches of ice or snow and moguls.
- Glasses with polarized lenses are generally more expensive than regular lenses. This additional investment is worth it for those who really do need polarized lenses, but might be an unnecessary expenditure for people who just need regular sunglasses.
Do Polarized Lenses Provide UV Protection?
The superior quality of polarized glasses provides protection against ultra violet rays of the sun. They offer different, but not necessarily increased, protection from direct UV radiation. Keep this distinction in mind. Depending on your use for sunglasses, polarized lenses may offer no noticeable improvement over regular sunglasses.
Also, not all polarized lenses protect against harmful UV rays. Whenever you buy sunglasses, verify the UV protection level of the lenses, usually marked right on the glasses.
Do You Need Polarized Lenses?
Perhaps the best way to decide if polarized lenses are for you is to consult your doctor during your next regular eye exam. If you’re having trouble with your current sunglasses and feel that polarized lenses might help, run it by your doctor. Every case is different and your doctor might have some thoughts about how you may or may not benefit from polarized glasses.
If you are a boater or angler then start using polarized lenses immediately. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for increased sun protection for your eyes, consider whether darker lenses might do the trick.
Most leading manufacturers of glasses offer models with polarized coatings and you can find them at most sunglasses outlets. So, when the sun casts glare into your eyes, reach for polarized lenses.