Do Polarized Sunglasses Really Make a Difference?

Do Polarized Sunglasses Really Make a Difference?

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.

Do Polarized Sunglasses Really Make a Difference?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.

Pros and Cons of Polarized Lenses

Pros

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.

Cons

  • 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.

About the Author

Tyler Sorensen is the President and CEO of Rebuild Your Vision. Formerly, Tyler studied Aeronautics with the dreams of becoming an airline pilot, however, after 9/11 his career path changed. After graduating top of his class with a Bachelor of Science degree in Informational Technologies and Administrative Management, he and his brother decided to start Rebuild Your Vision in 2002. With the guidance of many eye care professionals, including Behavioral Optometrists, Optometrists (O.D.), and Ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.), Tyler has spent over a decade studying the inner workings of the eye and conducting research.

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Join or Start the Discussion

28 responses to “Do Polarized Sunglasses Really Make a Difference?”

  1. Vicki Simons says:

    Hello,

    As my husband Mike and I
    * provide money saving tips for professional truck drivers on our site,
    * have worn polarized sunglasses while driving professionally, and
    * have recommended polarized sunglasses use for other truckers http://bit.ly/18ZcTyG,
    I am concerned about this statement in this article: “Pilots or operators of heavy machines are discouraged and often prohibited from using polarized lenses.”

    Perhaps you do not consider professional truck drivers to be “operators of heavy machines.” Still, I would appreciate knowing which group of heavy machine operators are discouraged or prohibited from wearing polarized lenses on the job — and why.

    Would you please be so kind as to let me know about this? Any documentation you have to this effect would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance for helping me to better understand this.

    Best regards,

    Vicki Simons

    • Tyler Sorensen says:

      Hi Vicki,

      According to the Occupational Visual Standards report published by The Royal College of Opthalmologists, people working in occupations that involve glare should not wear polarized sunglasses, but should instead use tinted sunglasses. While the report is not specific on truck drivers, it does state that operators of heavy machinery, including airplanes, boats, and trains are discouraged to wear polarized sunglasses.

  2. John L says:

    I have floaters in both my eyes and I do a lot of driving.
    For me, polarized sunglasses significantly help in hiding these floaters from my sight when driving or even just walking around.  It doesn’t eliminate them, it just makes them less noticeable. 

  3. francine says:

    I would be interested to know if those glasses would help with the glare of car lights at night? ?

  4. Margaret says:

    I have floaters on both eyes. My eyes itch. The itches and the floaters are quite uncomfortable to cope with. Am praying about it and I know as I wait on The Lord solution is sure to come with time

  5. Debvrat Chaturvedi says:

    Informative blog for me. Thanks a lot for sharing the blog.

  6. harris says:

    this is a great blog

  7. Debvrat Chaturvedi says:

    According to the Occupational Visual Standards report published by The Royal College of Opthalmologists, people working in occupations that involve glare should not wear polarized sunglasses, but should instead use tinted sunglasses. While the report is not specific on truck drivers, it does state that operators of heavy machinery, including airplanes, boats, and trains are discouraged to wear polarized sunglasses.

  8. Debvrat Chaturvedi says:

    Polarized sunglasses are used in various fields. I like reading this. Buy sunglasses from Deals4opticals, and get the benefits.

  9. Debvrat Chaturvedi says:

    Polarized lenses are very much different from other lenses. I agree after reading this blog. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  10. Kate William says:

    Quality information about polarized sunglasses. These sunglasses contain vertically polarized filters that help you counteract the reflections coming from pavements, car windows, water, and snow. A high-quality pair of polarized sunglasses include polarized lenses that have huge benefits, but there are disadvantages of polarized lenses too.

  11. Dijo says:

    Polarized glasses wont work well when we use LCD screen
    the same way for the pilots

    Check out this Video it shows use of polarized glass in a cockpit..

  12. dave says:

    when driving in fog and snow (blizzard) does the color of the polarized lens make a difference? ie: yellow vs smoke (most common) or should one keep both on hand for variant light conditions?

  13. Janet says:

    What does it mean if the information on a web page for sunglasses (in the case Oakley) mean when they say “pure Plutonite® lenses to filter out 100% of all UV rays.”? Does this mean 100%UVA, 100%UVB and 100%UVC ?

  14. Milla says:

    To Polarize or to not Polarize………the endless question of time

  15. jkltx says:

    Fog sometimes creates a life-or-death situation for drivers. Does polarized lens help see better in driving through fog? If it does, what color lens one should use? If not, what alternatives are there besides stop driving and using fog headlamps? Would appreciate for any recommendations.

  16. Aluchi says:

    if I use a GPS in my car, Would it make any difference if I buy a resistive (plastic) screen vs Capacitative (Glass) screen on the GPS when I use a pair of polarized sunglasses?

  17. Junio HUMBRASINGH says:

    I’m having problems watching tv at nights I keep getting eye strain and find it hard to sleep because of so I’ve gotten my eyes tested and gotten glasses with AR coating and transition lenses and still experiencing the same problem so I’m wondering if I should try polarized lens this time

  18. Jer says:

    I use polarized lenses in the Arizona desert and they work great. Excellent for the outdoors. I have issues using them for golf but hiking and mountain climbing are must use.

  19. Jack w says:

    Great article on polarized sunglasses.I am planning to buy some soon.Thanks a lot for the detailed information.

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