What are polarized sunglasses? Should you choose them over non-polarized? This guide explains the difference and helps you decide.

What are polarized sunglasses?

            Polarized sunglasses have a type of lens that reduces glare and reflections to your eyes. They can help with certain outdoor activities by blocking reflected light off of water, snow, and roadways. When light rays from the sun reflect off of flat surfaces, like a roadway or body of water, it creates horizontal reflections. Polarized lenses work by selectively blocking more horizontal light than vertical light, thereby reducing the amount of glare and reflections you experience.

What are the advantages of a polarized sunglass lens?

Polarized sunglasses offer several benefits over non-polarized sunglasses:

  • Polarized lenses  allow you to see deeper into the water with much less glare. This makes them great for outdoor activities like boating, fishing, or even just relaxing on the beach!
  • Polarized lenses help with driving under most conditions by reducing glare and reflections off of roadways.
  • Polarized lenses reduce eyestrain and headaches caused by glare and reflections.
  • Polarized lenses enhance clarity of vision and colour purity.


What are the disadvantages to polarized sunglasses?

While they offer many advantages, there are some drawbacks to polarized sunglasses as well:

  • Polarized lenses can make it harder to see certain types of digital screens. Phone screens are usually still fine, but it can affect some car heads up displays (HUDs), making them dimmer and tough to see. You’ll also notice this when you go into a fast food restaurant with a digital display menu. It can also affect the displays on airplanes and heavy machinery.
  • Because they reduce glare, they also make it harder to see ice. This can affect driving in icy conditions and winter sports such as skiing.
  • Polarized lenses usually cost more than non-polarized lenses.


Can polarized sunglasses be made with your optical prescription?

            Yes. Both non-polarized and polarized sunglasses can be made with prescription. You can enjoy the benefits of polarized lenses while also seeing clearly!


Do polarized sunglasses block UV light?

            Not all polarized sunglass lenses will block 100% of UV light, depending on the lens material and coatings used. For example, a polarized lens made with CR-39 plastic will not block 100% of UV light by default. This doesn’t mean options aren’t available. You just need to choose the right lens materials and lens coatings to block UV light. Your optician and optometrist can help you make good decisions on this. It is important to consider UV protection carefully, since UV exposure increases risk of cataract, ocular cancers, and growths on the whites of the eyes (pinguecula and pterygium).


Are polarized sunglasses right for me?

            For most people the benefits of polarized sunglasses outweigh the cons. If you spend a lot of time outdoors or driving, polarized sunglasses offer great clarity and reduced strain. They are terrific on a sunny day at the beach or lake, and for just general all around use.  It is important to have good UV protection to protect your eye health, and polarized sunglasses can offer this.

            If you are a pilot or operate heavy machinery you may want to avoid polarized sunglasses because they can make it harder to see certain types of displays. If you drive a lot in the winter or enjoy skiing, then you could consider a non-polarized lens to help you see ice better (one of few situations where the glare is actually a good thing!). For cost conscious customers, non-polarized options will typically be more affordable.


If you have more questions about what type of sunglasses you should choose please feel free to drop by River City Eye Care for a visit. Our optometrist and opticians are happy to help you make a decision that is best for you.

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