Nothing beats a stunning pair of designer frames to give your new sunglasses that high-style look, but did you know there’s a little something extra you can do to make sure they don’t simply draw attention? If you’re looking for the magic combination of fashion and function, you can achieve your goal all at once by adding polarized lenses to your sunglasses.
You’ve probably picked up a pair of sunglasses in a big box store or at the mall with a sticker or tag with the words “Polarized” and “100% UV Protection” on them. But have you ever wondered exactly what it meant? Do those glasses give your eyes complete protection from ultraviolet light?
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are invisible, high-energy light rays that can damage your eyes if you spend too much time out in the sunlight without protective lenses. Overexposure to UV rays has been linked to the development of cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, photokeratitis (snow blindness), and skin cancers of the eyelids and the surrounding areas. The amount of damage your eyes can suffer can be greater if you live at higher altitudes or closer to the equator, or if you’re often outside between 10 am and 2 pm, which are the brightest hours of the day. Certain types of medications can also increase your odds of UV damage, including birth control pills, tranquilizers, or diuretics. It’s important to visit your optometrist regularly so she can assess the amount of UV damage your eyes may have suffered. This type of screening is part of every annual vision exam.
There are great ways to protect your eyes from UV damage. Be sure to choose sunglasses that provide 99-100% protection from UV rays or ask your eye doctor about UV-blocking contact lenses. UV rays can make their way through clouds, so it’s always best to wear sunglasses even on overcast days. It’s crucial that your children wear sunglasses too – 80% of all UV exposure occurs before the age of 18.
So – we know that for sunglasses to be effective, they need to offer UV protection. But what about the “Polarized” part of the equation? What does that stand for?
Light travels in waves, vibrating in different directions on the way. When the light hits a horizontal surface like snow, water, or blacktop, it becomes concentrated. The concentrated light is called glare. Polarized and non-polarized lenses handle glare differently. Non-polarized glasses are usually coated with dyes or pigments that absorb the UV rays, stopping them from reaching your eyes. These lenses are designed to work the same way in all types of sunlight, including glare. With non-polarized lenses, the glare is actually magnified, making it more difficult to see. Instead of dyes and pigments, polarized lenses are treated with chemicals that filter out the light using a special pattern that allows the vertical light to pass through, while the horizontal light – the glare – is filtered out.
Polarized lenses will not block more UV rays than lenses, but they do offer superior protection against glare. Glare is responsible for a good number of traffic accidents because it decreases a driver’s ability to see clearly. When polarized lenses cut glare, they also sharpen the contrast between light and dark, provide a higher degree of visual clarity and increase identification of certain colors, all while reducing eye strain. If you find yourself squinting most of the time, a pair of polarized sunglasses can greatly increase eye comfort, especially if you’re naturally sensitive to bright light, have certain vision conditions, or have had recent eye surgery.
Polarized progressive lenses are available, as are polarized photochromatic lenses that change color when you move from indoors to outdoors and vice versa. They also come in a variety of colors to put the finishing touch on your style statement.
However, not every situation calls for polarized lenses. They aren’t meant for use at night, because they do reduce the amount of light that reaches the eye. They’re also not recommended when there may be ice on the road, as patches of ice will become difficult to see. Consider the amount of time you spend looking at digital screens while you are in bright sunlight before deciding whether or not polarized lenses are for you, as polarized lenses will make them more difficult to see.
Do you think polarized lenses are right for you? Make an appointment for a vision test today with your premier Houston eye doctor – she can tell you about the variety of polarized lenses available at Pro-Optix Eye Care. If you’re looking to enjoy your summer with clearer, sharper, more colorful vision, call 713-360-7095 before another bright, sunny day goes by!