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What Are Polarized Sunglasses?

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A young woman trying on polarized sunglasses at her optometrist's office.

Are you looking for the perfect pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s glare and stop you from squinting or straining? Try out polarized sunglasses! Polarized sunglasses have become popular among those who love outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, and golfing.

Polarized glasses use a special filter to reduce glare and help you see clearly on a bright day. But the best way to know if they’re right for you is to learn more about them, and your optometrist is here to help with just that.

How Do Polarized Sunglasses Work?

Polarized lenses work thanks to how light vibrates. When light hits an object, it bounces off in many directions, vibrating every which way. However, when light hits a horizontal surface, such as water, concrete, or snow, it bounces off at one angle: horizontally.

Sunglasses with polarized lenses have a special filter that blocks all horizontal light waves. By cutting out the horizontal light waves, polarized sunglasses allow vertical light waves to pass through, which significantly reduces glare.

What Are the Benefits of Polarized Sunglasses?

Reduces Glare

One of the main benefits of polarized sunglasses is the reduction of glare. When sunlight reflects off objects such as roads, water, or snow, it creates a blinding glare that can be dangerous and uncomfortable for the eyes.

Polarized lenses block these horizontal light waves, reducing blinding sunlight so that eyes can better adjust and function comfortably in bright environments. This effect makes these glasses ideal for:

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Golfing
  • Snow activities

Improves Visual Clarity & Colours

Polarized sunglasses also enhance visual clarity. Regular sunglasses darken images overall, making it difficult to differentiate between objects and colours.

On the other hand, most polarized sunglasses do make the image a little darker but maintain the true colours of objects, providing a clearer and more vivid visual experience. This feature is particularly beneficial when driving or sporting activities where the ability to see details is essential.

Polarized Lens & Digital Screens

However, polarized lenses have some interesting reactions with technology. For example, try wearing a pair of polarized glasses and looking at your phone or other digital screens. If the screen is a liquid crystal display (LCD),  it may appear entirely black. And for a fun experience, tilt your head or the phone 90 degrees and watch it reappear.

This happens cause the polarization on the screen and your glasses conflict. And if the screen in question is your car dashboard, this phenomenon could go from fun to dangerous.

Do Polarized Lenses Protect You from UV Rays?

A man wearing a pair of polarized sunglasses to protect his eyes while resting on a lounge chair.

Just because a lens is polarized doesn’t mean it has UV protection. Polarized lenses are primarily designed to reduce glare and enhance colours. You’ll need to check the label to ensure the pair you’re looking at is 100% UV protection.

If you need both glare reduction and UV protection, many glasses offer both.

Is UV Protection Important?

UV rays are invisible, high-frequency wavelengths of light present in sunlight. UV radiation damages the skin, causes certain cancers, and increases the risk of some eye diseases.

Prolonged exposure to UV rays increases the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, 2 leading causes of blindness in Canada. Even short-term exposure can have irritating effects. Photokeratitis is essentially a sunburn on your eyes that could cause symptoms like:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Blurry vision
  • Excessive tearing
  • A gritty feeling
  • Light sensitivity

While photokeratitis usually subsides in a few days, it’s typically better to prevent the damage in the first place. While shopping for polarized lenses, look for a label that states they provide full UV protection.

Sunglasses for Your Lifestyle

Polarized sunglasses have become an essential accessory for many outdoor enthusiasts. These specialized lenses work wonders in reducing glare, enhancing colours, and—with the proper UV protection—supporting healthy eyes too. 

The friendly team at Henderson Vision Centre is here to guide you through our showroom of high-quality polarized sunglasses and find the pair with your preferred fit, style, and features. So visit us today and discover the difference polarized lenses can make in your daily life!

Written by Dr. Melina Chow

Dr. Chow received her Doctor of Optometry from the University of Waterloo in 2005. She has been an integral part of the Henderson Vision team for over 15 years, moving back to her hometown immediately upon graduating from university. When she isn’t at the clinic, Dr. Chow runs circles trying to keep up with her two energetic boys. Once she’s had enough cardio, she enjoys baking and planning her next vacation.
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