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What Does Polarized Sunglasses Mean?

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A man on top of a mountain wearing Polarized sunglasses and a backpack while hiking with poles.

If you’re looking for that perfect pair of sunglasses for your next outdoor adventure or long road trip, then you should consider polarized lenses. Polarized lenses are becoming increasingly popular, and there’s a good reason why. They’re designed specifically to reduce glare and improve vision in bright, sunny conditions.

Get a comprehensive eye exam for a current prescription and customized sunglasses to help sharpen your vision and provide optimal protection from the sun’s rays.

What Are Polarized Sunglasses?

Polarized lenses contain a special filter that blocks reflected light. This light bounces off shiny, reflective surfaces such as water, snow, or roads, causing glare and visual discomfort. Severe glare off the hood of your car, snow and ice on the ski slopes, or the water when you’re out on a boat can be dangerous and impair your vision.

Polarized lenses fix this issue by reducing glare, eliminating the need for squinting because of the sun. Polarized lenses are available in prescription and non-prescription forms and can be fitted in sunglasses or eyeglasses.

How Do Polarized Lenses Work?

With a polarized lens, the filter only allows vertical light through, blocking horizontally aligned and unorganized light waves that create glare and blur. Since most light travels horizontally, polarized lenses prevent this reflected light from entering your eyes, improving vision and visual clarity.

Polarized lenses:

  • Improve visual comfort
  • Sharpen colour contrast
  • Help prevent eye strain and fatigue

As a result, polarized lenses are ideal for outdoor activities, driving, and working outdoors, where the sun is at its strongest.

Why Are Polarized Lenses Important for Outdoor Enthusiasts?

One of the main reasons polarized lenses are essential for outdoor enthusiasts is they provide improved vision and clarity on sunny days and minimize colour distortion, headaches, and strain.

Polarized lenses also make it easier to see clearly and increase depth perception. With added UV protection, polarized lenses can protect from the sun’s harmful rays, reducing your chances of photokeratitis—sunburn on the eyes.

Polarized lenses are ideal for:

  • Fishing or boating
  • Golfing
  • Sitting near sand
  • Skiing or snowboarding
  • Ice skating 

How to Choose the Right Polarized Sunglasses

When choosing polarized lenses, consider the environment you’ll be in, what activities you’ll be doing, and your specific needs.

There’s such a thing as the “right pair of sunglasses,” whether for a tropical trip to the beach with a lot of sunshine or walking the city streets. Your eyes aren’t only vulnerable to direct sunlight, but reflection from buildings, car windows, and asphalt as well. Even the most overcast days call for a pair of shades.

Not all sunglasses are equal, but there are some elements to consider before you invest in your next pair of lenses.

Look for 100% UV Protection

The first thing you should remember when looking for sunglasses is to choose a pair with UV protection. UV radiation from the sun can harm your eyes in the short and long term, leading to cataracts, macular degeneration, and even cancer. So, always check the label to ensure that your sunglasses block at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays.

Consider Your Lifestyle & Activities

Your ideal pair of sunglasses will depend on your lifestyle and activities. If you’re an active person who enjoys cycling, running, or skiing, you’ll need sturdy sunglasses with polarized lenses to reduce glare and improve visibility.

However, if you’re a fashion-forward person who loves making a statement with your eyewear, oversized frames or quirky shapes could be perfect as you come and go from the office.

One pair of sunglasses may not be appropriate for every setting—having a few pairs you can use on different occasions can provide versatility and protection.

Opt for Quality Materials

Sunglasses made with quality materials will last longer and provide better eye protection. Look for frames made from durable materials like titanium, acetate, or stainless steel that can withstand wear and tear.

You can also choose sunglass lenses made from scratch-resistant materials like polycarbonate or glass to support their longevity and clarity.

Seek the Help of an Expert

If you still need to decide which sunglasses to pick, feel free to seek the help of an optometry professional. They can provide valuable advice on the sunglasses that suit your eye care needs and lifestyle.

A man sitting in an optometrist's office and looking into a machine that tests his vision.

Find Your Next Pair of Sunglasses

Choosing the right sunglasses is crucial in protecting your eyes, and polarized lenses are excellent for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors or is sensitive to glare.Schedule an appointment with Dr. Bishop & Associates for a comprehensive eye exam, and choose sunglasses with your new prescription. Sunglasses are more than just an accessory—they’re essential for maintaining your eye health and looking good while doing it.

Written by Donald Bishop

In addition to his Doctor of Optometry from the University of Waterloo, Dr. Bishop also earned his pharmacological therapeutics certification from Northeastern State University of Oklahoma. He graduated in 1983 and has been practising optometry in Alberta ever since.

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