Glare is always bothersome but can sometimes be dangerous. Light reflecting off a smooth, shiny surfaces such as water or snow can cause blinding glare. Also, just after sunrise and before sunset the sun can shine directly into a driver’s eye and this glare can make it hard to see the road ahead.

Polarized sunglasses are one remedy for reducing the glare that comes from reflected surfaces such as car hoods, water, snow, or any other flat, light reflecting surface.

How Polarized Lenses Work

Polarized sunglasses have a laminated chemical filter that allows vertically oriented light to pass through but blocks the horizontally oriented light that bounces off smooth surfaces. This eliminates reflective glare. Polarized lenses are available for prescription and non-prescription sunglasses.

Polarized lenses and UV blocking lenses are two different things. Not all UV blocking lenses are polarized. Make sure your polarized sunglasses also block UV rays.

Prescription polarized sunglasses can be made with progressive lenses. You can also get polarized sunglasses with photochromic lenses, which means they automatically darken when exposed to sunlight. When photochromic lenses are exposed to UV light the photochromic molecules in the lenses change structure and this reaction darkens the lenses. Polarized photochromic lenses decrease glare and protect your eyes from UV rays.

Advantages of Polarized Sunglasses

Other than those few exceptions, polarized sunglasses have many advantages that make them a good choice for decreasing eye strain and glare.  Another advantage of polarized sunglasses is that they improve your ability to see objects below the surface of a body of water.

Polarized sunglasses can reduce eye strain and improve visual comfort, but there are times when they are not advisable such as downhill skiing when you want to see all the bright patches of reflected light because they indicate dangerous icy conditions. Polarized lenses also reduce the visibility of images produced by the liquid crystal displays (LCDs) that are on some digital screens such as some cell phones, automatic teller machines (ATMs), and some instrument panels on boats.

Where to Buy?

If you don’t have a refractive error (i.e. you don't need prescription lenses) you can buy UV and polarized lenses from many retailers. If you do have a refractive error, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, your eye doctor can correct your refractive error with prescription polarized sunglasses or photochromic lenses. To learn more about the advantages of prescription polarized sunglasses talk with your eye care professional.