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June 14, 2021

We always recommend wearing sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection anytime you are outdoors, not just during the summer. Some of our patients ask if polarized sunglasses are better? The short answer is YES for most instances. Unlike regular sunglasses, polarized sunglasses reduce bright reflection and unwanted glare to help improve vision clarity in bright situations.

What is polarization?

Unpolarized light, after being reflected by a specular (shiny) surface, generally obtains a degree of polarization. This phenomenon was observed in 1808 by a mathematician after whom Malus's law is named. Polarizing sunglasses exploit this effect to reduce glare from reflections by horizontal surfaces, notably the road ahead viewed at a grazing angle.

Wearers of polarized sunglasses will occasionally observe inadvertent polarization effects such as color-dependent birefringent effects. One can test whether sunglasses are polarized by looking through two pairs, with one perpendicular to the other. If both are polarized, all light will be blocked. (Image labeled 2)

Why are polarized sunglasses important?

People who wear polarized sunglasses for long periods of time often say their eyes feel less tired than usual after hours of battling sun glare. Also, those that enjoy water activities find that polarized sunglasses drastically cut the glare and help them see into the water better. Polarized lenses can also enhance color contrasts we see when exposed to the sun. This attribute is beneficial for athletes, fishing enthusiasts and outdoorsmen who want to receive greater depth perception to enhance their performance.

Sunglasses that are polarized are extremely helpful for anyone with light sensitivity. People with light colored eyes (blue, green or hazel) by nature are more sensitive to light and may have an increased risk of certain eye diseases tied to UV exposure, including eye cancer.

Taking photosensitizing drugs can make your skin and eyes more sensitive to light. Additionally, post-eye surgery such as cataract removal procedure may benefit by wearing polarized sunglasses.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), there are a few instances where polarized lenses are not recommended. For instance, you will have difficulty seeing images on LCD (liquid crystal display) screens such as:

  • Car dashboard controls
  • ATM cash machines
  • Cell phones and some watches

Polarized lenses will be labeled as such. Talk to your eye care provider for more information about the benefits of polarized lenses. If you are experiencing changes in your vision, contact Shofner Vision Center online to schedule a comprehensive exam or call (615) 340-4733.


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