People wear sunglasses for all sorts of reasons, but one integral role that shades pay is in protecting the eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays. You have probably seen many sunglasses described as “polarized,” or offering a certain level of UV protection. But what do these phrases actually mean, and is there a difference between UV sunglasses and polarized glasses?
Scientists agree that ultraviolet radiation can be harmful to the human eye, causing damage that, in extreme cases, can even lead to loss of vision and even blindness. Traditional UV lenses are designed to block ultraviolet rays and to reduce the overall brightness of the light reaching your eyes. UV protection lenses are usually sold with a stated level of protection, for example, “100% UVA/UVB protection” and, while this protection is important, traditional UV lenses do not typically reduce glare.
Polarized sunglasses, on the other hand, feature a special filter that is specifically designed to reduce glare from intense reflected light, which can interfere with vision. It does this by only allowing vertically reflected light through the lens while blocking horizontally reflected light. Light reflected from surfaces such as roads, sidewalks, and especially water, can cause problematic glare and can even be responsible for vehicular accidents.
Therefore, polarized lenses can have advantages over traditional UV sunglasses by reducing glare in bright conditions, and this can be particularly important for people performing in sports – such as cycling – or taking part in water-based activities. People who engage in snow sports, where reflected glare can be almost blinding, almost exclusively use polarized lenses.
The reduction in glare offered by polarized sunglasses can have a number of positive effects. It not only provides protection from exposure to bright light, it can also enhance visibility, contrast, clarity and depth perception. Polarized lenses aren’t necessary for every occasion, but if you want to enjoy the maximum protection for your eyes while also eliminating glare, it’s often a good idea to opt for sunglasses that offer both 100% UV protection and polarized lenses.