Applying sunblock daily is vital for protecting your skin from the sun, but what about protecting your eyes? Exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays can lead to eye problems and diseases. A pair of polarized or UV protection lenses can help protect your eyes from the sun's damaging rays – but which lens is the best choice for you? Although both lenses offer protection against the sun, polarized and UV lenses differ. Continue reading to learn the differences between UV protection and polarized lenses with the eye doctors at Clarkson Eyecare.
The sun’s damage to your eyes accumulates as you age, so it's never too early to start protecting your eyes. Research shows that the sun's high-energy UV rays can increase your risk of developing cataracts, macular degeneration, and even ocular cancers. Wearing polarized or UV protection lenses is especially important if you have lighter-colored eyes. It’s been proven that light-colored eyes are at a higher risk for ocular damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
You should wear sunglasses with polarized or UV protection all year round, regardless of season. Sunglasses are necessary to wear each day – even with overcast weather conditions. UV rays can penetrate through the clouds and reach your eyes. In addition to protecting your eyes from the sun, sunglasses prevent uncomfortable squinting and eye strain. Sunglasses are especially helpful when driving during the evening, as they make the transition from day to night driving easier.
Polarized lenses give your eyes an added advantage by reducing glare and reflections that may impact your vision. Polarized lenses can provide clearer vision in bright environments by increasing contrast. Most polarized sunglasses also include UV protection, but check the label. We recommend purchasing lenses offering 99-100% UVA and UVB protection. Polarized lenses can also:
Keep your eyes healthy
Reduce eye fatigue and strain
Reduce glare that bounces off reflective surfaces like water, car windows, pavement, or shiny surfaces
Help you experience sharper vision with less color distortion
Help you see better on foggy or partly cloudy days
UV-protected lenses can help shield your eyes against the sun's harmful rays. However, unlike polarized lenses, UV protection lenses will not prevent that annoying reflective glare. Ultraviolet light is radiation energy emitted by the sun. There are three primary types of ultraviolet rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA and UVB are the only rays that reach through the earth’s atmosphere. UV rays are the strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. The most damaging type of UV rays is UVB, which can cause skin cancer, aging, snow blindness, and even weaken the immune system.
When shopping for a new pair of sunglasses, look for 99-100% UV protection lenses. Sunglasses with UV protection should be labeled with manufacturer's stickers or tags that provide information on the amount of UV protection they contain. Those labeled as "UV absorption up to 400nm" mean they have 100 percent UV protection. UV lenses cannot offer protection from every light source. Tanning beds, snowy fields, or solar eclipses require unique eyewear.
When looking for polarized or UV-protected lenses, remember these essential tips:
A larger lens, or wrap-around lens, will offer the most protection from the sun’s rays
Darker lenses don't necessarily mean more protection from the sun
Mirror or metallic finishes can help cut down on the amount of incoming visible light, but it doesn’t always mean they protect against UV rays
Frames with colored lenses can help provide more contrast, which might be helpful for outdoor activities such as playing sports
Plastic lenses are less likely to shatter than glass if hit with an incoming object
Polycarbonate lenses are an excellent option for highly active people, as they are more rigid and more resilient than standard plastic lenses