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What's the buzz about polarized lenses?

What's the buzz about polarized lenses?

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Image from opt magazine 12/5/16 issue

Polarized sunglasses have been around for years, popular with long-haul drivers, law enforcement officers, boaters and fishermen who rely on the glare reduction provided by polarized lenses. These lenses protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that, over time, can contribute to causing cataracts and macular degeneration.  

The interest in polarized sunglasses has soared in recent years as outdoor enthusiasts discover the benefits of eliminating glare for optimum performance while protecting their eyes from harmful outdoor UV radiation. Outdoor UV risk factors include:

  • Location - UV levels are greatest in areas near the equator.
  • Time of Day - UV levels are highest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Altitude - UV levels increase with altitude, so higher altitude equals higher UV risk.
  • Setting - UV levels increase near reflective surfaces or in wide open areas, particularly those covered in snow or sand.
  • Medication - certain medications can increase your body's sensitivity to UV radiation.

It is a misconception, however, that cloud cover has an impact on UV exposure risk. UV levels can still be dangerously high on hazy or cloudy days because while clouds can block visible light, they cannot block invisible UV radiation.

Here's how a polarized lens works. When light that is usually scattered in all directions hits a flat surface, it becomes polarized, traveling in a uniform (generally horizontal) direction. This polarization can be annoying or outright dangerous, causing intense glare and reducing visibility.

Polarized lenses work by blocking light that comes in from the horizontal meridian, while allowing light in the vertical meridian to pass through, thus blocking glare off of water, highways, shiny surfaces, etc. 

It is important that the sunglasses you select block 100% of UV rays and are made of quality materials, free from optical distortions. To be certain that your sunglasses offer the protection you need, make sure to purchase them from a reputable company, specialty sunglasses store or optical shopLens color, style, price and country of origin are not factors that influence the amount of UV protection provided, this is a function of the lens material and the application of any additional UV-blocking coatings and polarized lenses provide 100% protection. Since damage from UV radiation accumulates over a lifetime, and youngsters often spend a TON of time outside, it is particularly important to start protecting their eyes at a young age.

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