Light reflected from surfaces such as a flat road or smooth water generally is horizontally polarized. This means that, instead of light being scattered in all directions in more usual ways, reflected light generally travels in a more horizontally oriented direction.This creates an annoying and sometimes dangerous intensity of light that we experience as glare. Polarized sunglasses cut glare and haze so your eyes are more comfortable and you can see better. Polarized lenses contain a special filter that blocks this type of intense reflected light, reducing glare.
Though polarized sunglasses improve comfort and visibility, you will encounter some instances when these lenses may not be advisable. One example is downhill skiing, where you don’t want to block light reflecting off icy patches because this alerts skiers to hazards they are approaching. In addition, polarized lenses may reduce the visibility of images produced by liquid crystal displays (LCDs) found on the dashboards of some cars or in other places such as the digital screens on automatic teller (bank) machines.
With polarized lenses, you also may be unable to see your cell phone or GPS device. Boaters and pilots also have reported similar problems when viewing LCD displays on instrument panels, which can be a crucial issue when it comes to making split-second decisions based strictly on information displayed on a panel. However, for most other sports and activities, polarized sunglasses offer great advantages. And today, many polarized lenses are available in combination with other features that can enhance outdoor experiences.
Polarized bifocal sunglasses or progressive lenses are examples of options for the presbyope who also likes outdoor sports. And polarized photochromic lenses, which change from dark outside to light inside, may be right for the light-sensitive person who frequently is in and out of the sun on any given day. Whether you spend your time waterskiing or boating, in-line skating or mountain biking, driving or jogging, polarized sunglasses may be the right choice to help you enjoy your life outdoors.
Another beneficial lens treatment is an invisible dye that blocks ultraviolet (UV) light. Just as sunscreen keeps the sun’s UV rays from harming your skin, UV-protective treatments for eyeglass lenses block those same rays from damaging your eyes. Overexposure to ultraviolet light is thought to be a cause of cataracts, retinal damage and other eye problems. Regular plastic eyeglass lenses block most UV light, but adding a UV-blocking dye boosts UV protection to 100 percent for added safety. Other eyeglass lens materials, including polycarbonate and most high-index plastics, have 100 percent UV protection built-in, so an extra lens treatment is not required for these lenses.
Photochromic lenses also block 100 percent of the sun’s UV rays without the need for an added UV lens treatment. Photochromic lenses such as those made by Transitions Optical are clear (or nearly clear) indoors and darken automatically in response to sunlight outdoors. They also protect your eyes from 100 percent of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. These features make photochromic lenses a great convenience, because they reduce your need to wear prescription sunglasses in most outdoor conditions.
Today’s photochromic lenses come in a wide variety of lens materials. So whether you prefer polycarbonate lenses, high-index lenses, or regular plastic or glass lenses, you typically will be able to purchase a photochromic version of your preferred lenses.