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Are Polarized Sunglasses Always the Best Choice?

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We want what is best for our eyes to protect them from sun damage. Did you know that the most important thing about sunglasses is the UV protection. Choose sunglasses from a brand you trust to provide 100% UVA and UVB protection. Polarized lenses have a filter that block out glare but do not protect your eyes any more from UV exposure. The polarized filter is blocking out the glare from horizontal surfaces. It uses lens technology and specific filters to block out rays of light bouncing off horizontal surfaces and allows all other light to pass. This reduces the glare from wet road and water surfaces. This glare reduction makes it slightly darker which allows you to see more details. It also makes it easier to see past the glare on water surfaces so that you can see through the water, which is especially important for fishing. The benefits of polarized lenses are beneficial for people who are going to be wearing their glasses for driving, water activities, boating, fishing, and people who are sensitive to glare.

Glare on water (Copy)
“Polarized lenses allow you to see through the surface of water by blocking the glare from the water’s surface. Fisher men and women will love polarized lenses to see the fish they want to catch”

I do not recommend polarized sunglasses for action sports like mountain biking or trail running as the glare from wet roots is vital information for your eyes to warn you that the surface may be slippery. With polarized sunglasses the roots and other shiny slippery surfaces may appear dry. The glare from snow may also provide information to your eyes if the snow surface is icy. Keep this in mind if you are thinking of buying polarized snow goggles. Be sure that you are aware that glare may be helpful in some circumstances when you are navigating slippery terrain. Another thing to consider is that LCD screens can be more difficult to see with polarized sunglasses. The light passing through LCD screens may be horizontal, and all horizontal light will be blocked by your polarized sunglasses. An easy fix is to rotate your LCD screen 90 degrees and the light will be able to pass through the polarized sunglasses. Polarized sunglasses are not recommended for pilots who need to use LCD screen GPS or other instruments. Heads up displays will also be blocked by polarized lenses. Polarized lenses are great for improving visual clarity and reducing eyestrain due to glare but they may not be perfect for everyone.

Smith Tempo.jpg
Dr. Blumberg’s favourite sunglasses are Smith as they have excellent UV protection and options for polarized and non-polarized sunglasses. The Smith Tempo frame is an excellent option for women’s sport prescription sunglasses. I like the adjustable nosepads as they don’t slide down my nose while I am mountain biking.
Smith longfin.jpg
A great option for men is the Smith Longfin. Good coverage with side shields protects your eyes from sunlight entering the sides of the glasses. Close fitting glasses that wrap around the sides are excellent for UV protection. A lightweight frame and adjustable temples allow for a comfortable fit whether you are driving or running. View the collection here, please note that not all styles are available in Canada and your prescription may determine which sunglasses will work best for you.

Written by Mindy Blumberg

Dr. Mindy Blumberg is an optometrist registered with the BC College of Optometrists and is a member of the BC Doctors of Optometry. She graduated from the University of Waterloo and moved to Whistler, BC, to live in the mountains. Mindy grew up alpine ski racing and now has a special interest in sports vision. She helps with performance vision training with the Canadian Ski Cross and the BC Alpine Ski Team. Dr. Blumberg brings expertise on post-concussion vision rehabilitation and performance sports vision. She also uses these functional vision skills and vision therapy to improve reading and comprehension in children by enhancing the visual systems needed to have academic success.
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