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UV Protection vs. Polarized: What’s the Difference?

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Dr. Barber at CHROMA in Fort Worth showing some glasses.

Eyeglasses are more than fashionable tools that help us to see the world around us, they can also protect our eyes against sun damage and reduce unwanted glare.

UV protection and polarized glasses provide different benefits to your vision needs and ocular health. Eyeglasses with UV protection help prevent our eyes from sun damage while polarized eyeglasses help to reduce glare. 

Polarized glasses with UV protection reduce glare and protect against sun damage.

Importance of Sun Protection for Your Eyes

Sunlight is a vital source of energy and vitamin D, but just as it can damage your skin, it can also harm your eyes due to the sun’s harmful UV rays.

The two types of UV rays that affect the eye are UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deep into the eye and can harm the macula, a part of the retina responsible for central vision. 

UVB rays typically damage the front part of the eye, including the lens and corneal tissue. It can lead to conditions like photokeratitis, which is a sunburn of the eye.

Sun damage to your eyes occurs gradually.  Symptoms of eye damage may go unnoticed. Regular annual comprehensive eye exams are important for monitoring your ocular health in order to detect any signs of sun damage.

Symptoms of sun damage to the eyes may include: 

  • Difficulty focusing
  • A spot in the center of your vision
  • Blurry vision 
  • Headaches 

Sun damage to the eyes can lead to ocular conditions such as: 

  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): This can lead to blurry central vision due to the deterioration of the macula. The macula is light-sensitive. Some studies show that prolonged exposure to UV rays without protection can increase the risk of AMD.  
  • Cataracts: This occurs when the eye’s lens becomes cloudy and blocks the passage of light to the retina, affecting vision clarity. Prolonged UV exposure can accelerate cataract development.
  • Eyelid Cancer: UV exposure is linked to eyelid cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Currently, there is no link between UV exposure and other forms of ocular cancer.
  • Photokeratitis: Also known as “snow blindness” is a painful sunburn that damages the cornea and the conjunctive of your eyes. 
  • Pinguecula: This is a non-cancerous, yellowish-raised growth on the conjunctiva. In most cases, this growth doesn’t cause any pain or discomfort. 
  • Pterygium: This is a non-cancerous, raised, fleshy growth on the conjunctiva. It can grow large enough to cover part of the cornea affecting one’s vision. If left untreated a pterygium can lead to corneal scarring or vision loss.  

Sunglasses and Their Role in UV Protection

Sunglasses alone don’t provide adequate UV protection for your eyes. Over-the-counter sunglasses often lack UV protection, leading to more harm than good as they dilate the pupils without blocking harmful UV rays.

UV protection works to keep the eyes safe from sun damage by blocking or absorbing harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The cornea and lens in the eye are particularly susceptible to damage from UV rays. 

UV-protective eyewear, such as sunglasses with UV-coated lenses can work one of two ways: by absorbing UV rays before reaching the eyes or by reflecting UV rays away from the eyes. This prevents the UV rays from directly hitting the sensitive tissues in the eye. 

When shopping for sunglasses, look for labels or tags indicating “100% UV protection” or “UV400,” which means the lenses block all UVA and UVB rays. Our eye Doctors at CHROMA modern Eyewear Eyecare can help you find a pair of quality, fashion-forward sunglasses that provide adequate sun protection. 

Polarized Glasses 

Polarized eyeglasses help to reduce glare. They contain a special filter that blocks intense reflected light, reducing glare and making images appear sharper and clearer. This glare is caused when sunlight bounces off flat surfaces and becomes horizontally polarized, creating a blinding effect.

By eliminating glare, polarized lenses enhance contrast and visibility, making objects appear sharper and colors more vibrant. This is particularly beneficial for activities like driving, fishing, skiing, or any outdoor activity where glare can hinder vision.

Polarized eyeglasses alone don’t offer adequate UV protection even though the lenses are tinted. However, you can purchase polarized eyeglasses with UV protection

Picture of four Lindberg frames.

UV Protection vs. Polarized Glasses: The Differences

Understanding the differences between UV protection and polarized lenses is key to choosing the right eyewear for your ocular needs and lifestyle. 

  • UV Protection: Protects against harmful UVA and UVB rays to prevent ocular damage. 
  • Polarized Lenses: Reduce glare from reflective surfaces, enhancing visual clarity and comfort. Polarized lenses can also include UV protection.

UV Protection Sunglasses

  • Pros: Important for protecting the eyes against damaging UV rays. 
  • Cons: Doesn’t reduce glare from surfaces. 

Polarized Glasses

  • Pros: Significantly reduces glare, making activities like driving, fishing, and golfing safer and more enjoyable.
  • Pros: To help protect your eyes from sun damage, polarized sunglasses are available to provide sun protection and reduce glare.
  • Cons: The tint from polarized glasses may make it difficult to view LCD screens (cell phones, laptops, etc.) 
  • Cons: In certain conditions (icy conditions, night driving, etc.) seeing glare and light can be important. Purchasing polarized night-driving eyeglasses isn’t recommended as they may do more harm than good

To help gain the benefits of both eyeglasses, we can assist you with a pair of polarized UV protection sunglasses. Individuals with an active outdoor lifestyle (fishing, skiing, golfing, etc.) may find this most beneficial. 

Otherwise, sunglasses with UV protection are a great option to protect your eyes from sun damage while showing off your style.

Visit CHROMA in Fort Worth! 

UV protection and polarized glasses each have their own set of benefits. Polarized eyeglasses can go a step further and provide UV protection to help keep eyes safe from sun damage.

Selecting a new pair of eyeglasses is fun but with so many options to choose from, it may also be overwhelming. Our team at CHROMA modern Eyewear Eyecare is here to help! Contact us to browse our frame selection in person or online. we look forward to seeing you!

Dr. Matt Barber of CHROMA modern Eyewear Eyecare

Written by
Dr. Matt Barber

Dr. Matthew G. Barber began seeing patients at CHROMA in September of 2001. For over two decades, Dr. Barber has worked diligently to provide cutting-edge eye care to the people of Fort Worth and its surrounding areas while providing a warm and friendly environment for his patients. He wanted to give the community of Fort Worth something unique and special, and so CHROMA was born.

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Dr. Matt Barber
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