For years, fishermen and boaters have used polarized eyewear to reduce the glare associated with sunlight refracting off of water. These days, more and more outdoor enthusiasts are recognizing the value of these sunglasses, while others are utilizing them to block annoying and dangerous ultra violet rays as they drive to work.

How they help

When natural sunlight reflects off of smooth water or flat roads, it is typically horizontally polarized. Basically, this means that it travels toward the eyes in a horizontally oriented angle; whereas normally it would scatter at numerous angles. This effect produces the annoying glare we experience when we are near water, flat roads, sandy areas and snow.

Polarized sunglasses contain filtered lenses that reduce the glare that refracts off non-metallic surfaces, such as ice, snow, water and even vehicle dashboards. The lenses nuetralize glare by blocking the magnetic (vertical) components of visible light. By blocking these waves, the sunglasses help the wearer see better, while encouraging comfort by reducing eye strain.

When they are most useful

Polarized eyewear is ideal for people who enjoy water-based outdoor activity. This may include boaters, water skiers, fishermen and river rafters. That said, they can also prove useful to people who enjoy outdoor sports. Skiers, tennis players, golfers and other sports enthusiasts often wear polarized sunglasses to reduce eyestrain, so they can better concentrate on performing at their best.

Drivers and motorcycle riders also find polarized eyewear to be useful, because it helps reduce the glare produced when sunlight refracts off of glass automobile windows, chrome bumpers and smooth roadways.

Things to consider

In certain situations, polarized eyewear may not prove to be ideal. Downhill skiers sometimes have trouble identifying hazards, because filtered lenses can block the glare coming off of dangerous icy patches. That said, in most environments where the snow is in good conditions, this doesn't prove to be much of a problem.

Polarized sunglasses can also make it difficult to see images appearing on the liquid crystal displays that appear on the instrument panels of modern cars and trucks. Sometimes, they can also interfere with a wearer's ability to see GPS devices, certain types of cell phones and automatic teller machines.

That said, most people are more than willing to look over their lenses at these devices in return for the comfort offered by polarized eyewear.