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    Taking A Clear Look at Prescription Sunglasses

    Reviewed By Jeffrey Whitman, MD
    Published Feb. 09, 2017

    Losing those magnetic or clip-on sun shields for your prescription eyeglasses can be frustrating and expensive. Maybe you don’t wear sunglasses at all. However, the sun can be harmful to your eyes, and skipping protection for them altogether can be dangerous. Maybe it’s time to invest in prescription sunglasses.

    Sunglasses can be made with nearly any lens prescription. Perhaps you’re yearning to drive off into the sunset, seeing clearly in the distance without squinting. Or maybe you would like to be able to read a book at the beach with bifocals. Sunglasses can be made to meet your vision needs while protecting your eyes from harmful and annoying sun rays.

    Your lens choices

    The most important part of any pair of sunglasses—prescription or not—is the UV-blocking lens. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays contribute to a number of eye problems, including cataracts, cancer, and growths on the eye. Sunglasses should provide 100 percent UV protection. Keep in mind: it doesn’t matter what color or how dark the tint is in your sunglass lenses (tint has nothing to do with UV protection), as long as they provide close to 100 percent UV protection.

    If you spend a lot of time near water, sand, snow or other areas where light is highly reflected off surfaces, you should consider polarized prescription sunglasses. Polarized lenses filter reflected light to reduce glare.

    You should be aware, though, that there are certain drawbacks to polarized lenses. For instance, you won’t be able to see the screens of cell phones, dashboard instruments and other devices that have LED (light-emitting diode) or LCD (liquid crystal diode) screens or displays.

    Looking at lens materials

    Prescription sunglass lenses can be made from a variety of different materials to suit your needs.

    Many people want sunglass lenses that resist shattering. Polycarbonate lenses are made of strong, impact-resistant plastic. Another type of plastic, called Trivex, began as a military-developed material for shatterproof helicopter windshields and fighter jet canopies. Now sunglass lenses can be crafted to a prescription with this lightweight, tough material.

    Sunglass lenses made of glass can be made to meet extremely precise prescription specifications, and provide excellent correction for refractive errors. However, glass lenses are heavy compared to today’s lightweight materials, and they can crack and shatter easily. If you feel that having the precise optical quality of glass lenses is best for your sun protection needs, you can still request them. Your ophthalmologist, optometrist or optician can discuss this option with you.

    Many people who have strong eyeglass prescriptions require thicker lenses to see well. They may want to consider high-index prescription sunglasses. High-index lenses bend light more efficiently, requiring less material than traditional lenses. That makes them thinner, lighter—and, some would argue, more attractive—than traditional lenses.

    Are prescription sunglasses worth the cost?

    Here are four things to consider when weighing the value and cost of prescription sunglasses:

    1. Tally how much you spend annually to replace the clip-on or magnetic sunshields for your prescription glasses. If you are constantly replacing them, that cost may come close to the cost of new prescription sunglasses.
    2. Assess whether or not your lifestyle has you spending much of your time outdoors or driving during the day. The convenience of prescription sunglasses may justify the added cost.
    3. Check to see if your optical shop offers a discount when purchasing prescription sunglasses at the same time as your regular eyeglasses.
    4. Talk with your eye care provider about how prescription sunglasses fit in with your vision needs and lifestyle. They can help you ask the right questions and determine if prescription sunglasses are a good option for you.