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August 21, 2007

Sunglasses Follies

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

We just returned from four days in dry, sunny California. Ah, yes. Sun. And glare. Which made me think about sunglasses -- the currently available variations.

I'm pondering because I'll be getting my eyes checked in a few weeks and need to consider what I should do once I get the inevitable prescription-change.

My wife is having her eyes checked the same day, being overdue for new glasses. She likes sun protection for her eyes, but doesn't like regular sunglasses. Instead, she opts for those lenses that darken in strong light, and will probably get another set of those.

Three or four years ago she persuaded me to try them out, so I spent a lot of money for new frames and those fancy non-lines bifocals with the tint feature.

Hated them. Here in the soggy Pacific Northwest we get a lot of overcast days. Often the overcast isn't terribly thick and the amount of light can be greater than one might think. I found my glasses darkening when I'd leave the office building to grab some lunch on such days. Besides feeling a speck foolish, the situation was complicated by the fact that my eyes were bothered because what I was seeing through the lenses was too dark. No more self-tinting glasses for me.

Truth is, I've even had issues with conventional sunglasses for years. By "conventional," I mean those sunglasses with frames like everyday eyeglasses. I once ordered prescription sunglasses and discovered that my eyes were bothered most of the time; so I didn't use them much. They didn't bother me when I was driving, and this provides a clue as to why they caused me trouble. You see, when I was driving, the roof of the car prevented sunlight from coming over the tops of the lenses. And if I had been into wearing baseball caps then, a cap bill would have provided the same service.

The fundamental problem with sunglasses of any kind that use normal frames is that sunlight can strike the eye from over the top of the lenses, and sometimes from the sides. This means that the irises have trouble adjusting: directly in front, things are darkened, but strong glare is coming from the periphery. So what to do? Relax in adjustment to the light coming through then tinted lenses or contract in reaction to the bright light of the sunshine coming from above?

The solution is wrap-around sunglass lenses. When I was young, the closest one could get to this ideal was aviator glasses; these look really nice, provided one had the correctly-shaped face -- which I lack. Last year I bought some sunglasses that went a little beyond aviator-style. But I don't wear contact lenses, so I can't see things perfectly when wearing them. I have an artificial lens in my right eye, and my other eye is starting to edge back towards near-sightedness after a period of going the other direction. I suppose the left eye will eventually get a cataract, which means that I'll get a new lens for it: once that happens, I'll have pretty good vision and will be able to wear those sunglasses more regularly.

Until then, I'll just have to keep squinting in strong sunlight.



posted by Donald at August 21, 2007


I know what you mean. Eyeglass matters are seldom perfect. Me, I just started wearing contact lenses. I'd gone to the eye place for new bifocal eyeglasses, spent a fortune on new ones ... And then the optician said, We're having a sale on contacts, want to try them? I'd tried contacts 20 years ago and hated them, but she said they're much improved, and besides now come in bifocals too. As it turns out, I like the cheapo contacts better than the expensive new eyeglasses. Part of the fun is that I get to wear whatever sunglasses I please. Whee. The trad Ray-Ban style seems to work best for me, despite light-leakage from the sides ...

A funny thing happens with the contacts, though. I'm both a little more light-sensitive and a little more dark-sensitive. Which means practically speaking that I'm now forever putting the sunglasses on and taking them off. Definitely need 'em in the bright light, but they're definitely too much when I'm in the shadows. A minor pain ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 21, 2007 4:09 PM

As UV damage becomes more common I expect to see a rebirth of goggles.

You can now get sunglasses that give good UV protection and reduced glare that are not all that dark thanks to new tech for polarizing films. Mine for driving are like that. I can wear them in tunnels and at dusk and still see clearly. They filter a specific wavelength. Makes traffic lights sparkle though. But what a blessing when it is raining and sunny at the same time because the glare off of wet road is blinding.

Posted by: T.W on August 21, 2007 4:48 PM

Do you need an anti-glare screen for your computer, Donald? (I do.)

Posted by: dearieme on August 21, 2007 5:47 PM

You can also sleep during the night and go out only at night...

Posted by: Adriana on August 22, 2007 11:52 PM

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