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Prescription sunglasses: A guide to the best lenses

man wearing prescription sunnies stares at sunset

Your eyeglasses may give you excellent vision indoors and at night. But they can't provide optimum vision outdoors on a sunny day.

For that, you need prescription sunglasses.

Advantages of prescription sunglasses

If you need vision correction, there's no substitute for prescription sunglasses outdoors.

Did you know that many high-fashion sunglasses can accept prescription sun lenses? This elegant design is from Mykita + Maison Margiela.

Only prescription sunglasses give you the best possible vision correction and a wide variety of tints to give you the most comfortable vision possible in bright conditions.

And if you want the best protection from glare and eye strain on sunny days, choose prescription sunglasses with polarised lenses. These lenses have a special filter that block bright reflections of light from water, sand, pavement and car bonnets and boots.

Even if you wear contact lenses (and nonprescription sunglasses over your contacts when you go outdoors), a separate pair of prescription sunglasses still is a good investment. The prescription sunglasses give you the option to remove your contacts if they feel dry or uncomfortable at the beach or elsewhere outdoors and still be able to see clearly and comfortably on sunny days.

Also, wearing your contact lenses while swimming is a bad idea because it increases your risk of serious eye infections like Acanthamoeba keratitis. Swimming without your contacts and having your prescription sunglasses poolside is a much better plan.

Prescription sunglasses are available for virtually any lens prescription, including progressive lenses if you are presbyopic and need multifocal lenses to see clearly at all distances after age 40.

READY TO SHOP FOR SUNGLASSES? Find an optician or optical shop near you to help you pick out prescription sunglasses.

Unlimited lens options

Prescription sunglasses are available in virtually all lens materials, including lightweight polycarbonate, Trivex, high-index plastic and glass.

Though glass lenses provide the best optical quality, they are no longer the most popular choice for sunglasses. This is because they are much heavier than lenses made of other materials, and they can shatter easily. However, they are still available if you request them.

Another sun-wear option is to purchase prescription spectacle lenses that have a photochromic tint that darkens automatically in sunlight.

However, many photochromic lenses don't darken very well behind vehicle windscreens. If you want the best prescription sunglasses with a sun-activated tint for driving, ask your optician to show you only photochromic sun lenses that are designed for use when driving as well as being outdoors in direct sunlight.

UV protection

Style is important, but your primary concern when buying prescription sunglasses should be that the lenses block 100 percent of the sun's harmful UV rays.

UV protection is unrelated to the colour and density of the tint in sunglass lenses (including those in prescription sunglasses), so you can choose any lens colour and darkness you like, as long as your optician verifies that the lenses provide 100 percent UV protection.

SEE RELATED: Tinted lens sunglasses: Which colour is right?

Cost of prescription sunglasses

Yes, a pair of quality prescription sunglasses is a significant investment. But if you spend a significant amount of time outdoors, the value you get from them — seeing clearly and comfortably with no sun-induced eye strain — makes the investment worthwhile.

Many optical shops offer special discounts on prescription sunglasses if you purchase them at the same time you buy your regular spectacles. Sometimes, payment plans also are available. Ask for details from an optician or optical shop near you.

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