Why Dark Sunglasses for Sensitive Eyes Are a Bad Idea

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Why Dark Sunglasses for Sensitive Eyes Are a Bad Idea

If you regularly shut the blinds, turn off lights, or retreat into a dark corner of the room, you could be sensitive to light. 

Putting on sunglasses might seem like an easy fix — even indoors. But donning extra dark sunglasses for sensitive eyes is a pretty bad idea that’s actually detrimental. Here’s why:

Extra Dark Lenses Teach Your Eyes to Love the Dark

Wearing any kind of sunglasses indoors might reduce your discomfort in the short-term, but make no mistake: any temporary relief comes with a massive drawback: the risk of dark-adapting your eyes, making you even more sensitive to light over time.

Dark adaptation means your retinas become so used to dim conditions that when you inevitably venture into normal light, it causes pain. 

The last time you went to a matinee, do you remember how it felt walking out of the dark theater into the sun? It was probably downright painful. This is because while you were in the theater, your eyes became adjusted to the darkness and just weren’t ready for daylight. Ouch!

Wearing sunglasses indoors could have a similar dark adapting effect on your eyes as when you get used to a dark room, like a movie theater. When you do step into the light, it can be painful.

A similar phenomenon takes place when you wear sunglasses indoors. This applies whether they’re your average pair of sunglasses or the darkest lenses for sensitive eyes you can find. 

A 2015 study published in the Elsevier Survey of Ophthalmology concluded that, “the use of sunglasses indoors must be strongly discouraged. By wearing dark sunglasses indoors, patients are dark-adapting their retinas and aggravating their sensitivity to light.”

A better solution to light sensitivity would be to wear light sensitivity glasses instead of sunglasses.

Choosing Extra Dark Sunglasses for Outdoors

When you’re looking for sunglasses, your sensitive eyes might benefit from very dark lenses. It makes logical sense that blocking as much light as possible would help you feel better, but don’t simply look for the darkest lenses you can find. Let’s explore the different types of lenses and what they are good (or not good) for. 

Essentially, in the United States, lenses fall into 5 categories of darkness. Specific industry standards for sunglasses are discussed here, but here are the basics.

Lens Category 0

This category has little to no tint and is usually used for prescription glasses, not sunglasses.

Lens Category 1

Lenses in Category 1 have more obvious tinting, but don’t offer enough protection from bright light. They offer only mild relief.

Lens Category 2

In Category 2, you have lenses that are about halfway between a very dark spectacle lens and a light sunglass lens. Less than half of the sunlight will be absorbed through the lens. These may offer average people enough protection for overcast to moderate days without super bright sunlight.

Lens Category 3

If you want darker lenses, Category 3 could be great for a bright day or every day. These are actually the darkest standard sunglasses you can get that are legal to drive with in the United States. These dark lenses provide a lot of sun reduction and a good level of UV protection.

If you’re looking for Category 3 outdoor sunglasses, try Axon Optics’ outdoor lens tint. These allow 14% of the light through, but only 11% at the most troublesome spots for people with migraine. You can order any of our frames with outdoor lenses, even for prescription sunglasses.

While Category 3 lenses are ideal for outdoor sun protection, be sure to use them only outside, and wear Axon Optics precision-tinted indoor lenses when you’re inside.

Lens Category 4 and 5

Categories 4 and 5 are not legal for driving because they block so much light that they make everything too dark. Category 5 lenses will actually block up to 92% of visible light. They’re probably more suited for eye protection during specialized sports in snowy conditions, where there is a lot of glare.

The Darkest Sunglasses for Sensitive Eyes Aren’t Made for Indoors – Try Glasses Made for Light Sensitivity

Sunglasses are made to darken any and all types of light. But people with light sensitive eyes need to remember that not all lighting is created equal. Some types of light on the spectrum (such as blue light) are more likely to be a problem than others. That’s why — instead of wearing extremely dark sunglasses indoors to block all types of light — it’s better to filter only the painful kind.

Axon Optics SpectraShield lenses filter only the light that causes discomfort, letting the rest pass through. For people with photophobia or light sensitivity, this brings the same kind of relief as wearing the darkest sunglasses or extremely dark lenses for sensitive eyes, without dark-adapting your eyes.

“I love how the lenses are light enough not to make it feel dark in the room, but my eyes also feel like they instantly relax when wearing them in rooms with fluorescent lights and when I have to stare at a computer all day for work.” -Ronny

“I have suffered for years with migraines and sensitivity to lights. I have done botox, all types of medications to no avail. These light sensitivity glasses don’t stop the migraines, but do help. I can now open my blinds at home on a sunny day without being in pain, and also I can go into stores without having to wear my sunglasses.” -Cynthia

Sunglasses are made for the outdoors, and very dark sunglasses may serve light-sensitive people well for outdoor conditions. But for indoor lighting, even the most light-sensitive people are strongly encouraged to wear lenses that are specifically made to filter out only the painful light. 

Shop precision-tinted lenses from Axon Optics, specifically made for photophobia. They could bring you the relief you need without causing increased sensitivity.

FAQs About Dark Sunglasses for Sensitive Eyes

Why have my eyes become so sensitive to light?

There could be many reasons why your eyes have become more sensitive to light. One potential cause is an underlying condition called photophobia. People with photophobia are much more sensitive to light than your average person, experiencing pain, headaches, migraine attacks, nausea, dry eye, eye irritation, and more when exposed to levels of light that others might not find bothersome.

Other reasons for your light sensitivity could be recent eye surgery or dilated eye exam, eye infection, glaucoma, dry eye, allergies, concussion, keratitis , corneal abrasion, or an inflammatory eye disease like uveitis.

What color tint is best for light sensitivity?

Axon Optics JURA frame glasses with fl-41 tint

The best color tint for light sensitivity is available from Axon Optics — a proprietary, improved version of the FL-41 tint.

These lenses are designed to filter out the specific wavelengths of light that are the most bothersome to sensitive people, while letting the rest of the light in. This can help prevent unpleasant symptoms of light sensitivity like pain, nausea, dizziness and headaches, without dark adapting your eyes.

Axon Optics has made improvements to FL-41 with our own precision tint that filters even more of the painful light and lets more good light in. They are available with or without a vision prescription. You learn more here .

What are the best sunglasses for sensitive eyes?

The best glasses for sensitive eyes have lenses that filter out more light, especially the wavelengths that tend to bother people the most. While Axon Optics indoor lenses are made to be used indoors under any conditions like shopping or using a computer, we also offer darker outdoor lenses that filter more light and also provide UV protection. Our glasses can be made in indoor and outdoor versions, and can be tailored to your vision prescription.

Which is more important: polarized lenses or UV protection?

You’ve probably heard people recommend either polarized or UV lenses. Let’s briefly explain the difference and then tell you which might offer the best protection.

Ultraviolet (UV) light is actually a type of radiation that exists at the very edge of the visible light spectrum. Too much of it can cause eye strain, dryness or temporary blindness (like when you catch glare off water or snow). Over the long run, overexposure to UV light can elevate your risk for eye diseases like macular degeneration or cataracts.

Polarized lenses are made using a very different process. Polarization on its own doesn’t protect against UV light, but does reduce glare by blocking scattered light. UV coatings may be added to polarized lenses, but that isn’t always the case.

There are other potential drawbacks to polarized lenses. 

  • They may not offer enough relief for people with light sensitivity. Because a polarized lens is so dark, it can’t absorb much of the precision tint Axon Optics glasses are made with that blocks the most bothersome types of light. 
  • Polarized lenses can also cause distortion in screens or other electronic displays, making them hard to view. 
  • Some people find this distortion triggers their photophobia symptoms, making them feel sick.

If you want eyewear for sensitive eyes, don’t use sunglasses. Instead, try Axon Optics outdoor lenses when you’re outside, and our indoor lenses for when you’re inside. We also have lenses that darken when you step outdoors.

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12 thoughts on “Why Dark Sunglasses for Sensitive Eyes Are a Bad Idea

  1. Evan Geistfeld says:

    I am a YouTuber who spends a lot of time on screens etc. my neurologist recommended giving you guys a try and doing a YouTube review as well. I suffer from migraines due to my cerebral palsy, and am seeking relief because things are getting worse and I need relief. Any promotions or discounts that you have available?

  2. Vernona Gower Elliott says:

    My Neurologist recommended I contact you about glasses, maybe style to be worn over other glasses. Two styles I am interested in: I am wondering if Flexcurve is to be worn over other glasses? Wrap 7C appears to be worn over other glasses.
    Another question: Should these glasses be worn inside and outside, all the time or only when doing various activities? I spend a lot of time on the computer and on my telephone; I believe I need these glasses for these. Should the same glasses be worn inside and outside the house?

    • Lori Glover says:

      The Cover Rx is a great frame to try to see if our lenses are effective for you. It is the only fit over style frame available. Neither the Flex Curve nor the Wrap 7C fit over eyeglasses. We have indoor and outdoor lens options available. If the computer, cell phone and/or fluorescent light are issues for you, please select the indoor lens. Feel free to email [email protected] for more information.

  3. William Gordon says:

    I wish to buy sunglasses for OUTDOOR USE in cloudy-bright to full-sun conditions, that fit over my distance=prescription glasses while driving. I have acquired a photophillia condition. My ophthalologist provided a promotional UVSHeld plastic set that fit but are not dark enough: Outside width = 210mm., Arm length = 134mm.I insist on sunglasses that fit over my clear presciption glasses. Perhaps your Cover RX sunglasses would work for me. I am willling to buy a set to try, probably Category 3. Pls. Reply and I shall then reply to you with my credit information. Thank you, William D. Gordon. [email protected]

    • Nicole says:

      The Cover Rx-LITE is a great option to wear over prescription lenses. Our excellent return policy also allows for sufficient time to make sure the frame fits over your frames. Unfortunately we are unable to take orders over the phone. You will need to place an order online or ask your eye care provider to place an order for you.

    • Nicole says:

      Not yet, but we are very hopeful that they will be available again soon. And when they are ready, they will be available for prescription. The process to bring the best version to our customers has been long and tedious. Please keep checking back in and thank you for your patience with us.

  4. Lynn Beattie says:

    I have read all your comments on indoor and outdoor sunglasses very helpful I must say… I need the dark lenses for the sunlight. I have Glaucoma and very dry eyes. They did laser surgery at the back of my eyes. I do not need prescription sunglasses for outdoors or driving. I want to purchase a pair of sunglasses for the sunlight. I live in Queensland Australia so the sun is quite strong, I do have good sunglasses but I need a darker glass than I have
    Kind regards
    Lynn Beattie

    • Nicole says:

      Unfortunately, we cannot custom tint any of our lenses. All our lenses are infused with tint at manufacturing to make for an even tint that cannot be rubbed or worn off.

  5. Keith says:

    I am very sensitive to outdoor light. The slightest exposure to day light will give me a migraine that lasts for several days. Other kinds of light (fluorescent, etc) do not trigger a migraine for me. I have been wearing glasses that are tinted but not fully darkened sunglasses. It has been a trial and error process to get the least amount of tint in my lenses and still have enough darkness to prevent my migraines. I wear these tinted glasses indoors and out. I plan to try AXONOPTICS indoor lenses hoping they will prevent my migraines when l step outside.
    Ideally, AXONOPTICS transition lenses might be what l need – preventing my migraines when l step outside and giving extra protection from the sun as the lenses darken. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on my ideas?
    Keith

    • Nicole says:

      It is very possible that you could enjoy our transition lens. Our transition lens begins at out Indoor tint and darkens with exposure to UV rays to the same level as our Outdoor lens. Please note that we do not recommend transition lenses if you intend to drive because they will not darken in cars. Windshields are designed to block UV rays which are necessary to activate the change.

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