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 isn’t a long-term solution. 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. It might even help you avoid getting a migraine if certain types of light are a trigger for you. But with that immediate sense of relief from those dark lenses comes a big risk: the risk of dark-adapting your eyes to become even more sensitive to light over time.

A better solution to light sensitivity would be to wear light sensitivity glasses instead of sunglasses, but more on this later.

The last time you went to see a movie during the daytime, do you remember how it felt walking out of the dark theater into the sun? Especially if you’re light sensitive, it could have been 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. A similar phenomenon takes place when you wear sunglasses — especially the kind with super dark lenses — when you’re inside.

Regularly wearing sunglasses indoors over time tends to dark-adapt your eyes. This applies whether they’re your average pair of sunglasses or the darkest lenses for sensitive eyes you can find. Dark adaptation means your retinas become so used to dim conditions that when you inevitably venture into normal light, you get that painful movie theater effect. 

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 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.”

Essentially, wearing sunglasses indoors on a regular basis will actually make your eyes more light sensitive over time. And since you often can’t control the lighting outside your own home, this is bound to become an issue. Tempting as it might be to put in some really dark sunglasses and avoid short-term pain, you’re setting yourself up for more potential pain later.

Choosing Extra Dark Sunglasses for Outdoors

When you’re looking for sunglasses, your sensitive eyes might benefit from very dark lenses. You’ll also want to be assured of their quality and ability to reflect sunlight. ANSI Z80.3-2018, an American National Standard written by the Vision Council, helps to grant this assurance.

According to the ANSI Z80.3-2001, sunglass lenses should have UVB (315 to 280 nm) transmittance of less than one percent, and UVA (380 to 315 nm) transmittance of less than 0.3 times visual light transmittance. Essentially, in the United States, there are 3 categories for sunglasses:

Lens Category 1: Fashion Sunglasses (44 – 80% light transmission):

According to ANSI standards, these are not considered “real” sunglasses and are for low sun exposure.

Lens Category 2: Sunglasses (19 – 43% light transmission):

These sunglasses provide a medium level of sun glare reduction, and good UV protection.

Lens Category 3: Sunglasses (9 – 18% light transmission):

These are the darkest standard sunglasses you can get that are legal to drive with in the United States. These really dark lenses provide a high level of sun glare reduction and a good level of UV protection against strong sun or light reflected off water or snow.

Infographic. Sunglasses come in different categories for different levels of protection.

If you’re looking for Category 3 outdoor sunglasses — the darkest sunglasses for sensitive eyes — 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. While these are ideal for outdoor sun protection, be sure to reserve these extra dark sunglasses for outside, and wear only precision-tinted indoor lenses when you’re inside.

The Darkest Sunglasses for Sensitive Eyes Won’t Do Indoors — Try Glasses Made for Light Sensitivity

Sunglasses are made to darken any and all types of light. But light-sensitive people need to remember that not all lighting is created equal. Some types of light on the spectrum 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.”

“I have suffered 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.

Frequently Asked Questions 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

As you’re learning about what color tint is best for light sensitivity, don’t forget that wearing sunglasses indoors is a bad idea because of dark adaptation of the retina. The best color tint for light sensitivity is available from Axon Optics — a proprietary, improved version of the FL-41 tint, which was originally developed in the 1980s by a doctor at Cambridge University who wanted to help his patients who complained about eye strain and headaches from fluorescent lighting. 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


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8 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.

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