Rain or shine, today is Sunglasses Day! What better way to celebrate than sporting your favorite pair of shades.
Reasons to Wear Sunglasses
- UV Protection. The sun's UV radiation can cause cataracts; benign growths on the eye's surface; and photo keratitis, sometimes called snow blindness, which is a temporary but painful sunburn of the eye's surface. Wide-brimmed hats and caps can block about 50 percent of UV radiation from the eyes but optometrists say that is not enough protection.
- Blue-Light Protection. Long-term exposure to the blue and violet portion of the solar spectrum has been implicated as a risk factor for macular degeneration, especially for individuals that are “sun sensitive.”
- Comfortable vision. The sun's brightness and glare interferes with comfortable vision and the ability to see clearly by causing people to squint and the eyes to water.
- Dark adaptation. Spending just two or three hours in bright sunlight can hamper the eyes' ability to adapt quickly to nighttime or indoor light levels. This can make driving at night after spending a day in the sun more hazardous.
- Skin Cancer. Cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes is more common than people think. People should wear sunglasses outdoors whether they are working, driving, participating in sports, taking a walk, running errands or doing anything in the sun.
Five Tips for Healthy Eyes
- Wear protective eyewear any time your eyes are exposed to UV light, even on cloudy days and during winter months.
- Look for quality sunglasses that offer good protection. Sunglasses should block out 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation and screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light.
- Check to make sure your sunglass lenses are perfectly matched in color and free of distortions and imperfections.
- Purchase gray-colored lenses. They reduce light intensity without altering the color of objects, providing the most natural color vision.
- Don’t forget protection for children and teenagers. They typically spend more time in the sun than adults.
How to Pick Good Sunglasses
Here's tips for choosing shades that will protect your eyes from the sun's harmful effects.
Eye on UV Risks
Just as the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage skin, they can also harm the lens and cornea of the eyes.
UV radiation increases your odds of getting cataracts, which cloud the eye’s lens and lead to diminished eyesight. It has also been linked to macular degeneration, a treatable, but incurable disease of the macula, a part of the retina that is essential for sharp vision.
Other UV-related eye problems are pterygium and pingueculum. A pterygium occurs when the conjunctiva, the tissue that lays over the white of the eye, grows into the cornea. A pingueculum is a yellowish bump of tissue on the white of the eye.
Sunlight that bounces off highly reflective surfaces such as snow, water, sand, or pavement can be especially dangerous.
Sunglasses play a vital role in shielding the fragile tissue around the eye. This skin, including the eyelid itself, is very thin and vulnerable to skin cancer, and that’s especially troubling since dermatologists are reporting an epidemic in all types of skin cancer.
Like sunscreen, sunglasses should be worn whenever you’re outdoors, year round.
Sunglasses are especially important for children.
UV eye damage is cumulative over a lifetime so it’s important to make wearing sunglasses a habit early in life.
Children’s eyes are especially vulnerable because they’re still developing.
Protecting your eyes from the sun begins with picking the right pair of sunglasses. Here’s advice from eye care experts.
Look for Complete UVA/UVB Protection
Choose sunglasses that provide full protection against ultraviolet light. Look for a label or a sticker that says one or more of the following:
- Lenses block 99% or 100% of UVB and UVA rays
- Lenses meet ANSI Z80.3 blocking requirements. (This refers to standards set by the American National Standards Institute.)
- UV 400 protection. (These block light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers, which means that your eyes are shielded from even the tiniest UV rays.)
Choose the Right Hue
- The coating that blocks UV radiation is clear, so a darker lens isn’t necessarily more effective than a lighter one. But hue does play an important role in color perception.
- Yellow or rose tinted lenses can make it difficult to distinguish changes in traffic lights.
- Gray, green, and brown lenses minimize color distortion, and are a better choice when you’ll be behind the wheel.
Opt for Polarized Lenses If You Spend a Lot of Time on Water
Polarized lenses reduce glare by filtering out the reflected sunlight that bounces off surfaces like water or pavement. They’re a good option for boaters or water skiers, and they can cut down on glare from flat, smooth surfaces like road pavement or the hoods of cars.
The downside: It can be difficult to read your cell phone, GPS device, or a liquid-crystal display on a dashboard or ATM machine with polarized lenses.
Be aware that polarization has nothing to do with UV protection. So check the label to make sure the sunglasses provide full UV filtering.
Consider the Quality of the Lenses
Eye care experts agree that price isn’t a gauge of UV protection. But very inexpensive sunglasses are likely to contain lenses that are stamped out of a mold rather than ground and polished, and that can affect optical quality.
To test optical quality, the FDA suggests focusing on a vertical edge or line. Move your head back and forth, allowing your eyes to sweep across the lens. “If there is any wiggle in the line,” the FDA guidelines say, “then the lenses may have an optical defect and you should choose another pair.”
Bigger is Better!
- Wraparound sunglasses offer the broadest protection against UV damage because they block more of the light that hits your eyes from the sides.
- Sunglasses with large lenses and wide temples provide the next-best protection.
- Large lenses cover a wider area of skin so there’s a decreased window for UV penetration
- Sunglasses that come down to your cheekbones are a good choice.
- Sunglass frames should fit snugly on your nose and ears without pinching or rubbing. To prevent light from hitting your eyes from overhead, choose a pair that fits close to your face around the brow area, but not so close that your eyelashes are hitting the lenses.
- Whether you opt for high-priced designer sunglasses or a more affordable pair you find at your drugstore, you can easily find sunglasses that are flattering and functional. And protecting your eye health is one sunglass trend that will never go out of style.
In summary, take your time, find the right type of sunglasses for you (and your family) and be sure to wear them.