As we roll into summer, sunscreen and sunglasses are a winning combination. Sunglasses are an easy solution that makes life more comfortable when outdoors, while also providing critical protection from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. But…all sunglasses don’t provide the protection you need to protect your eyes.
Long-term exposure to UV rays can damage the eye’s surface as well as its internal structures. This damage can sometimes lead to eye conditions such as cataracts (clouding of the lens) and macular degeneration (breakdown of the macula).
Did you know that glaucoma can make eyes highly sensitive to light and glare, with some glaucoma medications exacerbating the problem even further?
A brimmed hat whenever you’re in the sun long enough to get a suntan or a sunburn, is recommended along with sunglasses to help protect your eyes from the sun. If you have blue, green, or gray eyes, you may have noticed yourself squinting into the sunlight more than your brown-eyed counterparts. Light sensitivity — typically affects people with light eyes because they have less pigmentation in multiple layers of the eye than those with darker eyes.
Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for sunglasses:
- Look for UV protection.
- Don’t be deceived by color or cost. The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the darkness of the lens or the price tag. Always choose sunglasses that are labeled as blocking 99-100% of UV rays.
- Polarized lenses block out not only direct rays from the sun but also light reflecting off surfaces such as water, snow or reflective metals. Polarization is unrelated to UV protection, so you still need to ensure UV absorption of the lenses.
- Blue light blocking.
- Photo Chromic lenses adjust with the light and can be a compromise from buying dark lenses allowing you to see well in different level of brightness.
- Wrap around frames and lenses add extra coverage and help to block out the light from all angles providing the best protection for your eyes. Some studies have shown that enough UV rays enter around standard sunglass frames to reduce the protective benefits of the lenses.
- Check lenses for quality. Look for a uniform tint, not darker in one area than in another.
Special features in sunglasses can include:
Mirror coatings. These thin layers of various metallic coatings can reduce the amount of visible light entering the eyes. They are popular in high-glare environments and when combined with the wraparound feature, they can even provide added protection to the skin surrounding the eye area. UV protection, however, is not guaranteed.
Gradient. These lenses are permanently shaded from top to bottom or from top and bottom toward the middle.
Impact resistant. While all sunglasses must meet minimum FDA standards regarding impact resistance, no lens is truly shatterproof. Plastic lenses are less likely to shatter upon impact than glass lenses. And, polycarbonate plastic, used in many sports sunglasses, is even more impact resistant than regular plastic, but scratches easily. If you buy polycarbonate lenses, look for ones with scratch-resistant coatings.
Buying a pair of sunglasses that offer little more than looks and some shade for your eyes can not only fail you at blocking out the proper amount of sunlight, but they can also cause short term and long term damage to your eyes. Bissell Eye Care carries a full line of RXable (either prescription or nonprescription) sunglasses in a variety of styles and colors.
Wear sunglasses whenever you are outdoors, whether you are working, driving, participating in sports, taking a walk, running errands or doing anything in the sun. Remember this summer as you enjoy the nice weather it is important to protect not only your skin but also your eyes. If you have any questions about proper eye protection, stop in and see us so we can help you ensure you enjoy your summer!
About the author: John D. Bissell, owner of Tri-State Low Vision Services – a division of Bissell Eye Care, offers comprehensive eye examinations for the entire family, ocular disease detection and treatment, eye glasses, sun glasses, active wear, contact lenses, and low vision examinations for those with significant vision loss. He has undergone specialized training for treatment of low vision by the International Academy of Low Vision Specialists utilizing customized telescopic eyeglasses, prisms and telescopic implants for patients who qualify. The practice accepts most types of vision and health insurance plans.