Sunglasses—To Buy or Not to Buy
Most of us buy sunglasses for their fashion statement. However, with so much information about the importance of UV protection for our eyes, sunglasses are now more than just an accessory. They are becoming a necessary part of protecting your vision. There are many different price ranges, color choices, lens types and styles making this a seemingly complex decision. Here are a few tips on what to look for when making your choice:
Blue-blockers block harmful radiation (HEV or high energy visible radiation, also called blue light) that could increase risk of eye damage from diseases such as macular degeneration. These lenses are usually amber and are popular among skiers, hunters, boaters and pilots who use them to heighten contrast.
Both polarized lenses and anti-reflective lenses cut reflected glare. Polarized lenses minimize the glare from light that bounces off water, the hood of your car or a shiny road, making them popular with those who enjoy water and snow sports. An anti-reflecting lens reduces glare caused by light reflecting off the back surface of your sunglass lenses.
Lens color is a personal choice and doesn’t affect how well sunglass lenses protect your eyes from UV light. Gray and brown are popular because they distort color perception the least. Athletes may choose other tints for their contrast-enhancing properties (yellow lenses are popular with skiers and target shooters because they work well in low light, reduce haze and increase contrast for a sharper image).
Because children are in the sun more than adults and UV damage is cumulative over a person’s lifetime, it is very important that their eyes be protected as soon as possible.
Remember to wear sunglasses even when you’re in the shade. Although shade reduces your UV and HEV exposure to some degree, your eyes will still be exposed to UV rays reflected from buildings, roadways and other surfaces.
Even if your contact lenses block UV rays, you still need sunglasses. UV-blocking contacts shield only the part of your eye under the lens. UV rays can damage your conjunctiva and other tissues not covered by the lens. Wearing sunglasses protects these delicate tissues and the skin around your eyes from UV damage.
If you have dark skin and eyes, you will still need to wear sunglasses. Although your dark skin may give you a lower risk of skin cancer from UV radiation, your risk of eye damage from UV and HEV rays is the same as that of someone with fair skin.
You need not fear the outdoors and sunny days, as long as you are equipped with the right eye and skin protection to reduce your UV exposure. With so many lenses available and since not all sunglasses or eyeglasses protect equally, it’s a good idea to ask your eye doctor or optician for help when choosing sunglasses.