If your approach to choosing sunglasses is to find a pair you like, check they fit okay and then head to the checkout, it’s time to try a new tactic.
Why sunglasses are important
Eyes are even more susceptible to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays than other parts of the body actually are. Exposure, even for just a short period of time, can cause harm. While some effects such as swollen eyes or sensitivity to light may be short-lived, other damage can be more severe, and sometimes permanent.
Several serious eye conditions have been linked to sun exposure including:
- Cataracts: The most common reversible cause of vision loss in people over age 40. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens and results in blurred vision.
- Macular degeneration: UV exposure may lead to permanent damage to the macula, the area at the back of your eye that helps transmit pictures to the brain, which could eventually lead to blindness.
- Pterygium: Sometimes referred to as surfer’s eye, the tissue begins to grow over the eyeball, which can disfigure the eye or cause blurry vision and redness.
Wearing sunglasses is therefore essential for protecting eye health, even if the sun isn’t shining.
Making the right choices
When selecting your next pair of sunglasses remember these important points:
UV protection: This is the most important requirement of your sunglasses. Choose glasses that provide 99-100% protection against UVA and UVB rays, or state UV absorption up to 400nm’. This indicates the lenses have been made or coated to block harmful UV rays.
Size and fit: As with any form of sun protection, the more coverage the better. UV rays are able to penetrate gaps around sunglasses, so select designs that fit closely to your face, like wraparound glasses, and go for big frames over small ones. Glasses should be comfortable to wear and fit properly, too.
Lens color and quality: Whilst dark colors can improve eye comfort in bright sunlight, lens color has no bearing on the level of UV protection they offer. Assess the lenses carefully to see that they are fully intact and that there is a uniform tint, no dark or light patches visible on the lenses.
Special lenses: There are several types of lenses available, and often they are designed with a particular environment or use in mind:
- Polarized lenses are great for cutting glare and a good choice if you spend a lot of time in the water or driving.
- Mirror-coated lenses can help to cut the amount of visible light that enters your eyes.
- Gradient lenses have varying levels of darkness across the lens; they are darkest at the top of the lens.
- Photochromic lenses are popular with those who wear prescription glasses as they remove the need for both glasses and sunglasses. The lenses adjust their darkness according to light levels; this adjustment usually takes less than a minute.
Each of these lenses has their benefits, but you still need to check that they provide a high level of UV protection.
Visit your optometrist who can help you choose the right sunglasses for you.