Sunglasses look cool, but they’re also crucial to protecting your eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays. It’s important to recognize that it’s not just prolonged exposure to the sun that can damage your eyes, but cumulative daily exposure also poses a risk.
Damage from the sun can include:
- Cataracts—up to 20 percent of the nation’s cases according to the National Eye Care Institute (NEI)
- Macular degeneration—the leading cause of blindness in the United States
- Pterygium—which leads to astigmatism
“It’s best to start wearing sunglasses at a young age,” said Elisa Bivins, a nurse practitioner with BetterMed. “UVA rays are always around us, and their effects can lead to damage over time.”
To truly deter the negative effects of the sun, it’s important to make sunglasses part of your everyday essentials.
WHAT TO WEAR
The NEI recommends wearing sunglasses that block out 98–100 percent of UVA and UVB rays, so look for full-spectrum coverage. Most sunglasses will state on the label what percentage of UVA and UVB rays they block. The key is to purchase mid to high-quality sunglasses as they tend to have better lenses and will also fit your face appropriately, leading to less light seeping in around the sides of the sunglasses.
With children, it’s important to make sunglasses fit correctly so that they’re comfortable and not slipping off your child’s face. Take the time to assure a good fit or consult your optometrist.
WHEN TO WEAR
“Basically, you should wear your sunglasses anytime you’re outside,” said Bivins. “It’s also important to remember that they need to be worn year-round. The sun can be just as damaging during the winter. Damage doesn’t just happen at the beach.”
Wearing sunglasses consistently will help you build a habit of protecting your eyes, and it has the bonus of blocking debris like pollen and sand, which can cause different types of damage.
It’s important to teach your children to wear sunglasses at an early age. Being a good role model and encouraging them to follow your practice will help them learn to protect their eyes.
So, you’re convinced you need a new pair of sunglasses, but don’t know what kind of lenses to buy? We’re here to help! A few options will have different effects on eye protection and clarity.
These lenses are highly reflective, so they’re great for the beach or snowy days. They have also been proven to add clarity by increasing contrast, especially at a distance. The important thing is to make sure you’re still checking the label for UV protection ratings.
A blacked-out lens doesn’t necessarily mean the best protection. It’s your pupil, not the lens that lets light into your eye, and a pupil straining to compete with a blacked-out lens may actually let more light in. Checking the label for protection ratings is the only way to know if the sunglasses will do their job.
Protecting your eyes is serious business, and making sunglasses part of your everyday essentials is the only way to guarantee that your eyes are protected.
“The best practice is to always wear them,” explained Bivins. “It’s also a good idea to get prescription lenses if you wear corrective eyewear. You want the sunglasses to be comfortable; it’ll encourage you to wear them more often.”