Elsabe de Koker Optometrists Blog

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How can sunglasses protect your eyes?

The sun can damage your eyes in numerous ways; cheap sunglasses that you purchased as a fashion statement may end up costing you more than you paid for those shades - they could cost you your eye health.

As summer approaches, the sun is in the sky longer, practitioners and experts are warning that not all sunglasses can protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) light. The biggest danger with poor sunglasses is if the glasses are tinted but do not block the UV rays. The tinting in the glasses causes the pupils to dilate since it is perceived as being darker, without the UV blocking. Then more ultraviolet radiation can enter the eye. Ongoing exposure to UV light can have major consequences on the health of your eyes.

Eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, ocular melanoma, and eyelid cancers may be caused by over exposure UV exposure via the eyes. Even sunburn of the eye (photokeratitis), like sunburn that you might experience on your skin, is possible. The more your eye is exposed to UV radiation without the correct sunglasses, the greater the risk of developing one of these conditions. The UV rays not only cause uncomfortable glare but can cause damage to eye health and the delicate skin area that surrounds your eyes. It’s been shown that 5 to 10 percent of all skin cancer occurs in the eye area, so opting for a pair with polarization and UV protection is extremely important.


What should sunglasses actually do?

Look for sunglasses with a sticker or tag that promote their UV-blocking capabilities. Your sunglasses should provide at least 99 to 100 percent protection against both UVA and UVB rays. You also want to look for sunglasses that feature an anti-reflective treatment on the backside of the lenses. Up to 50 percent of UV rays that reach the eyes come from reflection off the back surface of the lens.

It would be best when looking for frames that they fit your face well and cover as much of the delicate skin around your eyes as possible. Wraparound-style glasses or surf-style glasses with larger temples block more than thin-framed glasses and help to protect you from the side. It is imperative to remember when you are out on the water, or other reflective surfaces, that you are getting exposed to the UV rays from above and those reflected from below. Having sunglasses that fit appropriately will protect your eyes from various angles.

The more protective factors you have — polarization, polycarbonate lenses, titanium frames — the higher your cost may climb. However, keep in mind that many people wear their sunglasses daily, and you are investing in the long-term health of your eyes.

Reputable stores brands want you to know how great their sunglasses are and will promote their sun-protection factor and many other protective benefits. Some will even work with you to find the right fit for your face.