Hope springs eternal as we long, more than ever, to get outside. Many of us start to think about wearing sunglasses when the weather starts to warm up. The truth is, damaging ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun occurs throughout the year, not just in spring and summer. UV light is invisible to the human eye, making it hard for us to avoid it.
The sun’s intense UV radiation has negative effects on our eye health. It speeds up cataract changes (opacities in the lenses in our eyes) and can worsen macular degeneration (the central part of the retina where we have our sharpest acuity). In addition, UV light can create benign growths on the eye’s surface and cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes.
Adults and children should make sure they protect their eyes by wearing sunglasses outdoors whenever they are doing anything in the sun. Even on cloudy or overcast days, sunglasses are essential because the sun’s UV rays can penetrate the clouds. Sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the cumulative effects of lifelong UV radiation exposure.
A benefit to those of us who must wear prescription spectacles all of the time is that even clear lenses can and do block some UV light. Spectacle lenses are made of different materials. They are no longer made out of glass because, despite the excellent optics of glass, glass shatters and is unsafe. Polycarbonate (recommended for all children considering they are the most shatter-resistant) and high-index lenses block almost 100% of UV radiation. Another clear material is CR-39 which blocks some UV but not as much as other materials. However, CR-39 provides excellent clarity. If your optician feels CR-39 is the best lens material for your spectacles, adding additional UV coating is recommended and will then give you 100% protection from UV light.
Buying sunglasses is about more than just fashion; you need to make sure they protect your eyes properly, but the different options can be confusing. Most sunglasses are made of polycarbonate material and, as such, will provide great protection. The darkness of the lenses is up to personal taste and comfort. Darker sunglasses will not offer any added protection. Some sunglasses add coatings so that they block even more UV. These lenses will give extra protection and are called UV400.
The bottom line is to choose sunglasses that state they block 100% UVA and UVB rays or are labeled UV400 for optimal protection.
If you wear contact lenses, we do recommend that you wear sunglasses over them when outside.
At dusk and dawn, be careful if using sunglasses as they do limit the amount of light reaching our eyes. For maximum perception at night, we need as much light as possible. Don’t wear sunglasses or “amber” lenses at night, especially if driving.
Be sure to see your eye doctor regularly for a comprehensive eye examination. It is a good way to monitor your eye health, maintain good vision and keep current with new advances in eye protection. Visit the Atrius Health website for more information about our optometrists, who provide adult and pediatric eye care services.
And check out our optical shops! Our opticians can help you find the best lens designs, materials, and frames for you.