Why are sunglasses important?

Just as sunscreen is extremely important for skin care, sunglasses are crucial for the eyes. As an eye care professional, I have an obligation to inform patients about the importance of making sure people protect their eyes.

Like many South Floridians, I spend a lot of time at the beach. I often see mothers wearing brand name sunglasses (which often lack ultra-violet (UV) ray protection), while their little ones run around without any eye protection. According to research, children are at higher risk than adults to UV overexposure. Under the age of 10, the lens of child’s eye allows more than 6 times the amount of UV rays to pass through than that of an adult.

​Sun damage to the eyes may not be apparent when we are young, but it will definitely catch up with us as we age. Over the years, the damage to the crystalline lens of the eyes occurs, resulting in macular degeneration (deterioration of the most sensitive region of the retina, the macula). Also, the risk of developing cataracts and damage to the retina can result in blindness.

In order to prevent the damage to the eyes from overexposure to harmful sun rays, protective sunglasses with sun shields are strongly recommended. People with light-colored eyes are especially at risk for UV overexposure, along with construction workers, drivers, police, and anyone else who spends a lot of time outdoors. For drivers, in particular, wearing sun shields is crucial as UV rays come in from the left side. Of course, living in bright, sunny place puts you at risk, too.  

When choosing your sunglasses, keep in mind that tinted lenses alone do not protect the eyes from UV rays. The best choice is polarized lenses. Mirror lenses, which are appealing aesthetically and reduce infrared rays, are also a good option. Lastly, there are transition lenses, which are not true sunglasses, but do have UV protection. On the other hand, polarized sunglasses and Transitions® lenses are 100% UV protected, available in most prescriptions and lens materials (and come in impact-resistant material for children). They are available in two colors: grey or brown.

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