Sunglasses are protective eyewear with tint. People most commonly use them to minimize discomfort when it is bright outside or there is a glare. Sunglasses come in every shape, size, tint, and style imaginable.
Many people think that all sunglasses do the same things, but this is not the case. In fact, some sunglasses can do far more harm than good. Reducing the glare of bright light in the outdoors does increase comfort, but it can also open the pupils larger. This increases the number of harmful UV rays penetrating the eye.
UV stands for ultraviolet. This type of light radiates from the sun. Certain things like tanning beds or welding torches can also produce UV rays. There are three types of UV rays. Each can damage the eyes, but UVB rays are what most people should worry about. UVB rays are the culprit behind sunburns and most skin cancers. They can alter a cell’s DNA.
When people go outside, they protect their skin with clothing and sunscreen. Some people wear a hat. The cells of the retina — the area at the back of the eye responsible for vision — are just as susceptible to damage as our skin cells. Sunglasses with the right kind of UV protection are like sunscreen for the eyes.
Photokeratitis is a sunburn of the eyes. It can cause temporary blurriness, discomfort, and sensitivity to bright light. While photokeratitis doesn’t cause permanent damage, repeated or prolonged sun damage can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration later in life. Intraocular melanoma, or eye cancer, is a rare but potentially fatal possibility.
The dark tint of sunglasses is not enough to protect the eye. If sunglasses do not also have UV protection in the lenses, the tint can cause harm to the eye because it causes the pupil to dilate. This allows more of the UV rays to enter the eye.
People often think polarized sunglasses offer UV protection. While polarization is helpful because it reduces glare from shiny objects, water, and snow, it is not the same as UV protection.
A pair of sunglasses might have the right amount of UV protection, but how and where a person uses them matters. A standard pair of sunglasses might look cool but can be inadequate for high-glare situations like fishing or boating. In these cases, wraparound style sunglasses protect from UV rays reflected off the water.
Even many inexpensive sunglasses offer 99-100 percent UV protection. People can verify their sunglasses have UV protection by taking them to their optometrist. Some people opt for sunglasses that incorporate both UV protection and vision correction, and some glasses transition from a clear to a tinted lens in response to brighter light.
If you’re not sure what kind of sunglasses to choose, your vision care team can help you make the best choice for your lifestyle and needs.
Learn more about protecting eyes with sunglasses, contact Lifetime Vision and Eye Care in Miami Gardens, Florida at (305) 902-3320 today!