The arrival of spring and summer brings more outdoor sports and activities, which increases the exposure to the damaging rays of the sun. You know all too well the importance of protecting your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, right? Well, UV rays can damage your eyes too. Since you cannot slather sunscreen on your eyes, you have to wear sunglasses to protect them. Sunglasses should be used by everyone and are essential not only on the beach and by the pool, but are important all the time. They should be part of your daily attire since damage from UV rays can occur on cloudy days as well. Even if you are not in the sun more than a few minutes during the day, you can still be affected by dangerous UV rays.
Children are at special risk from the harmful effects of UV radiation; their eyes are not mature enough to offer protection. The amount of melanin in their eye’s iris is non-existent or not built up yet. UV rays can enter their naked eyes even easier and damage not only their outer lens but also their retina. Also given the time kids spend outside, unprotected UV exposure can build up over time and lead to increased vision problems during the adult years.
UV exposure contributes to several eye diseases. These diseases include cataracts, macular degeneration, snow-blindness, abnormal growths and skin cancer (around the eyes and on the lids) to name a few. A cataract is a hazing of the normally clear lens inside of the eye. Cataracts reduce vision and increase glare. The number one cause of blindness in the world is from cataracts. Those who have already had cataract surgery, have other retinal disorders (such as macular degeneration), or on certain medications (antibiotics, sulfa drugs, birth control pills, diuretics, tranquilizers and others) can potentially be more hypersensitive to the effects of UV rays.
Sunglass lenses come in a variety of colors and have an assortment of features. Gray lenses are considered neutral because they do not enhance contrast or distort colors. Brown lenses cause some minimal color distortion, but have contrast enhancing properties. Amber lenses have the best contrast enhancement and depth perception but cause color distortion. Polarization is a lens feature that reduces glare from reflective surfaces. This can be extremely beneficial for fishing and other water sports. Anti-reflective (AR) coating reduces glare from “bounce-back” reflections that occur when sunlight hits the back of the lens. Transition lenses darken automatically outdoors in response to UV rays (they reduce the intensity of light reaching the eye to a more comfortable level and provide 100% UV protection at the same time). Mirror coating reflects some of the light from the front of the lens before it is transmits through – making it useful in very bright conditions. Regardless of the features or color of the lens the most important factor is to make sure the sunglasses block 99-100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays or simply state, “provides 100% UV protection” or “UV400 protection.”
Need one more reason to get those sunglasses into action? Wearing sunglasses can cut down on squinting in bright light as well as offer some protection against wrinkles and the premature aging of the skin. Play it safe and protect your peepers to see well into the golden years.
Tips to Remember
- No matter the sport or activity, if the sun is out you need UV protection with sunglasses or goggles.
- Choose sunglasses with lenses that are impact-resistant and made of polycarbonate.
- Remember to outfit your kids with a good pair of properly-fitted sunglasses. They need the same protection that you do.
- Ensure the sunglasses shield the eyes from all angles to decrease exposure to reflected light and glare.
- Special features such as UV, AR, mirror coating, polarization, and transition lenses can enhance vision and protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.
– David Tang, O.D.