Sunglasses have been a fashion statement — and an essential part of being cool — since movie stars began wearing them as a disguise amidst throngs of adoring fans. In addition to adding an element of style to your fashion ensemble, sunglasses do so much more than make you look good.
The expert ophthalmologists and optometrists at Paragon Eye Associates in Arlington and Mansfield, Texas, explain how sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun and other potential hazards. Looking like a movie star is just one of the added benefits of wearing snazzy shades.
Protection against ultraviolet rays and cataracts
Just as you need to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays to prevent skin cancer, protecting your eyes from the sun can reduce your risk of developing cataracts later in life. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 20% of cataracts are the result of extended exposure to ultraviolet rays.
Like sunscreen protects your skin, a pair of shades that shields your eyes from 99%-100% of the sun’s UVA and UVB radiation can keep your vision sharp and your eyes healthy as you get older.
Cataracts cloud the lenses in your eyes and can blur your vision as they progress. The only treatment for cataracts is surgery; the damaging effects to your vision are not reversible otherwise. So, it makes sense to wear sunglasses so you can avoid developing cataracts later in life, when most adults first get them.
Less risk of macular degeneration
The NEI also notes that UV rays from the sun can lead to macular degeneration — a condition in which damage to your retina destroys your vision. Macular degeneration is currently the leading cause of blindness in the United States. It’s kind of amazing to think you can help prevent blindness just by wearing a decent pair of sunglasses, isn’t it?
Hits you where you live
Living in the Southwest means more sunshine, which also means more reasons to wear your sunglasses every time you go outside. Choosing not to wear sunglasses may cause a temporary eye condition known as photokeratitis, or “sunburn of the eye.”
An eye sunburn can make your eyes red, gritty, and overly sensitive to light. Although this condition rarely causes permanent damage to your eyes, long-term overexposure to the sun can lead to serious issues like vision loss and eyelid cancer.
All sunglasses are not created equally
When selecting sunglasses as much for eye protection as for fashion, it’s important to choose a pair that adequately protects your eyes. Follow these guidelines from the American Optometric Association for maximum protection. In addition to making you look cool, remember to choose sunglasses that:
- Block 99%-100% of UVA and UVB rays
- Screen 75%-90% of visible light (the darker the better)
- Fit closely around your eyes and the shape of your face to reduce sunlight from the sides and over the top of the frames
When in doubt, consult one of the knowledgeable providers at Paragon Eye Associates for recommendations on the best lens color, darkness, and size of sunglasses that will offer you the most coverage when you’re in the sun.
Protection behind the wheel
The sun’s rays can affect your eyes through the windshield, so it’s important to wear sunglasses while you drive. A good pair of polarized lenses can also help block out glare from oncoming traffic.
Polarized lenses are a good choice for fishing or skiing, or any activity in which you’re around water or snow that reflects even more sunlight into your eyes.
Different shades for different scenes
One size and shape does not fit all when it comes to sunglasses. You may want polarized lenses to reduce glare or polycarbonate lenses to protect your eyes from the sun and potential impact. Polycarbonate lenses protect your eyes from UV rays as well as a hazardous situation at work or while playing a sport. This type of lens is impact resistant so there’s less risk that they’ll shatter and damage delicate eye tissue.
Prescription sunglasses do double-duty, allowing you to see clearly while protecting your eyes from the sun. Prescription shades are a good option for when you don’t want to (or can’t) wear contacts and sunglasses, like spending a day at the beach or pool. If you do wear contacts, it’s always a good idea to wear sunglasses, too, since contacts don’t protect your eyes from the sun.
Convinced that sunglasses are essential for optimum eye health? We hope so. Give us a call or schedule an appointment online so we can get you fitted for whichever type of sunglasses work best with your lifestyle and fashion sense.