Why It’s Important to Wear Sunglasses

June 5th, 2018

As sunnier days approach, you’ve probably started reaching for your sunglasses. Most people wear sun glasses as a way to block the sun from eyes or as a fashion accessory, but sunglasses are very important to your eye health. Much in the same way that the sun’s rays are damaging to your skin, they can have a detrimental effect on your eyes. Here are some of the main reasons why it’s important to wear sunglasses, according to the National Eye Institute:[1]

  • Risk of cataracts, also known as a clouding of the eye’s lens that can blur vision, can be caused by extended UV exposure — an estimated 20% of cases are caused by exposure to the sun[2]
  • Risk of macular degeneration, which is from damage to the retina that impacts central vision and causes blindness
  • Risk of pterygium, which is a tissue growth over part of the surface of the eye and can change the curve of the eyeball, causes astigmatism

When buying sunglasses it’s best to make sure to find a pair that blocks 99 to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Sun glasses that don’t block UV rays may offer some relief from visible light and reduce your need to squint, but do not protect your eyes from the suns damaging rays

The American Optometric Association[3] recommends wearing sunglasses during daylight hours in order to:[4]

  • Protect against the sun’s UV rays
  • Protect against “blue light” from the solar spectrum
  • Prevent you from having to squint
  • Make it easier to adapt to darkness

When you’re out and about or enjoying outdoor summer activities, it’s also important to protect your eyes from Photokeratitis, also known as snow blindness. Photokeratitis is like having a sunburned eye.[5] It affects a thin layer of the cornea and the conjunctiva, which is the cell layer that covers the insides of the eyelids and the whites of the eye. Photokeratitis can be caused by the sun reflecting off of sand, water, ice and snow. You are also at risk if you stare at the sun during a solar eclipse without a special device. Since you can‘t apply sunscreen to your eyes, wearing Polarized Sunglasses that repel harmful UV rays is essential to prevent Photokeratitis

Some of the symptoms of photokeratitis include pain, redness, blurriness, tearing, gritty feeling, headache, sensitivity to bright light, and more. A doctor can diagnose Photokeratitis by examining your eyes and using a special eye drop to look for UV damage.

Treatment for Photokeratitis can be as simple as placing a cold washcloth over your eyes, using artificial tears, taking pain relievers and using eye drop antibiotics. The best prevention is wearing sunglasses that block UV rays.

How can you choose sunglasses that protect your eyes? The American Optometric Association recommends finding:[6]

  • Sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays
  • Sunglasses should screen 75 to 90 percent of visible light
  • The frames need to fit close to your eyes and contour the shape of your face
  • Lenses should be matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection with a uniform tint
  • If you wear contact lenses that protect your eyes, you should also wear sunglasses[7]

UV protection is important for all people, especially children. Speak to your optometrist about what sunglasses will keep your eyes healthy year-round.


[1] https://nei.nih.gov/hvm/healthy_eyes_glasses
[2] https://nei.nih.gov/hvm/healthy_eyes_glasses
[3] https://www.aoa.org/newsroom/do-your-sunglasses-really-protect-your-eyes-from-the-sun-x6717
[4] https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=167712
[5] https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/photokeratitis-snow-blindness
[6] https://www.aoa.org/newsroom/do-your-sunglasses-really-protect-your-eyes-from-the-sun-x6717
[7] https://www.aoa.org/documents/public/AOA_Sunglasses_Fashion-Function_8%205×11.pdf

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