As sunnier days approach, you’ve probably started reaching for your sunglasses. Most people wear sunglasses as a way to block the sun from the 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.
Importance of Wearing Sunglasses
Here are some of the main reasons why it’s important to wear sunglasses, according to the National Eye Institute:
- The 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.
- Risk of macular degeneration- This is from damage to the retina that impacts central vision and causes blindness.
- The risk of pterygium is that it causes astigmatism. Pterygium is a tissue growth over part of the eye surface and can change the curve of the eyeball.
When buying sunglasses it’s best to make sure to find a pair that blocks 99% of UVA and UVB rays. Sunglasses 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 raysP
The American Optometric Association recommends wearing sunglasses during daylight hours in order to:
- Protect against the sun’s UV rays
- Protect against “blue light” from the solar spectrum
- Prevent squinting
- Make it easier to adapt to darkness
Protect from Photokeratitis
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. 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. Therefore, it is like having a sunburned 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
In addition, some of the symptoms of photokeratitis include pain, redness, blurriness, tearing, gritty feeling, headache, and sensitivity to bright light. A doctor can diagnose Photokeratitis by examining your eyes and using a special eye drop to look for UV damage.
In addition, 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:
- Sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays and 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, be free of distortion and imperfections, with a uniform tint
- If you wear contact lenses that protect your eyes, you should also wear sunglasses
UV protection is important for all people, especially children. Speak to your optometrist about what sunglasses will keep your eyes healthy year-round.
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