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Choosing sunglasses to protect your eyes

Sunglasses aren’t just fashion accessories anymore. They are a necessary protection for your eyes. Most consumers know about the danger of sun exposure to the skin, but many are unaware that the sun’s rays can damage the eyes. To correctly shield the eyes, you need to know how to select the right type of sunglasses, since wearing the wrong brand actually causes more damage than not wearing glasses at all.

a man and woman wearing sunglases

How to buy the most protective sunglasses

According to New Jersey ophthalmologist Dr Cary Silverman of EyeCare 20/20, it is important to look for the clear substance in sunshades which blocks harmful ultraviolet light. Tinted glasses without UV protection cause more harm than wearing no glasses. “When light is cut out, your pupil dilates in order to let more light into the visual system. Tinted glasses without UV protection spell trouble because they let more harmful UV rays into the dilated pupil,” says Dr Silverman.

Individuals can protect their eyes by simply wearing sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of UV. Such glasses protect the eye from both UVA — and the more harmful — UVB rays. Studies show that exposure to ultraviolet light can contribute to a number of ocular complications, including: photokeratitis or “snow blindness”; cataracts; pterygium (an abnormal growth on the eye’s surface); macular degeneration and even cancer.

“Sunglasses provide one of the best sources of UV protection,” Silverman states. “While some UV-absorbing contact lenses are now available, they do not provide adequate protection and should not replace sunglasses. Sunglasses are still needed to cover the entire eye area, including eyelids.”

Here are list of tips for purchasing sunglasses: 

  • Check for the OSHA label with 99 or 100 percent UV protection
  • Look for sunglasses that are close-fitting. These will prevent UV rays from filtering in.
  • Look for larger lenses or wrap-around sunglasses to prevent light from entering in.
  • Don’t be misguided by price — higher priced sunglasses usually reflect fashion or durability, not UV protection.
  • Dark-colored sunglasses don’t necessarily provide better protection. A clear chemical coating applied to the lens is responsible for UV protection, not the lens color.
  • UV-absorbing contact lenses should not be used as substitutes for sunglasses.

    Wear them!

    According to Silverman it is never too early to wear sunglasses. “Remember, your sunglasses will not make you look better, see more comfortably or protect your eyes when they are in your purse, your pocket or on the dashboard of your car. Get in the habit of putting them on whenever you are in the sun,” adds Silverman.

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