With summer approaching many of us are thinking of purchasing a new pair of sunglasses as a fashion accessory. What many of us don’t realize is how important it is to purchase a pair that not only looks good but one that protects our eyes from the harmful rays of the sun. Sunglasses are essential for preventing damage to your eye by exposure to the UV rays of the sun. Over-exposure to UV light contributes to various eye problems. 

Listed below are a few of the common ocular changes caused by the sun.

1. Cataracts – When the lense of the eye gets opacified and cloudy resulting in blurred vision. 

2. Macula degeneration- damage to the retina resulting in central vision loss. 

3. Pingueculas and ptyergiums- clear- yellowish growth seen on the white part of the eye, can cause discomfort and or distorted vision. 

4. Damage to the skin on and around the eyelid- discoloration, wrinkles and skin cancer.

Risk of damage to our eyes is cumulative, meaning the danger continues to increase as we spend time in the sun. It is especially important for kids to protect their eyes. A great deal of damage is caused before the age of 18 so it essential to start protecting at an early age. Most children spend a significant amount of time outdoors.

In addition to the health risks the sun causes there is a significant amount of visual discomfort from the sun. The brightness of the sun causes us to squint and tear which then can blur our vision. The use of sunglasses will improve visual comfort and overall clarity. When purchasing sunglasses consider a wrap around style which limits the stray sunlight that reaches your eyes from above and on the sides of the frame. Look for lenses that block out 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation. Just because a lens is tinted dark doesn’t mean it has UV protection. Polarized lenses are a good choice for both protection and reducing glare. 

Even during the winter months and on cloudy days our eyes are exposed to UV light so remember sunglasses should be worn all year round. Now you can go out and buy those cool sunglasses with the knowledge that you are being proactive in taking care of your eyes. 

Written by Dr. Dawn Seewald