Sunglasses are not just a fashion accessory. By now, you are likely familiar with the countless benefits sunglasses offer your eyes, vision, and the skin around your eyes. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, specifically UV-A and UV-B radiation, have serious and sometimes irreversible effects on the appearance and function of your eyes (cataracts, macular degeneration, pterygiums, and dry eye, just to name a few). Thankfully, UV protective lenses help protect us against those diseases! They also help prevent the skin around your eyes against premature aging, which for some people is reason enough to keep their sunglasses handy at all times! Here we hope to offer you a bit more insight into sunglasses and eye protection, because there is more to sunglasses than meets the eye:
1. Nothing shady about this
Everyone can see the benefits of sunglasses when you are walking around on a bright sunny day at the beach, but we sometimes forget that UV protective lenses should still be worn even if you are in the shade, or are wearing an appropriate hat. UV rays reflect from the surfaces all around, reach our eyes, and are still very damaging to the external and internal structures of our eyes, even on an overcast day! Don’t use shade as an excuse, and wear your sunglasses anytime you are outdoors in daylight.
2. UV-protective lenses that are clear
Did you know that your lenses do not need to be darkly tinted to offer you protection from damaging UV rays? Although a nice dark gray tint offers further comfort, the UV protective factor can be built into your lenses with or without the tint. This is great news for those of us that wear glasses on a regular basis and don’t always have the chance to switch to our prescription sunglasses when we are stepping out to grab a quick cup of coffee, or lunch with a friend. Ask your eyecare provider about Polycarbonate or Trivex® lenses that are impact resistance and also help offer you UV protection when your sunglasses are not around. As a result, your lenses will still look clear, but continue to offer you protection from harmful sun rays.
3. Wear what you love
As doctors, year after year we can list out the many diseases that you will be at risk for unless you protect your eyes, but the truth is that if you don’t love your sunglasses, you will not wear them as often as you should be. So live a little! Go with a pair of sunglasses that you love! Maybe purchase a pair with wooden temples (the part of the sunglasses that extends to your ears. Often referred to as the “arms” of the frame). It will remind you of a stroll in the woods or a day at the beach. Or how about a pair with a couple of flowers or colorful crystals? Try one on and you’ll see the instant spark it will add to your outfit of the day! Give yourself a reason to fall in love with your sunglasses, and that will help ensure that you’ll never be caught in the sun without them.
4. Sunglasses are not only for outdoors
Most of us are fairly great at remembering to wear sunglasses anytime we are outdoors in daylight (keep up the great work!), but keep in mind that certain eye infections, recent ocular surgeries, or even severe migraines, can cause severe light sensitivity (photophobia!) and therefore pain with any exposure to light. This often means they will have to wear sunglasses even in a moderately lit indoor environment. The sunglasses help keep their pupils from further constricting and allow them to tolerate the indoor lighting much better.
5. Don’t forget the little ones:
Nothing makes me happier than seeing pictures of loved ones on social media where the entire family is wearing sunglasses! This was not always the case years ago, but thankfully times have changed as more and more doctors are recommending eyewear with UV protection for infants and children. And many eyewear companies have noted the demand and are now designing entire lines of their products specifically for children. This is great, because young members of our families often actually spend more time in the sun than adults do. So the next time you are out buying a gift for your niece or grandchild, consider stopping by your local eyecare provider and picking up a great pair of children’s sunglasses. Their future healthy eyes will thank you!
Dr. Lernik Torossian is an optometrist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She is residency trained and Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry.