Extended exposure to UV rays can cause a variety of optical issues. These include cataracts, macular degeneration and pterygium — a tissue growth over the whites of the eye that causes astigmatism — all which seriously affect your vision.
Just in time for San Diego’s bright, sunny summer, Dr. Jennifer Tam, an optometrist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, answers five questions about sunglasses, from when to wear them to how to choose them.
Who should wear sunglasses?
Ideally, you should start wearing sunglasses as a baby. Not only are baby sunglasses super cute, but babies’ and children’s eyes actually allow more solar radiation to pass through than adult eyes, which can lead to various eye health conditions.
When should we wear sunglasses?
You should wear sunglasses whenever you are outdoors to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, whether it’s a sunny or cloudy day; UV rays can still be emitted through clouds. Sunglasses are also perfect to enhance your vision during various activities, such as playing sports — fishing, running, skiing, snowboarding and golfing — and even when we are driving during the day or night.
What should we look for when purchasing sunglasses?
It is definitely worth investing both time and a little money when purchasing sunglasses. There are lots of options to consider and inexpensive sunglasses may cause eye strain and a distorted view due to poor lens integrity.
Here’s what to think about when choosing your shades:
- UV protection — Make sure you never settle for less than 100% UVA and UVB protection. Think of UV protection in glasses like sunscreen: the more you have, the better off you are in protecting your eye health and eyesight.
- Lens color — The color of lens tint can make a big difference. Gray tints will block more brightness and glare, which is perfect for sunny days and trips to the beach. Brown, copper, amber or yellow tints — known as blue blockers — will improve contrast and are suitable for activities including snow sports, golfing, hunting and even night driving. Gray and brown tints are the most common for general wear.
- Polarization — Polarized lenses help reduce glare caused by reflections off various surfaces by not only blocking the glare angle from the sun to your eyes, but also from the angle of the ground to your eyes. Outdoor sports, such as running, fishing and boating, and even driving are perfect reasons to consider polarized lenses. This promotes better quality and comfort of vision.
- Materials — The materials the lenses are made of should also be considered. Glass is the sharpest in optical quality and scratch-resistant, but is heavier, expensive and can break or chip easily. Polycarbonate and Trivex are known for their shatter-resistant properties, provide great optical clarity compared to glass, and are lighter in weight and much more affordable.
Absolutely. Sunglasses can provide better glare control, visual comfort and enhanced UV protection. There are options for people who already wear prescription glasses beyond the obvious second pair of sunglasses. These include photochromic lenses, which adjust and darken depending on their exposure to direct UV light, and clip-on or magnetically attached sunglasses accessories that can be placed directly on the frame of prescription eyeglasses.
What are the dangers of not wearing sunglasses?
There are many dangers related to not protecting your eyes from the sun. These include the following:
- Skin cancers of the eyelid and area around the eye
- Sun damage on the eye (pterygium)
- Sunburn on the surface of the eye (photokeratitis)
- Possible retinal damage (macular degeneration)