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Do Sunglasses Protect Our Eyes from Radiation?

We all have our favorite pair of shades. Aside from adding to our overall “cool” factor and making it easier to see on particularly sunny days, sunglasses are highly functional for our overall eye health. We would like to provide you with more information on what sunglasses protect us from and how to choose the right sunglasses to maximize protection of your eye health.

Please note that UV radiation is just as harmful in the winter as it is in the summer. You should be diligent in protecting your eyes with sunglasses year-round.

How UV Radiation Affects Our Eyes

At this point it’s no surprise that ultraviolet (UV) radiation is harmful to humans in more ways than one. For starters, it’s the leading cause of skin cancer, ages our skin prematurely, dehydrates us, etc. There’s more itthan sunburn, cancer and early aging, however. UV radiation from the sun can damage our eyes in different ways with both short-term and long-term exposure.

Short Term UV Damage

A large amount of exposure to UV radiation over even just a few hours can cause permanent damage to our eyes. Sunburn of the eye, also known as snow blindness or Photokeratitis, affects the surface of our cornea and conjunctiva. Photokeratitis can cause red eyes, pain, blurriness, tearing, grittiness in the eye, swelling, headache and even temporary vision loss. Your doctor can diagnose Photokeratitis by understanding recent activities you’ve partaken in, examining your eyes and using fluorescein dye to determine whether UV damage is present in your eye. Photokeratitis can usually be treated through resting your eyes, using artificial tears and applying antibiotic eye drops if necessary. If you are experiencing significant discomfort, apply a cold compress on the eyes and ask your doctor about pain killers you can use for relief.

It’s important to note that even if you are careful to avoid the sun, Photokeratitis can result from exposure to UV radiation that is mirrored on light reflecting surfaces such as water, ice, white sand and snow.

Long Term UV Damage

Long-term exposure to UV radiation can be much more harmful than the temporary impairments caused by Photokeratitis. UV radiation can cause the following long term eye damage:

  • Macular degeneration (common), or loss of vision in the center of your field of vision.
  • Cataracts (common), or cloudy areas on the lens of your eye.
  • Pterygium (very common), which causes growth of the white of the eye over the cornea.
  • Cancer of the eye (uncommon) in the form of melanoma, lymphoma or intraocular cancer.

What to Look for in Sunglasses

There are a lot of sunglasses in the world to choose from, but how do you know which ones will actually protect your eyes? No need to fret, we will tell you exactly what you should be looking for.

UV Coating — As you can guess, UV coating protects against UV rays that would otherwise interact with your eyes and cause sometimes irreversible damage. UV damage accumulates over the years, so it’s best to always keep a pair of UV protecting sunglasses at hands reach.

Mirror Layer — Have you ever had a pair of sunglasses that allows you to see without squinting on even the sunniest days? There’s a high chance these sunglasses have a mirror layer. The mirror layer is the first part of the sunglasses that sunlight engages with. This layer reflects back most of the direct sunlight your eyes would normally engage with. This helps avoid unnecessary squinting, eyestrain, headaches and any other ailments that are caused by sun exposure.

Polarized Lenses — Polarized light is the light that reflects off of snow or ice, causing glare, added eyestrain and can make it difficult to see clearly. Polarized lenses block reflected light, making your day-to-day activities easier. Note: polarized lenses do not filter UV rays.

Trustworthy Brands

When you’re looking to buy sunglasses, you have thousands of options, which can make it difficult to narrow down which brands are trustworthy. With keeping trends in mind, our recommendations are the following:

  • Woodies ($$) — 100% UV protection, all sunglasses are polarized, unisex, well-built
  • Ray Bans ($$$$) — 100% UV protection, high quality, for the everyday minimalist
  • Quay ($$$) — 100% UV protection, lightweight, very trendy, great value considering the high quality

By now you know that UV protection isn’t just for your skin. Invest in a few great pairs of sunglasses to protect your eyes in the long run. If you’re looking for prescription sunglasses, come visit us, and we’ll help you find the perfect pair. Friendly reminder: Don’t forget your kids! Buy your children sunglasses that fit comfortably on their faces and teach them to care for their eyes while they’re young.

Have your eyes been exposed to UV radiation more than you’d like to admit? If you are worried about your eye health, contact us today to schedule an eye appointment so we may assess further.