Summer Shiner Safety Series | Swimming Safety Tips
Make Sunglasses Safety a Priority This Summer
Sunglasses safety is an important part of choosing sun protection for your eyes. If you're overwhelmed by the choices, use these tips to shop wisely and safeguard your vision.
By Stephanie D Brown
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Aware of the harm the sun's rays can cause our skin, most of us liberally apply sunscreen for sun protection before heading outside. But what about protecting our vision? It turns out, our eyes are vulnerable to the same harmful effects of ultraviolet, or UV, radiation and susceptible to sunburn and cancer.
The importance of choosing safe sunglasses is often forgotten in the dizzying array of fun and fashion that surrounds sunglasses designs. Designer frames, celebrity trends, and silly fads often influence our purchases, and we forget the importance of sun protection. But it's essential to think of safe sunglasses as sunscreen for your eyes.
"UV radiation can lead to several dangerous eye conditions," says Jeffrey L. Weaver, OD, MBA, MS, executive director of the American Board of Optometry and adjunct professor at the University of Missouri College of Optometry in St. Louis. "Ultraviolet radiation can cause benign growths on the eye's surface, cataracts, cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes, and photokeratitis, or snow blindness, which is a painful sunburn of the eye's surface."
The good news is that, armed with the right information, you will be able to look cool and stylish and still protect your vision and overall eye health.
5 Steps to Sunglasses Safety
Here are five signs that your sunglasses might not be up to par and tips on how to make sure you are wearing a pair of safe sunglasses with optimal sun protection:
- No UVA/UVB labeling.Sunglasses must block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation. This information will be on the label. If it isn't, the sunglasses probably do not block out sufficient UV radiation to protect your eyes and vision. If possible, buy your sunglasses from a store that offers equipment that can verify the UV transmittance (or absorption) of the lenses, to ensure you are buying safe sunglasses.
- Mottled tint.To provide optimal sunglasses safety, the tint must be uniform - the lenses shouldn't be darker in one area than another. If you are looking at gradient lenses, the tint should be darkest at the top and lighten gradually toward the bottom. "Gray tint is the best choice to maintain your color perception," Dr. Weaver says. This can be particularly important for recognizing traffic signals.
- Lenses that distort your vision.To avoid lenses that distort images, hold the sunglasses in front of you at arm's length. Choose a straight line in the distance, such as a table edge or door frame, and move the sunglasses slowly along the line. The straight edge you are looking at should not break, sway, curve, or move. If it does, the lenses have imperfections, which can impair your vision.
- Not blocking enough visible light.When you look in the mirror while wearing a new pair of sunglasses, you should not be able to see your eyes. If you can, the sunglasses may not be blocking enough visible light. You want your sunglasses to block 75 to 90 percent of visible light, including "blue light" - the blue and violet portion of the solar spectrum. Studies have implicated long-term exposure to blue light as a risk factor for developing macular degeneration. "Basically," Weaver says, "the darker the sunglasses, the more visible light you are blocking."
- Flimsy lenses.Lens material should be durable."The preferred material for anyone using sunglasses in active situations - pretty much anything other than sunbathing - is polycarbonate, a tough, lightweight plastic," Weaver says. Polycarbonate lenses are impact resistant, which lessens the chances of the glasses breaking and causing injury to your eyes or your vision.
One last thing: Certain contact lenses absorb UV rays and have proven to be very beneficial in protecting the eyes.
Video: Are you protecting your children’s eyes from the sun this summer?
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