Sunglasses aren’t just for looking cool. The good ones protect your eyes from the harmful effects of UV rays. The wrong ones, however, can actually allow more UV light in.
According to a survey from American Optometric Association (AOA), 47% of consumers do not check the UV protection level of the sunglasses they buy.
This is bad, since dark glasses cause us to squint less, and let more light in. If that dark glass isn’t treated to filter out UV light, we can unwittingly let more of the harmful rays into our eyes.
So, wearing sunglasses without sufficient UV protection can actually be worse than not wearing any sunglasses at all.
The harm caused by excessive UV light has both short- and long-term impacts on our eyes. Even a short-term exposure to excess UV light can cause photokeratitis, or “sunburn of the eye.”
Longer-term, we risk developing serious conditions like cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, pterygium (an abnormal growth of the white of the eye onto the cornea, or clear window at the front of the eye) and cancer of the eyelids, skin around the eye and even the eye itself.
The AOA is offering this “Sunglasses Shopping Guide” to help you pick the right glasses:
- Be sure your sunglasses block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B rays. While some contact lenses also offer UV protection, these should be worn with sunglasses to maximize protection.
- Your sunglasses should screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light.
- The frame of your sunglasses needs to fit close to your eyes and contour to the shape of your face. This prevents exposure to UV rays from all sides, even from behind.
- Pick lenses that are perfectly matched in color and are free of distortion and imperfection.
- Lenses should also have a uniform tint, not darker in one area from another. The AOA suggests a gray tint, which is particularly helpful when driving as it offers the best color recognition.
Buy the right sunglasses, but by all means buy new ones frequently. As your sunglasses age and get worn with use, they can lose the UV-blocking coatings they once had. So, even glasses that passed the AOA checklist can become useless, or worse, over time.