Four Reasons to Wear Sunglasses — They Help Protect Your Eyes from Disease
If you’ve ever been outside in the snow on a sunny day, you know how blinding it can be. The same is true when you’re out on a boat or at the beach.
On days like this, the sun not only hits our eyes directly, it reflects brutally off the bright surfaces. But that’s just visible light, which can hurt and strain your peeps. Ultraviolet light, which you can’t see, also affects our eyes and bounces off sand, water and snow. It’s dangerous and linked to several eye-related diseases.
Fortunately, there’s a good way to stop these rays from affecting our eye health: sunglasses.
When we use sunglasses, we protect our eyes in numerous ways — from risk of long-term disease to short-term eye strain. If you’re not wearing sunglasses, here are four reasons to start:
- Age-related macular degeneration. Wearing sunglasses can actually reduce our risk for age-related macular degeneration, a condition affecting the macula - the part of the eye that processes central vision by translating light that enters the eye into images. Macular degeneration can lead to loss of or blurry or wavy areas in your straight-ahead vision. Macular degeneration makes it harder to see faces, read, drive or do close-up work. Some studies show that sunglasses, especially those that wrap around our eyes, reduce our exposure to ultraviolet-A and ultraviolet-B radiation, which can damage the macula.
- Cataracts. Cataracts are the leading cause of visual impairment. They’re typically age-related. Like macular degeneration, there is some evidence that ultraviolet light may increase the risk of cataracts. At least one study has directly linked UV light and cataracts. People who didn’t wear sunglasses a 57 percent increase in risk for cataracts.
- Eye strain. When we think of eye strain, it’s usually associated with reading or screens. But the sun can also cause eye strain, especially when we drive. You can even get a condition called photokeratitis from exposure to the sun – think sunburn for your eyes. That’s why it’s important to wear sunglasses when you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the sun.
- Skin cancer and aging. Sunglasses can lessen the effect of the sun on the skin they cover. Depending on how big they are, sunglasses can also protect the sensitive skin around your eyes including your eyelids. All the squinting we do causes our eyes to wrinkle and sun exposure can cause further damage, including skin cancer.
Sunglasses That Block UV Rays
If you’re trying to figure out what kind of glasses to buy, your optometrist or ophthalmologist can help. Generally, you’re looking for sunglasses that offer 100 percent protection against UVA and UVB light or UV 400 protection. The darkness of the glasses doesn’t matter nor does the color. But the size does – the larger the lenses the more UV light it will filter out.
You might also choose wrap-around lenses to keep ambient UV light from leaking through the sides. This can also help protect the sensitive skin around your eyes as well as your vision.
For more sunglasses buying tips, see this helpful guide from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.