Sunglasses aren't just a fashion statement. Wearing sunglasses on a regular basis is a simple way to protect your vision and avoid common eye diseases and conditions.
How the Sun Can Damage Your Eyes
Too much sun is just as bad for your eyes as it is for your skin. When you spend time in the sun without adequate protection, you may be more likely to develop a variety of eye issues, ranging from corneal "sunburns" to cataracts. Eye conditions associated with sun exposure include:
- Photokeratitis: Photokeratitis occurs when your corneas are exposed to intense sunlight. The condition is particularly common if you spend the day on the beach or on the ski slopes, as both snow and sand intensify the effects of the sun. This sunburn-like condition can cause redness, blurred vision, tearing and sensitivity to light. You might also feel as if there's something stuck in your eyes. Photokeratitis generally only lasts about one or two days but can be very painful.
- Pterygium: Pterygium, also known as "surfer's eye", can happen to anyone who spends long hours in the sun without wearing appropriate eye protection. The condition causes fleshy, raised bumps to appear on the whites of the eyes. If the condition isn't treated promptly, the growth can cover the cornea, affecting vision, or may even cause astigmatism. Mild cases are treated with medicated drops, while more serious growths may require surgery.
- Macular Degeneration: Sun exposure may be a factor in the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The condition causes a blind spot in the center of your vision and is a leading cause of vision loss in people 50 and older, according to the National Eye Institute. Although there is currently no effective treatment for AMD, low vision aides can help you make the most of your usable vision.
- Cataracts: The sun also plays a role in the formation of a cataract, or cloudy lens. The lens of your eye focuses light rays on your retina and is necessary for clear vision. When it clouds, you may experience blurry or faded vision, halos around lights, double vision, light sensitivity and difficulty driving at night. Cataracts are removed during outpatient surgery when they begin to affect the quality of your life.
- Cancer: Cancer is another potential unpleasant consequence of sun exposure. Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, can affect several parts of your eyes, including the eyelids, iris or choroid, a layer of tissue between the retina and sclera. Common treatments include radiation, thermotherapy, and surgery.
Things to Consider When Shopping for Sunglasses
Fortunately, it's easy to reduce your risk of developing sun-related eye conditions and diseases by wearing sunglasses every day. When you shop for sunglasses, keep these suggestions in mind:
- Look for Glasses That Offer Maximum Protection. The most effective sunglasses block 99 percent of ultraviolet B (UVB) rays and 95 percent of ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, according to the American Optometric Association. Sunglasses don't have to be expensive to be effective. Both inexpensive and costly glasses can provide the same protection from UVA and UVB rays.
- Choose Gray, Green or Amber Lenses for Better Vision. Although lens color doesn't have an impact on ultraviolet ray transmission, it can improve contrast, making it easier to see in sunny weather.
- Choose Wraparound Styles. You may still experience eye damage if the sun's rays penetrate the sides or top of your sunglasses. Styles that wrap around your face offer the best protection.
- Make Comfort a Priority. If your sunglasses are uncomfortable, they'll spend more time in their case than on your face. The most comfortable glasses may not necessarily be the most stylish, although manufacturers offer plenty of attractive frames in every price range.
- Buy a Spare Pair. Sunglasses are one of the most common items collected by lost and found departments. In fact, more than 55 percent of adults lose or break their sunglasses every year, according to The Vision Council. Purchasing a backup pair will help you ensure that you're always protected.
Whether you're concerned about an eye condition, need prescription sunglasses or are due for an exam, we're committed to helping you maintain your vision. Contact us to schedule your next appointment.
National Eye Institute: Keep Your Eyes Healthy: Wear Sunglasses
American Optometric Association: Overlooking the Importance of UV Protection: Only 40 Percent of Americans Wear Sunglasses to Safeguard Vision, 5/20/13
American Academy of Ophthalmology: How to choose the Best Sunglasses, 5/1/15
Skin Cancer Foundation: How Sunlight Damages the Eyes, 12/7/12
National Eye Institute: Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration, 9/15
The Vision Council: For Millions of Americans, Missing Sunglasses Mean Harmful Exposure to UV, 5/15/12