You are almost certainly aware of the harmful effects that excessive sun exposure can have on your skin. However, a surprising number of people overlook the potential damage that UV light could have on their eyes, which in some cases could lead to temporary or even permanent vision loss.
The sun produces three different types of radiation. These are known as UVC, UVB, and UVA. UVC is the highest energy and should be the most damaging but is actually completely harmless since it is absorbed by the ozone layer. UVB and UVA radiation can reach the surface of the earth and therefore our skin and eyes, where they can have harmful effects.
Over time, persistent exposure to the harmful effects of UV light can cause a range of different effects. These include, but are not limited to:
- Photokeratitis (also known as corneal sunburn)
- Pterygium (also known as surfer’s eye)
- Damage to the retina
- Cancer of the eye
Although most UV exposure comes directly from the sun, reflected UV light can be even stronger and more damaging. For example, dry sand reflects around 15% of UV radiation, whereas fresh snow reflects as much as 80% of UV radiation. Since these reflect come from the ground rather than from above, it is essential that your eyes receive adequate protection from all angles.
It is also important to consider the time of day. Most people expect the middle part of the day when the sun is the highest to be the most dangerous in terms of UV exposure. However, because the sun is so high the eyes are actually given some protection by your natural brow ridge. It is in fact mid-morning and mid-afternoon that pose the biggest risks for UV exposure. Similarly, the eyes are equally as exposed to the damaging effects of UV light in the winter months when the sun is lower – temperature doesn’t play any role in how much UV light can reach your eyes.
The best way to protect your eyes from the sun is to choose to wear sunglasses that are proven to block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays. There are countless different types and styles of sunglasses to choose from. However, those that have been officially tested for the UV-blocking ability should have a tag or label stating that they will block a certain percentage of UV light. If you already own sunglasses that you love, but you aren’t sure how effective they are at blocking UV, you can ask your eye doctor if they will be able to test them for you – most will happily perform this service although there may be a small charge.
When you choose your sunglasses, you should also think about their design. The larger the lenses, the more protection they will afford so opt for a style that completely covers your eyes and prevents as much light as possible from entering from any angle – above, below, or at the side. Wraparound styles are particularly effective at blocking out the majority of UV light. Bear in mind that while most sunglasses are tinted, this doesn’t have any impact on their UV light-blocking ability. Nevertheless, darker tints may be better for you if you are particularly sensitive to light.
If you have a refractive eye error that means that you are usually dependent on glasses to help you see clearly, you may be able to have your chosen sunglasses created with lenses that contain your prescription. In fact, many people choose to get a second pair of glasses made specifically as prescription sunglasses. If you wear contact lenses, you will be able to continue to wear your usual lenses beneath non-prescription sunglasses.
When you shop for sunglasses at Family Eye Centers, you get more than sunglasses, you get the expertise of our Opticians. Our team can not only help you find the best frames for your face and lifestyle but also explain the benefits and lens options for each line. We can also assist with fittings, adjustments, and warranties as needed. We know that you have plenty of options when it comes to shopping for sunglasses, but our expertise and customer service sets us apart from the rest! We look forward to shopping with you, contact us today to schedule an appointment or shop our selection!