Quality Sunglasses: Important Year RoundWhen most people hear “Let’s go the beach,” they immediately think of sunscreen and sunglasses. Not surprisingly, many of those same people hear “Let’s go skiing (or snowboarding)” and never give those two important items a thought. Every day, whether it is sunny or cloudy, we are exposed to ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun. Most of the time, we aren’t even aware that we are being bombarded with potentially damaging radiation (light). Just as the sun can damage your skin, it also can have damaging effects in the eye.

Whether you can smell the ocean breezes or the cold, crisp mountain air, you should know that there are two types of radiation in sunlight that affect the eye: UVA and UVB. UVA exposure affects the lens in the eye and has been linked to a greatly increased chance of cataract development (a clouding of the lens of the eye). UVB can cause severe damage to the retina. Furthermore, the damage from harmful UV radiation is cumulative over a person’s lifetime. Because the damage is cumulative, it is important to protect your eyes every day, in all light conditions.

UV exposure isn't related to temperature. Whether it’s cold or hot, sunny or cloudy, this time of year you need sunglasses or goggles that block 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays. The 2015 American Eye-Q® Survey of the American Optometric Association found that 47 percent of respondents do not wear sunglasses in the winter months, even though UV rays are harmful year-round. In addition, fresh snow reflects nearly 80 percent of UV radiation, and UV radiation intensity increases 16 percent for approximately every 3,200 feet above sea level.

Most people know about the effects of UV radiation on their skin; most do not understand its harmful effects on the eyes. Doctors here at The Eye Institute are hoping to change this by educating our patients. Sunglasses that block out nearly all UV light - with or without a prescription - are easily available. Eyeglass lenses with UV blocking characteristics can protect the eyes and significantly reduce the chance of vision problems caused by sunlight.

For patients who participate in snow sports, such as skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing, optometrists can discuss specialized eyewear. Some tints [for goggles] will enhance certain contours when you are in the snow. Some people report their eyes get hot and they sweat in their goggles and many times a mirror coating can help decrease a bit of that heat and reduce the temperature build-up within the goggles.

Here are some important tips when considering lenses with UV protection (sunglasses):    
  • Look for sunglasses that block at least 99% of ultraviolet rays, both UVA and UVB
  • Lenses should be gray, green, or brown - and the larger the lenses, the better
  • Wrap- around sunglasses provide an extra measure of protection
  • The best sunglasses are those purchased from an optometrist or optician. This ensures the sunglasses have the appropriate amounts of filtering for both types of ultraviolet radiation (UV) and are the best protection for your eyes while in the sun
  • Snowboarders and skiers should always wear tinted goggles, as UV light bounces off snow even on the cloudiest of days.
  • Sunglasses purchased from a department store or a street vendor may not provide important UV protection because there is no assurance that, no matter how dark the lenses, they will protect against UV rays
  • Polarized sun lenses provide excellent glare-free vision, enhanced contrast vision, 100% UV protection, outstanding color perception, and reduce eye fatigue resulting from the conditions of the sun’s bright light 
If you are planning to purchase sunglasses, make the kind of selection in sun wear and lenses that will reduce the uncomfortable glare of bright sunlight, while providing you with the UV protection so important to the health of your eyes. Ask our expert opticians in our eyewear center about the many lens options available for UV protection. And don’t forget your sunscreen – on the beach or on the slopes!