Summer’s here and it’s time to get out your sunglasses. Many of us think of sunglasses as simply a cool fashion accessory. But did you know they also offer essential protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays?
Just as UV (ultra-violet) light damages your skin, so it can also harm your eyes. While some of the effects are temporary, others can cause irreversible damage to your sight.
High doses of UV over short periods can cause a condition called photokeratitis - a form of “sunburn” affecting the front of your eyes. If you’ve ever suffered from sore, red, watery eyes after a day at the beach, you’ll have had a dose of photokeratitis. Fortunately, like sunburn, the effects are short-lived – usually clearing up within 24 hours.
The longer term effects of UV are less obvious but potentially much more serious. Research shows that exposure to sunlight makes you more prone to conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. You’re also at increased risk of developing skin cancer in the delicate tissues around the eyes - particularly the eyelids.
The good news is that by wearing optical quality sunglasses you can easily protect your eyes against the harmful effects of UV. However, not all sunglasses are the same, so always look out for the “CE” mark and British Standard (BSEN 1836) that guarantee safe levels of UV protection. If you wear spectacles, you needn’t miss out, as sunglasses can be made to your prescription - even varifocals and bifocals.
Transitions & polarized lenses
Other options offering full UV protection include transitions and polarized lenses. Fast-reacting transitions lenses are clear indoors but darken outside according to the amount of available sunlight. Polarized lenses offer extra clarity and protection by minimising glare reflected from horizontal surfaces, like roads and water. This makes them particularly good for driving, as well as outdoor activities like cycling, fishing and sailing.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun when choosing sunglasses. Frames come in a wonderful array of styles, offering the chance to experiment with bright colours and flamboyant shapes. Retro styles – such as aviators and wayfarers - retain a classic appeal, while close-fitting wraparound models are popular with cyclists and outdoors enthusiasts.
To discuss your individual sunglass needs, see your optometrist for specialist advice on the different frame and lens options available.