Fun in the Sun(glasses)Posted July 11, 2018
By this point, we all know that sunburn is no joke. Along with the painful few days you’ll spend bathing in aloe and ice packs to then shed your skin like a lizard, it can cause dangerous and deadly illnesses, like sun poisoning or–in the long-term–skin cancer. So we know to apply and reapply that SPF throughout our day, and to pack some wide-brim hats (because no one wants a sunburned scalp). But how often have you made it halfway to the shore before realizing you’d left your sunglasses at home?
A day in the sun without sunglasses means a lot of squinting and a good arm workout as you shade your eyes with your hand. Lesser known, however, is that your eyes are at just as much risk for damage from UV rays as your skin is without the necessary protections.
UV rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, along with x-rays, gamma rays, microwaves, and others. The spectrum is mostly invisible to us, apart from visible light (which separates into the rainbow). While we can’t see all the divisions of the electromagnetic spectrum, the rays can still affect us.
There are 3 types of UV rays: A, B, and C. UVC rays are the highest energy, and therefore the most harmful. Thankfully, these are blocked by the ozone layer.
UVB rays are partially filtered by the ozone layer, and, in small doses, stimulates melanin production in your skin (hence why you can leave the beach with a nice tan). Overdosage of UVB rays, however, causes sunburn, wrinkles, and skin discoloration. UVB rays can also damage your eyes by causing growths on the eye’s surface. These can cause corneal problems, distorted vision, and are unsightly.
UVB rays also cause photokeratitis, a painful inflammation of the cornea, which in severe cases causes temporary vision loss for 24-48 hours. This is commonly known as “snow blindness” (yes, you should be wearing sunglasses even in the snow!) While high altitudes are at higher risk, this can occur anywhere with snow.
UVA rays have the lowest energy of the 3, and are closest to the visible spectrum of light. As such, UVA rays can pass through the cornea and reach the lens and retina inside the eye. UVB rays cause acute damage; UVA rays, in contrast, cause long-term damage. Researchers have linked overexposure of UVA radiation to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Obviously, you can’t lather your eyes with sunscreen to protect them from these UV rays. Instead, you need a good pair of sunglasses. In order to truly protect your eyes from UV rays, your sunglasses should block 100% of UVA & UVB radiation, and should be close-fitting and wraparound. The American Optometric Association, suggests that the frames should also contour to the shape of your face. This will protect your eyes from UV exposure on all sides, including from behind. If wrap-around really isn’t your style, big frames provide more surface area of protection.
Do polarized sunglasses offer more protection? No. Polarized lenses simply reduce glare. Darker colored lenses don’t offer more UV protection, but can bleach your receptors (which impairs night vision and color perception). If you get darker lenses, be certain they have 100% UV protection; darker lenses cause pupil dilation which will let in more UV light unless properly coated.
While some cheap sunglasses may have UV protection, others may not. There are no laws with labeling requirements for UV protection, so with cheap sunglasses, you don’t really know what you are getting if they do not contain a label. Purchasing your sunglasses from a certified retailer ensures that they’ll have all the protections you need. We carry a wide variety of sunglasses, all of which are 100% UV protected and have other features, such as blue-light blocking and polarized lenses. Whether you need something fashionable for a tropical getaway or a pair to take with you on your next outdoor adventure, we have plenty of options. We make sure your glasses have everything you need in order to enjoy your time outdoors.
So next time you’re getting ready for a day of fun in the sun (whether on the alpine slopes or down at the beach), be sure to pack sunglasses for the whole family. If your time in the sun leaves you with any vision problems, contact your eye doctor immediately. And make sure you’re scheduling your regular eye exams to check for any abnormalities.