Let’s talk about sunglasses and UV light exposure. Why are sunglasses important you ask? I will tell you. We all love living in the south where the sun seems to always be shining and the weather draws us outside to exercise and play at the beach or our favorite county park.
Most people are very aware of the effects that too much sun exposure can have on our skin because a bad sunburn is not something you soon forget, but not many people think about how the sun and UV can affect their eyes. Just like we put on sunscreen to protect our skin it is very important to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the harmful UV-A and UV-B rays.
These harmful rays from the sun are what cause cataracts, macular degeneration and pinguecula/pterygium. UV light is also emitted from welding machines, tanning beds and some lasers so you need to be careful around these sources as well.
When picking out sunglasses there are a few things that you want to be aware of. The sunglasses you wear should be wrap around and fit snug to your face. The idea is to keep out as much light as possible. The lenses in the frame should block 99%-100% UV-A and UV-B rays. Typically, gray lenses are better for color recognition, but lens color is definitely a subjective thing. Polarized sunglasses are best to provide good UV protection and decrease glare which can be a huge problem while driving.
I hear patients tell me all the time that their lenses change, or transition, when they go outside, so they do not have a pair of sunglasses. Transition lenses are fabulous and I do highly recommend them, but I stress the importance of minimizing sun exposure as much as possible. Therefore, I believe that people should have both Transition lenses in their dress pair of glasses for short periods of UV exposure AND a pair of wrap-around sunglasses for times of longer exposure, like a day at the beach.
Have you ever heard the old saying, “We pay for the sins of our youth?” Unfortunately, it is true. 80% of our UV exposure leading to cataracts, macular degeneration, and pinguecula/pterygium happens before age 18. The sooner we can get people wearing sunglasses to protect their precious eyes and eye sight, the better it will be.