Get the Right Sunglasses to Protect Your Eyes

Everyone wants a new pair of sunglasses to look cool, but before settling on a pair of shades, consumers should consider their eye health and how well sunglasses protect against the sun’s harmful rays.

shutterstock_430349092According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), six factors are most important when shopping for sunglasses:

Protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays. First and foremost, look for a sticker or tag indicating sunglasses block 100 percent of UV rays (UV-A and UV-B). Fewer than half of those buying sunglasses check whether the lenses protect the eyes from UV light, according to a 2014 national sun safety survey by AAO. UV rays, which cause problems such as sunburn and skin cancer, also can cause short- and long-term eye damage such as cataracts and retina deterioration.

Proper fit and facial coverage. The more coverage and better fit of sunglasses, the less damage inflicted on the eyes. Bigger is better, with oversize or wrap-around style sunglasses providing the most protection from UV rays and lessening the chance of small wrinkles developing around the eyes.

Darker doesn’t mean better. Very dark lenses don’t mean they block more rays from the sun. Again, make sure the label indicates 100 percent UV protection. Dark lenses also may make it difficult to see things such as a vehicle dashboard or phone screen, causing unnecessary eye strain.

Lens color doesn’t matter. Red, amber, green, gray: The color of lenses doesn’t dictate better protection from the sun, although some colors can increase contrast and be useful for certain outdoor activities.

Polarization. Sunglasses with polarized lenses reduce glare at the beach, in the snow, or on the water, but polarization doesn’t take the place of UV protection.

Cost. A high price tag doesn’t automatically mean sunglasses do a good job of protecting against the sun’s rays. And while inexpensive sunglasses picked up at a gas station aren’t likely to provide 100 percent UV protection, many styles of moderately priced sunglasses do protect well.

For more information on eye health and protection from UV rays, consult an eye care professional. Consumers can check the license status of an optometrist through the State Board of Optometry website (www.optometry.ca.gov).

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