You probably know it’s important to protect your eyes on a sunny day. But the sun doesn’t have to be shining for harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays to potentially damage your eyes and the skin around them. Don’t let the clouds fool you; UV rays can reflect off of sand, water, snow, and buildings, even on the most overcast day.
UV glasses, which protect against ultraviolet radiation, are growing in popularity as more and more people learn about the damaging effects of the sun. But while most people protect their skin, some don't realize they should protect their visionafter all, our eyes also absorb the same harmful rays. The health risks are real and include cataracts and macular degeneration. UV protection on your glasses and sunglasses lenses may help prevent the damage UV radiation can do to your eyes.
There are three types of ultraviolet radiationUV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. You probably don't hear much about UV-C because the earth's ozone layer absorbs it, making its threat minimal to nonexistent. But both UV-A and UV-B can cause short- and long-term damage to your eyes and your vision. When it comes to ultraviolet radiation, the sun poses a daily threat, but welding machines, tanning beds, and lasers can produce UV rays, too.
Short-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation without wearing UV-protective sunglasses can cause damage similar to a sunburn, but in your eyes, which may become red and puffy, or feel gritty, like you have sand in them. If you’re very sensitive to light, you may suffer from excessive tearing. Fortunately, these symptoms are usually temporary. But if your eyes are exposed to long-term solar radiation, you stand a greater risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration later in life.
Some of the more serious effects of prolonged exposure to UV rays include cancer of the eyes and eyelids, damage to the cornea and retina, and cataracts. You might also develop pterygium (an abnormal growth on the surface of the eye) and photokeratitis (sunburn of the eye). Some of these conditions are not treatable, so prevention is the most important weapon you have to fight against them.
UV damage is cumulative through your lifetime, so it is especially important to make sure children and teenagers are adequately protected. Around 1/4 of UV damage to your eyes occurs before the age of 20. For kids, increased periods outdoors in the summer months are prime times for heightened UV exposure. And for adults, activities like competing in marathons, with the associated hours of training, can be dangerous for the eyes. UV protection sunglasses are essential for keeping your eyes healthy throughout your lifetime.
UV protection means blocking the ultraviolet light from reaching your eyes. Just as sunscreen helps protect your skin from UV damage, UV glasses block most of the ultraviolet rays reaching your eyes. With the right protection, it's possible to block 99 to 100 percent of ultraviolet rays from reaching your delicate eyes and causing damage.
UV sunglasses, however, must offer both UV-A and UV-B protection to block at least 99 percent of ultraviolet radiation. They should also block 75 to 90 percent of all visible light to maximize protection. Be cautious of buying sunglasses that are not UV-blocking glasses. The dark tint may allow your pupils to remain larger, exposing you to more harm from UV radiation. And anybody who spends a lot of time outdoors should consider wearing wraparound UV glasses to cut down the amount of UV radiation that may enter the eyes from the periphery.
In most cases, yes. Choose sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection and they will also absorb most of the blue light, also known as HEV rays. The color of the lens matters most for protection against HEV light. Opt for lenses that are bronze, copper, or reddish brown for the most protection against HEV rays.
The results of a study conducted by scientists at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil indicate that the current means of testing provide inaccurate measurements of how quickly sunglasses’ UV protection deteriorates. Their experiments were specific to Brazilian consumer standards, but the fact that the results were inconclusive speaks to broader eyewear industry concerns: There is no definitive evidence that UV protection sunglasses maintain full strength over time, and insufficient testing at an international level may leave consumers vulnerable to UV exposure.
Since even the best UV sunglasses on the market have not been scientifically proven to maintain full protective strength over time, as researchers work to improve testing standards, regular wearers of UV protective sunglasses can best protect themselves in the long term by replacing their eyewear every several years. When shopping for the right style, make sure to consider the fit and temple coverage as well. These elements can contribute additional protection for those regularly exposed to heavy, direct sunlight.
No. The difference between the terms polarization or polarized sunglasses, and UV sunglasses, confuses some people. But polarization and UV protection are not the same thing, even if some companies advertise them together. Polarization refers to a lens’ ability to reduce haze and glare in bright sun, and polarization alone does not protect your eyes from UV radiation. While most polarized lenses are also UV-blocking glasses, make sure that both features are included. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, "polarization is unrelated to UV protection, so you still need to ensure UV absorption of the lenses."
Ideally, you want sunglasses that offer UV400, which means they block 100% of UV rays.
No amount of cleaning or exposure to heat will affect the protective qualities of sunglasses with UV protection embedded in the lenses. Choose a brand known for the quality of its lenseslike Wiley X, Maui Jim, or Ray-Banfor sunglasses that come standard with UV protection.
Not all glasses come with UV protection. It's important to choose everyday prescription lenses equipped with a UV coating. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says "UV coatings on prescription clear lenses are as effective as those on sunglasses." The AAO points out that it is not the dark tint that blocks the UV radiation, but the UV coating that is applied. Also, the type of lens material matters. According to the AAO, polycarbonate lenses and other high-index plastics, like Trivex, offer 100% UV protection. Photochromic lensesthose that darken when exposed to direct sunlighthave UV protection embedded in the lenses. But regular plastic lenses must have the coating added to be considered UV blocking glasses.
Thankfully, adding a UV coating to your Rx lenses is easy, and often comes free with the lenses you order from FramesDirect.com. Our clear, protective lens coating blocks 100% of harmful UVA and UVB rays and comes standard on all polycarbonate and high-index lenses. Without changing the color of the lens, the coating will completely defend your eyes against UVA and UVB rays.
Make sure you purchase sunglasses with UV protection, or you're risking eye problems later in life. And when you get regular prescription glasses, opt for the UV coating to better protect your eyes all the time.
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