Column: Why are sunglasses so important?

Published 5:37 am Tuesday, April 11, 2006

By Staff
Summer is almost here and the sunshine will be beating down. We all know we should wear sun block to protect our skin from those deadly rays, but what about our eyes? Sunglasses - who should wear them, when to wear them and why are they so important?
Why is it good to wear
Long-term exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays can slowly damage the eyes and lead to cataracts and macular degeneration, which are two common causes of vision loss and blindness. Appearance reasons also count. Wearing sunglasses helps lessen damage of skin around the eyes, it helps with squinting, which can lead to fine lines and wrinkles.
When to wear sunglasses?
Even if summer is done that doesn't mean you are done with wearing sunglasses. You should wear sunglasses on bright sunny days, bright cloudy days (clouds do not block the rays) and when there is snow on the ground (UV rays can be reflected off the snow and sidewalks).
When not to wear sunglasses?
Do not wear them at night or indoors, according to the American Optometric Association. If you can easily wear your sunglasses indoors and at night and see fine then they are probably not good enough for the daytime. Wearing dark lenses at night or inside may impair your sight through the lenses because things will be too dark.
Who should wear sunglasses?
Everyone. Remember UV damage is cumulative so you are never out of the woods. People with light eyes have less pigmentation, which makes them more susceptible to the UV radiation. What about children? The American Optometric Association says, "Parents need to add sunglasses to the list of outdoor protective wear for their children, starting with tykes in strollers". The earlier children begin to protect their eyes the better their chances of avoiding eye problems later. It can be hard to convince your little one to keep those sunglasses on their face, but remember kids are probably outside more than anyone else and therefore are more susceptible. Even having a rimmed cap on their heads will help keep the sun out of their eyes if they won't wear sunglasses.
What to look for in sunglasses
Look for ones that block out 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation.
Find ones that screen out 75-90 percent of visible light (fashion tinted lenses do not usually meet this standard). Can you see your eyes through them? If yes, then they probably are not dark enough.
Look for lenses that are the color of gray, green, or brown (gray is highly recommended).
Look for a perfect match in color and that are free of distortion and imperfections.
Look for sunglasses with the American Optometric Association (AOA) seal of acceptance.
Give yourself extra protection by choosing wraparound or close fitting glasses.
So just when you thought it was hard enough to pick out sunglasses that looked the best on you, now you have to look for all of these other things. In the long run those extra couple of minutes may be worth your eyes.
Thought of the week: Giving a smile is a great gift. Smiles bring out the best in people. Smiles make people come alive, but you have to give yours away first.- William C. McGinly
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