The Importance of Wearing Sunglasses Year Round

If you’re like most people, you know it’s important to apply sunscreen every time you go outside to reduce your risk of skin damage and cancer from ultraviolet light. But, it’s equally important to protect your eyes against UV rays each time you go outside, not just when the sun is shining.

At Eye See Ravenswood in Chicago, Dr. Andrea J. Stein works with you to reduce your risk of eye damage by helping you select the best sunglasses to protect you from UV light.

The effect of ultraviolet rays on your eyes

When people talk about ultraviolet rays, they’re usually referring to UV-A and UV-B rays. While we refer to them collectively as UV rays, they each damage your eyes in very different ways.

Exposure to UV-A rays, for example, can lead to eye damage affecting the back of your eye, impacting your central vision. Extended exposure to UV-B rays affects your cornea and lens at the front of your eye.

The most common eye problems caused by UV damage include:

  • Macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in older Americans
  • Cataracts, the clouding of your lens that affects vision
  • Pterygium, an eye growth that can block your vision
  • Photokeratitis, or corneal sunburn, a painful condition that can cause temporary vision loss
  • Skin cancer around your eyelids

You may think your risk of exposure to UV light is highest on a sunny summer day, but these harmful rays are still present on cloudy days. They can also be at their most dangerous during winter months, because they reflect off surfaces like ice and snow.

Protecting your eyes from UV rays

When it comes to eye protection from ultraviolet light, not all sunglasses are created equal. It’s also essential to understand that the darkness or shade of your lenses doesn’t always block out more UV light.

To invest in the best sunglasses for daily wear, Dr. Stein recommends choosing lenses that provide at least 99% UV protection. And, for the highest level of protection, she suggests selecting glasses with the “UV 400” label that can block even the tiniest UV rays.

In addition to picking the right lenses, it’s also important to select the right size. Those tiny lenses may look cool, but the larger the sunglasses, the more protection. To take your eyewear to the next level, Dr. Stein recommends choosing sunglasses styles that are oversized or wraparound, both of which can reduce the amount of UV rays entering your eye from the side.

An added bonus to these styles of sunglasses is additional protection against wind and other weather conditions that can cause or exacerbate dry eyes.

When you’re selecting your sunglasses, Dr. Stein also works with you to identify the best color and lenses to suit your lifestyle. These often include color choices that can increase contrast, making them a popular choice for athletes and golfers, and polarized lenses that reduce glare reflected off surfaces. While polarized lenses don’t provide more UV protection, they can increase your comfort during certain activities, like driving or being on the water.

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