We all know about the importance of wearing sunscreen to protect our skin from harmful UV rays, but so often our eyes are forgotten when it comes to preventing UV damage. Just like our skin, our eyes need year-round protection.
There are 3 types of UV rays. Fortunately, the most dangerous type, UV-C, gets filtered out by the ozone and does not pose a threat to our vision. UV-A rays are longer wavelength and penetrate to the back of the eye, called the retina, which can ultimately contribute to macular degeneration. UV-B rays are shorter wavelength and dangerous to the clear outer layer of our eyes, called the cornea. Excess exposure to UV-B rays can lead to photokeratitis, like a “sunburn” of the eye, resulting in substantial irritation, watering, light sensitivity, and redness. Other long-term ocular effects of chronic UV exposure include growths on the conjunctiva (the white portion of our eyes), cataracts, and even forms of eyelid and conjunctival cancer.
If you’re wondering how to protect your eyes from this potential damage, look no further than a good quality pair of sunglasses. In order to provide adequate protection, sunglasses should block 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation. Keep in mind that UV protection is not directly correlated to the sunglass tint, so darker does not always mean better. In addition, the sunglass frame should sit close to your eyes and contour to the shape of your face to block as many UV rays as possible.
Sunglasses are more than a fashion choice. They are essential to keeping our eyes protected and healthy. With Spring Break right around the corner, don’t neglect your eyes, and be sure a quality pair of sunglasses are on your packing list!