Why Are Sunglasses Important?

The weather is getting warmer and with summer right around the corner there is little doubt that men, women, and children will all soon be spending a lot more time outdoors in the sunshine.  Unfortunately, during this time of year, it is also important to remember that the ultraviolet radiation from the sun can potentially cause serious damage to unprotected eyes.  Dr. William Segal, Dr. Marc Lay, and the entire staff at Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons would like to take this opportunity to remind all of our patients that they should take proper precautions when venturing outdoors this summer by wearing properly protective sunglasses.  While many people may think of sunglasses as nothing more than stylish accessories, they actually play a vital role in preserving the long-term health of your eyes.

Why Are Sunglasses Important

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can hurt the eyes in one of two ways.  In the short term, UV radiation can damage the cells of the cornea, a transparent layer that forms the front of the eye.  This condition, called photokeratitis, is similar to sunburn on the eye’s surface and causes a painful, gritty feeling not unlike serious chronic dry eye.  In extreme cases, photokeratitis can cause temporary blindness, but this short-term damage heals relatively quickly and does not result in permanent impairment.  The real threat from ultraviolet light comes from long-term exposure.  Some ultraviolet wavelengths pass through the cornea, where they cause microscopic damage the sensitive lens and retina inside the eye itself.  This damage is usually not noticeable in the early stages, but it does not heal over time, and instead slowly accumulates.  Research suggests that the more an individual’s eyes are exposed to UV radiation the more likely that individual is to suffer from cataracts or age-related macular degeneration later in life.  This is one of the reasons why it is important for even young children to wear proper eye protection.

Ultraviolet radiation vibrates at a higher energy frequency than visible light, so it cannot be detected by the human eye but passes easily through cloud-cover that blocks ordinary light.  This means that even on cloudy days, when visible light is dimmed, your eyes are still at risk from exposure to UV radiation.  Only specially constructed sunglasses provide sufficient UV protection, but not all sunglasses are created equal.  The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends wearing sunglasses that block out wavelengths up to 400 nanometers (nm), which effectively reflects 99-100 % of both UV-A and UV-B light.  Sunglasses which meet this requirement are usually labeled as “UV 400.”  Lenses that are merely “tinted” are not enough, because even though they do block certain wavelengths of light in order to reduce overall glare, they do not necessarily block the high-energy ultraviolet wavelengths that cause damage.  At Georgia Eye’s on-site optical center, we carry a variety of stylish sunglasses that can be fitted with either prescription or non-prescription lenses.

It can be easy to take eye health for granted, but taking just a few simple precautions while enjoying the outdoors can help preserve your vision and prevent future difficulties.  If you have any concerns about your vision, or any questions about how to best maintain the health of your eyes, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons to schedule a routine eye exam. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information on how to keep your vision clear and healthy.