Exposure to the Ultraviolet Radiation (UV rays) of sunlight is linked to cataracts and macular degeneration. Even on overcast days UV rays can be reflected off of the water, sand, buildings, and cars causing damage to the eyes. Snow reflects UV rays and can double the exposure to your eyes and cause Photokeratitis, also known as snow blindness, which in severe cases leads to vision loss for 24-48 hours. Certain medications can also increase your sensitivity to UV rays no matter what the season. Living in higher elevations or spending a lot of time in the mountains or at the beach also increases the risk of sun damage to the eyes. Sunglasses can protect the eyes from damaging UV rays.
With so many styles and price points for sunglasses there is something for everyone's budget and fashion sense! The best styles are those that wrap around and fit close to the face to block sunlight from entering the eyes from the side or from above. Always make sure that no matter what style you choose or what price you pay that the lens explicitly states that it offers 100% UV protection. There are ski goggles, swim goggles, and sports frames that also offer 100% UV protection.
Even if you wear prescription eyeglasses you can wear sunglasses. There are several styles available that "fit-over" a typical pair of eyeglasses. Alternatively a separate pair of frames can be fitted with darker lenses for outdoor use. Transition lenses that automatically darken in bright light are an option for some, but all insurance plans may not cover this type of lens. Consult with an Optician to help select the best option.
If you or a loved one don't like to wear sunglasses, a hat with a wide brim offers at least some protection. For ideas on how to increase tolerance check out the MCB/DDS Partnership resource: Eyeglasses & Sunglasses: Tips for Selecting, Wearing, & Keeping Them On!
Enjoy your time outside and be safe!
For more information about UV Rays and sunglasses check out:
Kathleen Kenney, COMS is a Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist.