Sunglasses are the quintessential “cool” accessory. Finding the right pair for you can often be the final touch that makes your outfit picture perfect. But beyond the “cool factor,” good sunglasses can have many great health advantages and are an incredible help in safeguarding your eyes against the elements.
“Many people know about Ultraviolet (UV) radiation and may know already that it can cause a painful sunburn on your skin. Many people do not know, however, that UV radiation can be dangerous for your eyes as well. Too much UV radiation can give your eyes a kind of 'sunburn of the eye,' called photokeratitis,” explains Dr. Rachel Cohn of Wink Eyecare Boutique in Potomac, Maryland, “and the more your eyes are exposed to UV rays overall, the greater your chances become of developing serious problems with your eyes later in life such as age related macular degeneration and cataracts.” The American Optometric Association suggests that wearing good sunglasses can significantly reduce the amount of UV rays entering your eyes, reducing the chances of photokeratitis and long term damage. Wearing sunglasses also helps to reduce wrinkles since they protect the sensitive skin around the eyes from receiving too much direct UV radiation.
Good sunglasses also significantly reduce glare off of reflective and semi-reflective surfaces. Snow, water, road surfaces and car windshields are reflective surfaces that a person may encounter every day and which reflect a great deal of light. Daily exposure to bright reflections and constant glare can do serious long term damage to your sight. Furthermore, during activities like driving or biking, bright glare can momentarily blind you, leading to potentially life threatening situations for you and those around you.
Quality sunglasses are also very important for reducing eyestrain, headaches and fatigue. Dr. Cohn explains, “The opening at the front of the eye, called the pupil, is responsible for controlling the amount of light that enters. In extremely bright conditions the pupil is unable to constrict enough to keep light to a comfortable level. This causes a person to squint in order to further limit the amount of incoming light. Muscle fatigue associated with constant squinting and the continued constriction of the pupil can cause headaches, fatigue and eyestrain.”
It is generally important to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes any time you step outside, but there are some times when this is particularly true: In summer, when UV radiation is at least 3 times higher than it is in the winter, at the beach, where reflection from the water can be quite intense, and if you've just had any kind of surgery or are taking medicine that makes your eyes extra sensitive to light.
For more information, contact your eye doctor