You may not be able to see ultraviolet lighting, but you know that it is there. Not only that, but you know that it is important to protect yourself from it. Until the 1930s, sunglasses were not widely available so protecting your eyes from the sun meant putting on a hat with a wide brim. Today, we understand that UV radiation can actually lead to severe eye damage, to include conditions such as snow blindness, cataracts, cancer and more. As a matter of fact, there is photokeratitis, which is basically an eye sunburn.
UV radiation because of the sun can impact your eyes in a number of ways. You can get it from the sun rays bouncing off of the water, snow, windows of buildings, clouds and even the cars that are passing by. Not all of the light from the sun can impact our eyes in the same manner, however. Roughly 95% of the radiation that makes its way to the Earth happens to be UVA rays and the other 5% is UVB radiation. Outer layers of the eyes actually work like natural sunglasses, to work at shielding our retinas from a majority of UV radiation. UVB’s get fully absorbed by the corneas in the eyes and then the UVA passes through the cornea while being filtered by the lens. Roughly 1% or less of the UV radiation will reach the retina.
UVB is the kind of radiation that is associated most with eye damage, however UVA may also play a part. Overall, UVB and UVA protection will be required as neither has really been proven as being okay for our eyes. Not everyone is able to stay out of the sun during the peak hours known for high levels of UVA, which happens to be between 11a and 4p. Wearing a hat will also provide just minimal protection along with regular sunglasses, so you need to have more protection from the harmful UV rays.
If you are shopping for sunglasses, there are several things that you need to take into consideration:
- Numbers should always be taken into consideration. This means looking for labels that tell you the percentage of UV radiation that is blocked out. You should want either 99% or 100% protection of both UVA and UVB rays.
- Fit is important. Sunglasses that fit poorly may not offer the right level of protection. You may also be less likely to wear sunglasses that are feeling uncomfortable or awkward in any way. If glasses are ill fitting, you may also get light that comes in from the sides. This is why a lot of athletes wear sunglasses that wrap around and people walking down the street wear larger Chanel glasses that don’t.
- Look at the lenses. You may think about lenses that are polarized to deflect glare, but keep in mind that they are not usually going to give UV protection. The best choice for you might be polycarbonate plastic lenses. Photochromic can also be good because they will block the UV while also offering visual sharpness.
- Functionality is always key. There are options available for people who have a tough time wearing sunglasses. If you normally wear eyeglasses, think about getting prescription sunglasses, tinting the glasses that you wear or going with clip on lenses. You will also find that there are some contacts today that offer enhanced protection.