The Importance Of Good Sunglasses

We all know that UV rays can cause skin cancer, but did you know that prolonged exposure to sun light can burn the surface of the eye which can cause a temporary, but painful condition called photokeratitis. 

Over the long term this can lead to cataracts and cancers of the eyelids and skin around the eyes. We are also all familiar with the sun’s most damaging time of day being between the hours of 10 and 2, but it turns out that for the eye the sun is more harmful for two hours prior to 10 and for two hours after 2. 

This is because of the angle that the suns rays are able to enter the eye during those times according to Ed Greene of The Vision Council.  In fact the level of UV that can enter the eye during those times is nearly twice the level between 10 and 2.  During midday when the sun is directly over head your eyes are protected because they are inset under your brow line area.

UV Protection Chart by The Vision Council

So now let’s talk about sunglasses and how to properly protect your eyes from those harmful UV rays. UV protection has nothing to do with how dark a lens is.  You might think you are fully protected by simply buying dark sunglasses, but if they do not offer UV protection up to 400 nanometers you are putting your eyes at more risk than not wearing sunglasses at all. 

The reason is simple.  Dark lenses without proper UV protection let in less visible light therefore causing your pupils to open up wide and at the same time let all that harmful radiation in.  Since the FDA does not require that sunglasses absorb any particular level of UV radiation, you might be wearing sunglasses that are not protecting your eyes and not even know it.  This is why those knockoff sunglasses you may have bought at the kiosk in the mall might be doing more harm than good. 

So for UV protection it is important to remember that color does not matter.  It is for this same reason that cloudy or overcast days do not make it safe to go without sunglasses.  The amount of UV radiation entering the atmosphere does not seem to be affected by cloud cover keeping your risk of UV exposure high.

At Hicks Brunson Eyewear we have a UV meter that we use to test the amount of UV radiation being blocked by a lens.  Having your lenses tested is the only way to know for sure that your eyes are fully protected. There is also a form of harmful light called HEV, which stands for high energy visible light.  HEV penetrates deeply into the eye to the retina and has been associated with macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of fifty according to Carol Dykas of MiddlesexCommunity College. When choosing sunglasses that protect from HEV it is important to remember that unlike UV protection lens color does matter.  Since HEV falls on the violet/blue portion of the light spectrum it can be absorbed with amber colored lenses. 

We can help you find a pair of sunglasses that will protect your eyes from UV and HEV, and that you will love wearing because they will look good too.

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