Picking shades with proper UV protection is an absolute must. Wearing poor quality sunglasses could be doing you much more harm than good. But if you thought that splashing out on expensive sunglasses would save your vision, then you’d be wrong. Today’s blog shines some light on the darker side of being out in the sun (with some images that aren’t for the faint-hearted)…
Four Nasty Conditions Bad Sunglasses Could Give You
UV (ultraviolet) light comes from the sun and we cannot see it. It’s well known that too much of it causes skin burns and skin cancer. But did you know that UV light can damage the eyes? A lifetime of wearing poor sunglasses could significantly increase your chances of ending up with one of these nasty conditions:
Also called ‘sunburn of the eye’, skiers often get this if they don’t wear goggles with UV protection. A few hours after enjoying the sun, the eye gets painful, gritty and vision becomes blurred. You look like you’ve had a pretty heavy night on the town as well:
Thankfully, with rest and eyedrops, your eyes should be back in normal order after two or three days.
Cataracts grow slowly over many years, dulling vision and eventually making sight very difficult. Although they can be removed, too much sunlight is one sure-fire way to increase your chances of getting an appointment with an eye surgeon.
This exotic-sounding condition looks pretty revolting. UV light can trigger the surface of the eye to grow out of control. Although it isn’t a cancer, it looks unsightly, can be painful and occasionally obscures sight.
4. Macular Degeneration
The macular is the most sensitive part of the inside of our eye (the retina). Excesses of UV light damages this delicate region and eventually prevents you from seeing clearly.
The Hidden Dangers of Sunglasses
In bright sunlight, your eyes will try to protect themselves from too much UV light getting in by shrinking the size of the pupils.
But when you put on a pair of sunglasses, light reaching your eyes is darker and so your pupils open up again. If your sunglasses don’t have UV protection then harmful UV light will now be flooding through your – now wide open – pupils into the back of your eyes. If your sunglasses don’t provide UV protection, it would be better if you weren’t wearing them at all!
So when you’re out shopping for sunglasses, make sure that they have UV protection. A dark tint or a high price tag is no guarantee of this either. Research has shown that because laws don’t exist yet to enforce it, many expensive brands don’t meet minimum standards for eye protection.
How to Pick Safe Sunglasses
Always make sure that sunglasses have a label to prove it meets minimum standards in your country:
- In the USA, the minimum safe standard is called ANSI Z80.3
- In Europe, all sunglasses that meet the minimum EN1836 standard carry a ‘CE’ label.
- In Australia, the standard is AS1067, and all sunglasses sold in Australia are supposed to meet this standard (but check anyway).
When you’re choosing sunglasses, style can make a difference. Large ‘wrap around’ shades generally give the best protection as they block out more UV light from the sides.
Thanks for reading – your comments and feedback are warmly welcomed!
P.S. For a useful diagram showing UV light penetration in the eye click here
Dain, S. (2003). Sunglasses and sunglass standards Clinical and Experimental Optometry, 86 (2), 77-90 DOI: 10.1111/j.1444-0938.2003.tb03066.x
The World Health Organization has a page all about the UV effects on the eye here
NASA have published safety advice for observing a Solar Eclipse. The article explains that looking directly at the sun results in extreme damage to the retina due to near-infrared light.