When buying a pair of sunglasses choosing the latest trend isn’t the only thing you should be looking out for. Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion statement but serve a more important function of protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays.
In Malta we are particularly vulnerable to UV exposure during the hot summer months, so protecting our eyes from harmful UV rays must be given priority.
There is no direct relationship between the price of sunglasses and the protection qualities they serve. Neither is there any link between the color of your sunglass lenses and the amount of UV that is filtered. Therefore, before purchasing a pair of sunglasses, do make an informed decision on whether they provide UV protection..
Also, although wearing dark sunglasses lenses might give you the impression that you are even more protected from UV rays than lighter ones, the harmful effects are even greater if there is no UV filter. This occurs because your pupils dilate, due to the dark lenses of the sunglasses, providing a larger window for UV penetration towards the posterior parts of the eye which cause more damage.
An interesting fact is that even most clear contact lenses have a UV protective coat , which prevent UV from reaching the posterior parts of the eye. However, since the diameters of lenses are small, they do not protect most anterior structures of the eye. Thus, contact lenses alone are not enough to protect the eye from UV light.
The Effect of UV Rays on our Eyes
Long periods of exposure to sunlight may leave us with several short term signs and symptoms of bloodshot, swollen, dry and photosensitive eyes. However, the most worrying aspects are the longer-term effects that are caused by gradual constant exposure to sunlight throughout our lives.
Thus, protecting your eyes as well as your children’s eyes from the sun is highly recommended. Parents nearly always remember to use sun screen but often forget about sunglasses. Kids are even more susceptible to damage from UV rays as they spend many hours in the sun during their summer holidays. A large proportion of our life time exposure to UV rays happens before the age of 18.
Another tip: do not let a cloudy day fool you, UV rays are still present so sunglasses are needed.
Exposure to UV rays can lead to significant and lasting damages to our eyes and our vision. The following are most commonly seen:
1) Pterygium: Abnormal benign tissue growth on the white part of the eye known as the sclera which may or may not affect our vision depends on size and posotion in relation to the pupil. Symptoms such as dry & irritated itchy eyes are common. Ocular Lubricants may help.
2) Cataracts: Clouding of the intra ocular lens which usually happens due to ageing. However UV light may accelerate this process significantly.
3) ARMD: Age related Macular degeneration whereby the cells giving us our central vision are damaged.
4) Growths on the eyelids which may spread to the eye and surrounding tissue.
Some may also want to consider a sunglass lens option which provides increased clarity: polarized sunglasses. Polarized lenses enhance the color and contrast of your vision by elimiating the glare from unwanted reflections. This could be especially useful if you enjoy spending time by the sea, where glare could be a nuissance due to reflective properties of the waters’ surface. Any outdoor enthustists would benefit from polarised sunglasses.
How do polarized lenses work?
Light is made up of waves travelling in different directions. The vertical light is what allows us to see an image whilst the horizontal light has a glaring effect on our eyes. In fact, glare is normally present on horiztonal surfaces such as water, sand, car windscreens and roads. Polarized lenses contain a special filter that blocks horizontally oriented light waves allowing for vertically oriented light waves to penetrate only. This effect reduces the intensity of reflected light therefore reducing glare.
Another option worthy to mention are photocromatic lenses. If you are a spectacle wearer and find yourself frequently changing lighting conditions and are having to switch to and fro between clear spectacles and sighted sunglasses then photochromatic / transition lenses could be the ideal solution for you.