The Importance of Sunglasses

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Sunglasses are an important accessory and not just in the summer months. This is the time of year that everyone will seek out their favourite pair to look good in the sunshine or pack in their suitcase ready for their holiday.

Today in the USA it’s National Sunglasses Day which promotes the importance of wearing sunglasses and protecting your eyes from the sun. In honour of this, Health Shield want to help you be more aware of the damage that the sun can do to your eyes and how you can look after your health and wellbeing.

The sun has ultraviolet (UV) rays that can cause serious damage to your eyes with constant exposure. The sun’s UV rays are much intense when you are closer to the equator, but the sun’s rays enter the atmosphere everywhere at all times of the day, and you’ll also find that certain cities around the world are at risk of higher levels as they are at a higher altitude so it’s good practice to always take care of your eyes, no matter where in the world you may be.

It’s tempting to spend the day in the sun when it’s warm outside, but you must remember your sunglasses whenever you do.

How can the sun affect my eyes?

A lot of the information you read about how the sun can affect your eyes can be daunting, however too much sun exposure to the naked eye can cause blindness so it’s better to be safe than sorry. The sun produces three different types of UV rays, UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC rays are absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere, UVB rays have a small percentage of rays that make it through to the Earth’s surface whilst all UVA rays reach us here on the ground. UVA rays can pierce the outer and middle layers of your skin and damage your retina, whilst UVB rays are the prime cause of sunburn and can also increase the development of cataracts.

Short-term damage often appears after those long days in the sun without your sunglasses. Anything up to 24 hours afterwards, you may get swollen eyes, blurred vision or sensitivity to light. These symptoms should get better quite quickly but if you are worried please see your GP.

Long-term damage can include cataracts, tissue growth on the eye or in some cases blindness. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a deterioration and limitation of vision which makes it hard to perceive detail. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this and it is a leading cause of blindness in adults. There is no clear link between this and UVA radiation but there is research suggesting so, so wearing your sunglasses is the best place to start when protecting your eyes.

The skin around your eyes is also very sensitive especially to sunlight and almost 10% of all skin cancers are found around the eye area. So it is always wise to look after the health and wellbeing of not just your eyes, but also your skin.

How do I protect my eyes?

Simply put, wear your ‘sunnies’. Summer, winter whatever time of year, if the Sun is out cover your eyes. Adults and children alike, whatever time of day, sunglasses are essential.

If you have bought the right pair of sunglasses, your whole eye will be covered and they will offer both UVA and UVB protection.

Your lens options are quite extensive so there is no reason not to have the correct ones. There are a good variety of options, from anti-reflective coatings to mirror coated lenses that reflect light including infrared and heat rays. You may find that some contact lenses offer UV protection but this is not sufficient on their own. You will need to wear sunglasses too.

Don’t forget that the sun reflecting off snow and wet roads is just as damaging. Glare from the sun in these circumstances can still burn the cornea. If you are skiing, please ensure that your sunglasses cover the bottom of your eyes too due to the nature of the reflection from the snow.

Your eyes will also be affected by sand and dust. This can be painful and can scratch your eyes. Again sunglasses will protect them from this.

Even those who enjoy fishing can benefit from a good pair of sunglasses — the right pair that reflect the sun’s glare will help you see beneath the surface of the water and notice life beneath that you never saw before.

If you have had corrective eye surgery you should be advised to wear sunglasses straight after and be more vigilant in wearing them in the future as your eyes will be extra sensitive.

Other reasons to wear your sunglasses more often include allowing you to drive more safely, the prevention of headaches and migraines and simply because they are stylish.

Get on board with the USA and celebrate National Sunglasses Day.