Every Tom, Dick and Harry knows to use sunblock on their skin and more and more people are coming to recognize the importance of UV protection for their eyes. I have often thought I should hold classes for people to help them better understand UV protection ratings and why good lenses are important to your ocular health and well being. This is that class…
Fact #1 Sunglasses that are plastic, have face form (wrap) and sit closer to the eyes better protect your skin, lids and inner eye from sun damage.
Sunglasses that are metal often sit farther off your face and allow more damaging light rays filter in through the sides, top and bottom of the frame. UV is also reflected off the frame and inside lens surface and the “bounced” or reflected light is equally harmful.
Fiction #1 All dark lenses are UV protected. This is a falsehood of the highest order. No matter what color you want your sunglasses to be they have to have a UV “coating” in order to filter Ultra Violet light rays. The color of your lenses filters a certain amount of visible light depending on the density and color chosen. Color affects vision performance through a given lens but does not dictate UV safety. Neither ultraviolet light nor the UV protection in your lenses is visible to the naked eye.
Fact #2 Just because a lens says UV protected does not mean that lens has full spectrum UV protection. A UV400 rating is the common rating that denotes that both UVA and UVB rays are filtered up to 99% with wavelengths up to 400nm. While the Feds require all sunglasses sold in the U.S. are UV protected the level of protection from product to product still varies greatly.
When you put on a darkened lens your body responds by dilating your pupil to allow more visible light to enter your eye. Our ability to see is based on light and our pupil constricts and dilates to regulate the amount of light entering for optimal vision. When you wear an inadequately UV protected dark lens you are basically defeating your body’s natural defenses and opening the flood gates for damaging light waves to enter your eye.
Fiction #2 All expensive sunglasses provide better protection than cheaper varieties. Price has little or no bearing on UV protection from product to product. The fact is UV protection is relatively cheap to incorporate into any lens product. However, the optical quality and clarity of lenses is important for fighting visual fatigue and other eye maladies. Therefore, better quality lenses depend on greater technology and processing equipment and increased quality and processing generally results in higher prices. The more technology and refining a lens requires for overall performance, the higher the price for the product.
Fact #3 It is generally believed that blocking the blue light spectrum in your sunglass helps deter some intraocular disease. Lenses that are yellow, amber, copper and certain shades of rose act as blue light filters and create sharper definition and greater depth perception as a result. So UV400 coupled with a blue blocking lens treatment is a win, win for the sport enthusiast and persons with ocular health concerns.
Fiction #3 When the sun is not “sunny” you do not need to wear your protective sunglasses. Reality is, we are exposed to UV indoors from certain artificial light sources but we encounter most of our harmful UV exposure while outside. I have not said “on sunny days” because we are exposed during daylight hours weather the sun is visible or not. Remember, reflected light off reflective surfaces like clouds, snow and water are equally harmful.
What’s the bottom line? Regular visits to your Ophthalmologist (M.D.) or even your Optometrist (O.D.) are important to track eye health. Your Optician is the one you can trust to provide you with a selection of quality controlled optical quality products. Excellent sunglasses with full spectrum UV protection and superior optical quality provide your eyes the best protection all around. So stop whining about the expense of a good pair of sunglasses, strap them on and get out there and play hard. Your eyes will thank you and you’ll be the healthiest eyes on the beach, mountain or river.