Sunglasses: As Important as Sunscreen? Yes!

Why wearing sunglasses maintains eye health

High-quality sunglasses prevent damage to your eyes. And, yes, you should use them, specifically ones that protect you from 99-100% of ultraviolent rays (both UVA and UVB rays). Green Goo recently chatted with a few Lyons, Colorado-based businesses that specialize in eye care to get a few tips and tricks on the why and how of sunglasses.

“Sunglasses provide protection against burning radiation from the sun,” says Fred Seitzman of Opticus, an eyewear company that specializes in high-altitude glacier glasses. “It’s especially important when you are exposing yourself at higher, brighter conditions, where you could cause permanent retinal damage.”

In fact, short, intense and/or excessive exposure to UVB rays can either sunburn the eye (aka snowblindness) or cause surfer’s eye (aka pterygium, a growth on the sclera of the eye that can adversely affect the cornea). These conditions happen most often to outdoor adventurers, farmers and fishermen because of the additional reflection of UV light off sand, snow or water.

“With snowblindness, your cornea swells up, light scatters, and you can’t see. You can see why this would be a problem at altitude; you’re essentially blind,” explains Dr. Justin Deal, of the newly opened Lyons Eye Optometry. “You can also get degrees of snowblindness from skiing at lower altitudes.”

In general, Dr. Deal added, you get an increase in the intensity of UV rays by going either higher in altitude or closer to the equator. So whether you are going to Vail, at 8500 feet, or you're in Florida, closer to the equator, you should be extra careful to protect your eyes.

If not, other problems you might have to deal with some other significant eye health issues resulting from long-term exposure to UV rays, including macular degeneration, cataracts, skin cancer around the eyelids and more.

So what should you do? Here are a few tips.

  1. If you lose your expensive sunglasses, pick up a pair at the gas station. “It’s better than nothing,” stated Dr. Deal.
  2. But, if you can, get polarized lenses (lenses from reputable manufacturers are best). Not only do they provide better glare protection on water and snow, but they’re also built with a special filter that blocks intense reflected lights.
  3. Get polycarbonate lenses as they are inherently UV protectant. Or, make sure the glass lenses you want have coatings that block UVA light.
  4. While gray lenses technically block out more light overall than brown ones, it doesn’t make that much difference which color you go with, said Dr. Deal.
  5. Wear your sunglasses even when it’s cloudy, as those harmful rays still penetrate the clouds!

Check out Green Goo's Fashion Sunglasses; made of 100% recycled polycarbonate, they have UV400 lenses that provide 100% UVA and UVB protection.