While we value sunglasses as a fashion accessory, their most important function is protecting our eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Exposure to UV radiation can lead to a number of eye conditions and diseases. Making sunglasses with proper UV blocking capabilities a normal part of your daily wardrobe is vital for maintaining eye health now and into the future.
UVA and UVB: The Risks
Sunlight consists of visible light, as well as invisible ultraviolet light waves just outside the visible spectrum. UV light is categorized into three bands based on wavelength – UVA, UVB, and UVC.
UVC has the shortest wavelength but is fully absorbed by the Earth’s ozone layer. However, both UVA and UVB reach the earth’s surface and can cause varying degrees of damage.
UVB light is high energy and thus more damaging. It penetrates the outermost layers of the eye. Overexposure causes sunburn on the surface of the eye and has been linked to cataracts and other eye diseases.
UVA rays have longer wavelengths, so they pass deeper through the eye. While less energetic than UVB, chronic UVA exposure may contribute to macular degeneration later in life. The cumulative effects of UVA passing through the lens over time may also play a role in cataract development.
Protecting Your Eyes from UV Exposure
Due to the risks, it’s incredibly important to shield your eyes from excessive UV exposure. Spending time outdoors without proper eyewear means increasing lifetime UV exposure. The hours we clock outside walking, driving, jogging, boating, and lounging by the pool all add up over the years.
Doctors advise wearing sunglasses anytime you are outdoors during daylight hours. For maximum protection, look for sunglasses that specifically block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays. Visible sunlight does not directly correlate to UV levels, so light cloud cover doesn’t mean you are protected. Make UV-blocking sunglasses a daily habit.
Lens Material Impacts UV Protection
When selecting sunglasses for UV protection, lens material matters. Polycarbonate plastic lenses inherently block 100% of UV rays and are impact resistant. Nylon lenses also naturally filter out 100% of UV when produced in sufficient thickness.
Glass lenses allow more UV transmission, so they require special coatings to filter UV. Plastic CR-39 lenses can be produced to filter UV with coatings, but normally don’t provide full UV protection – check specs.
The experts at Olympic Eyewear say that another advantage of polycarbonate is that manufacturers don’t need to apply extra UV-blocking coatings. This makes polycarbonate ideal for inexpensive discount sunglasses, as they can provide full UV protection at very affordable price points.
Why UV Protection Matters Even More for Kids
Ensuring children wear effective UV blocking sunglasses is especially critical. Research shows that around 50% of lifetime sun exposure occurs in childhood. Early repeated exposure raises lifetime risk for all eye diseases associated with UV radiation.
Kids also typically spend more time outdoors engaged in active play and sports. Their lenses are also clearer than adults, allowing more UV penetration. Making UV protective shades non-negotiable during outdoor play helps safeguard their eye health decades into the future.
Don’t Let Sunglasses Give False Confidence
Wearing sunglasses may create a false sense of security against UV exposure if the lenses do not actually offer sufficient protection. This makes diligence about UV claims and lens quality all the more critical.
Do not play games with your eye health. Make sunglasses with certified broad spectrum 99-100% UV protection a daily habit anytime you head outside. Prioritize lens quality and buy from reputable sources. Shop smart and guard yourself against preventable UV damage – your eyes will thank you.