Sunglasses Protection: Do I Really Need it For Sun Damage Prevention?

woman enjoying sunglasess proctection

Posted On June 15, 2023

Your eyes need sunglasses protection for two primary reasons. They aid in light filtration and offer defense from the sun’s harmful rays. Good sunglasses eliminate 99 to 100 percent of ultraviolet (UV) rays which can harm skin even on cloudy days. 

Sunglasses should adhere to ANSI Z80.3, a standard by the American National Standards Institute that outlines UV and impact protection. They also help minimize the effects of glare on your eyes. Quality sunglasses should be comfortable and distortion-free while protecting your eyes. 

Optometrists usually emphasize how important it is for parents even to encourage their kids to wear sunglasses.

What are the effects of sun exposure on the eyes?

Three different types of rays come from the sun:

  1. What you perceive as color is visible.
  2. Infrared radiation is heat but is unseen.
  3. UV radiation, often known as ultraviolet, is unnoticeable yet frequently referred to as “sunburn rays.” The two types of UV rays that typically reach the earth are UV-A rays and UV-B rays.

Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can have a range of negative effects on the eyes, including blurred vision, sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, and even blindness. 

UV radiation has been linked to the development of cataracts, which occurs when the crystalline lens of the eye becomes cloudy and opaque. 

Overexposure to UV rays can also cause corneal burns (keratitis), as well as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a major cause of blindness in Americans over age 55. Staring directly at the sun can also lead to permanently decreased vision.

There are an estimated 15 million cataract-related blindness cases worldwide, 10% of which may be linked to UV radiation exposure.

10% of the estimated 15 million global cataract-related blindness are linked to UV radiation exposure- WHO

To protect your eyes from UV damage, it is important to wear sunglasses that block 99% of UVA and UVB rays when outdoors. 

Additionally, wearing a hat with a wide brim can help protect your eyes from direct sunlight. It is also important to limit your exposure to direct sunlight and be aware of how much time you spend in it.


How to protect my eyes from sun damage?

The best way to protect your eyes from sun exposure is to wear sunglasses and a hat with a broad, dark brim that shades your eyes and reduces glare. 

Sunglasses should fit well and block light from coming in around the lenses. Choosing sunglasses that block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays is important. 

UV-A and UV-B rays should be absorbed by all types of eyewear, including contact lenses, lens implants, and prescription and nonprescription glasses. UV protection is not expensive and does not interfere with seeing well.

Look for sunglasses that completely or almost completely block UV-A and UV-B rays. The sunglasses you choose should also be able to reduce squinting and glare. Be aware of labels that claim a product prevents dangerous UV rays but do not provide a precise estimate of how much UV they block.

Excessive exposure to UV rays can cause photokeratitis, or ultraviolet keratitis, which is a sunburn of the eye. To reduce the risk of this and other eye diseases, it is important to avoid any exposure, wear UV and blue light-blocking sunglasses, and use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher when taking off your shades. Children and teenagers should also be protected from the sun as they typically spend more time in it than adults.

Additionally, wearing a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap in addition to sunglasses increases protection.

Are UV rays exposure causing me eye problems?

Anyone who spends a lot of time in the sun has had sunburn, has light-colored skin, hair, or eyes, or takes photosensitizing medication is at increased risk of exposure to UV rays than others. People who have undergone cataract surgery or are diagnosed with certain retinal disorders.

Due to the nature of their skin and eyes, children and teenagers are especially susceptible to the negative effects of UVR. 

Workers who spend their days outside and are regularly exposed to sun UVR levels are at an elevated risk of acquiring non-melanoma skin cancers. WHO advises applying sunscreen and protective clothing when outdoors, avoiding indoor tanning, wearing wraparound sunglasses that filter both UVA and UVB rays, and taking the proper safety measures when working with artificial sources of UV radiation.

Additionally, according to CDC, to protect yourself from UV rays, you should:

  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Wear clothes that cover your arms and legs.
  • Consider options to protect your children.
  • Wear a wide-brim hat to shade your face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher, for both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Avoid indoor tanning. Indoor tanning is particularly dangerous for younger users; people who begin indoor tanning during adolescence or early adulthood have a higher risk of developing melanoma.
different types of  sunglasses proctection

What major factors should I consider when choosing my sunglasses

When choosing sunglasses to protect from UV rays, there are several factors to consider. Three major factors should inform your choice which includes:

  1. The types of lenses
  2. The color of the lenses
  3. Lens quality and safety

Various lens types

Clip-on lenses: These are placed on top of eyeglasses with a prescription. Although they are helpful, they might only partially cover the lens. Clip-on lenses may reflect light along with the lens surfaces of traditional glasses. They can come off or scratch your prescription lenses.

Gradient lenses: Sunglasses may have a single gradient density or two gradient densities, with light at the bottom and dark at the top (dark top and bottom, lighter in the center). They are useful when sunlight enters the eyes from below or is reflected from above.

Mirrored lenses: It is possible to coat lenses with a thin metallic layer that resembles a mirror and reflects light waves, so further decreasing the quantity of light that may enter the eye.

Photochromatic lenses: These lenses adjust their color according to the amount of light. They become lighter in weak light and darker in strong light. These lenses are beneficial in a range of lighting situations. How black the lenses become depends on several factors, including temperature, lens thickness, and light intensity. One drawback of these lenses is that they might not adapt rapidly enough to changing lighting conditions.

Polarizing lenses: These lenses are helpful for driving, boating, fishing, and other activities where there is glare from the water or the ground because they lessen glare and “bounce-up” reflections from flat surfaces.

The color of the lenses

The most accurate color perception is achieved with neutral gray or “smoke” lenses. Other excellent options include green, amber, or brown tints (which typically filter out more blue light). Those with extremely light-sensitive eyes may prefer dark lenses. Red, orange, blue, and purple shades are inappropriate because they tend to allow in too much light and may affect how people perceive color. Since visible light is the source of all colors, the tint has no bearing on the level of UV protection offered.

Lens quality and safety

It is important to check lenses for imperfections like scratches, bubbles, and distortions. Poorly manufactured glasses won’t harm your eyes’ structure. However, the lenses’ imperfections and distortions might make your eyes work harder. Squinting, blinking, crying, and even slight headaches, nausea, and dizziness can come from that. 

All lenses must meet the Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for impact resistance and optical-quality glass or plastic. These are offered with or without a prescription for remedial medication. This does not imply that the lenses are impervious to breakage or indestructible, but rather that they can resist mild impact.

The most shatter-resistant material currently on the market, polycarbonate, should be used to make eyewear for ball sports or other contact-intensive activities.  The ideal material for kids’ sunglasses is polycarbonate.

In Conclusion

Firstly, the sunglasses should have 100% UV protection from both UVA and UVB rays. This is indicated by a tag or sticker on the glasses that say they provide 100 percent UV protection or “UV absorption up to 400nm”. 

The size of the lenses should also be taken into account, as larger frames cover a greater area of the face and provide more protection for the skin and eyes. 

Additionally, darker lenses do not necessarily mean they offer more UV protection; only sunglasses with 100% UV protection provide the safety needed. Polarized lenses can also be beneficial for blocking rays coming from the sides and offer increased protection from the glare of surfaces such as water or snow

Lastly, it is important to select a lens color that does not distort colors too much; grey-tinted glasses reduce overall brightness with little color distortion while amber-tinted glasses can enhance depth perception in low-light situations.

Written by Dr. Okwukwe Davis

Okwukwe Davis is a Nigerian Optometrist with a flair for web design aligned with brand strategy. He loves to help Optometrists and Rising Professionals discover growth through his design & strategy studio - StarRose. In his spare time, he writes engaging content to help online platforms build meaningful relationships.

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