Eye Health

Updated 14 March 2018

Sunglasses can save your eyes

Wearing sunglasses is much more than a fashion statement. They can protect your eyes and potentially save your eyesight.

While wearing sunglasses may seem nothing more than a trendy fashion statement, they can literally save your eyesight and protect your eyes from damage and even cancer.

But not any old pair of sunnies will do; just as you wouldn’t wear plain aqueous cream to shield your skin from the sun, you need to do some homework before you invest in a pair of sunglasses that will provide sufficient protection for your eyes.

Milli Duncker, Oakley Product Specialist for Luxottica South Africa explains that "prolonged exposure to UV can cause both long term and short term problems, including cataracts, a few types of eye cancer, as well as photokeratitis, also known as Arc Eye (the burning of the cornea)".

How to choose sunglasses

One of the things you should look for in sunglasses is whether they’re polarised or not. Duncker says that the benefit of polarised sunglasses is that they have a layer in the lens that blocks out glare which bounces off surfaces such as water, cars and the road. The result is a reduction in potentially dangerous glare.

In order to make sure that the glasses you’re buying, whether polarised or not, genuinely do block out 100% UV, you should purchase your sunglasses from a reputable retailer or optometrist.

How do you know if your glasses are the real deal? "Check the packaging of the sunglasses or speak to the shop assistant to make sure that the sunglasses offer 100% UVA (ageing) UVB (burn) and UVC (cancer) protection, as well as block out harmful blue light up to 400nm," advises Duncker.

And good sunglasses need not break the bank, says Duncker, adding that certain branded sunglasses often offer an "access range" which have lower price points and are more affordable.

Irreparable damage

Most eye care professionals recommend wearing sunglasses whenever you are subjected to ultraviolet radiation (UV) to protect your eyesight, as UV and Blue Light can cause several serious eye conditions which are preventable.

Duncker explains that while all types of UV and Blue Light are bad for your eyes, bright glare is one of the worst, as it not only damages your eyes, but can cause temporary blindness. It happens, for example, when you are driving your car and are blinded for a few minutes when you hit the wrong angle, or if you spend the day at the beach with the light bouncing off the sea. If you are not wearing UV protection on your eyes, it can cause some serious discomfort as well as damage to your eyes. 


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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