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Eye Health

Updated 12 August 2019

Why everyone should wear sunglasses

Like our skin needs protection from the sun, our eyes need protection too.

Sunglasses need to be more than just fashion accessories, an eye expert advises.

"Think of sunglasses as sunscreen for your eyes," said Dr Dianna Seldomridge, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Confusing labels

"Your eyes need protection from the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays, just like your skin," she explained. "Make sure your eyes are protected year-round. Harmful UV rays are present even on cloudy days."

You should choose sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation from the sun. You may be confused by labels that say the sunglasses provide 100% protection from UVA/UVB radiation, while others offer 100% UV 400 protection. Both will block 100% of the sun's harmful radiation, the academy said in a news release.

If you're sceptical of the UV protection label on sunglasses, take them to an optical shop or an ophthalmologist's office, Seldomridge suggested. Most have a UV light meter that can test the sunglasses' UV-blocking ability.

Consider buying oversized or wraparound-style sunglasses. The more coverage they provide, the better they protect your eyes, she said.

Consider polarised lenses

An important note: Dark lenses don't block more UV rays than lighter lenses.

And you don't have to pay a lot to get sunglasses that provide good eye protection, Seldomridge said. Less expensive ones marked as 100% UV-blocking can be just as effective as those that cost more.

Consider polarised lenses, which reduce glare from reflective surfaces (such as water or pavement). This doesn't provide more protection from the sun but can make activities like driving or being on the water safer or more enjoyable.

Don't forget sunglasses for your children, Seldomridge advised. Their eyes are just as susceptible to the sun's harmful rays as yours, and it's a good idea to get them into the habit of wearing sunglasses at an early age.

Image credit: iStock

 

Ask the Expert

Optometrist

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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