Are all sunglasses the same?

Sunglasses should be purchased based upon a person’s visual needs and ocular health, lifestyle and recreational interests. Sunglasses can be purchased with polarized, non-polarized, or UV blocking filters.

Polarized lenses help to reduce glare from reflected light sources such as snow, ice, water, metal and glass. For example, a downhill skier may prefer polarized lenses to reduce unwanted glare from snow and ice.

Non-polarized lenses simply block the intensity of bright light, but do not reduce shimmer and glare. An athlete such as a golfer may prefer to wear non-polarized lenses so as not to misread any visual cues around the green that might be otherwise filtered through a polarized lens.

UV blockers shield protect the eye and surrounding structures from ultraviolet light, which has been shown to cause cataracts and damage to the retina located at the back of the eye.

Are inexpensive sunglasses better than no sunglasses at all?

Sunglasses lacking a UV filter are not recommended as the eyelid tissue, ocular surface, and intraocular structures of the eye are not protected from the damaging effects of UV light.

Why do we need to wear sunglasses?

Sunglasses should be worn to prevent UV light damage to the eyelids, ocular surface, and intraocular structures such as crystalline lens, retina and macula.

What should someone look for when buying sunglasses?

When shopping for sunglasses make sure to check and see if they have a UV filter in the lens, which should be clearly labeled on the lens or the frame of the sunglasses. Be sure to purchase sunglasses that suit your needs and choose a frame that provides adequate coverage for the skin around the eyes.

How does prolonged exposure to sunlight impact our vision?

Prolonged exposure to UV light in sunlight can cause damage to the skin around the eyelids, which can lead to premature aging of the skin as well as increase the risk for skin cancer such as melanoma. The lens inside the eye may age prematurely and cause early onset of cataracts, which are opacities that form in the lens. The back of the eye is also at risk from overexposure to UV light. The macula, which we use to see color and fine detail, can be irreversibly damaged by UV light and can lead to age-related macular degeneration, a form of vision loss.

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Article by:

Patrick Scott, O.D.

Dr. Patrick Scott is an optometrist with UofL Physicians – Eye Specialists and is also an assistant professor at the UofL School of Medicine in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Dr. Scott received his bachelor’s degree from Canisius College in New York and his doctor of optometry degree from the New England College of Optometry. He completed his residency and fellowship at Boston University School of Medicine. He is member of the American Academy of Optometry; American Optometric Association; Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology; International Society for Eye Research; American Association of Clinical Anatomists; Kentucky Optometric Association; Optometric Retina Society; and Sports Vision Society.

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