Family Health Magazine - MODERN LIVING
Shape Up Your Shades
Protect your eyes from ultraviolet light
It’s taken years for experts to realize the importance of protecting our eyes from the sun. At one time, we fried both skin and face at the beach without a worry. Today, we know that too much sun can lead to skin cancer. The same ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can harm eyes, reducing the ability to see. Cataracts may form, and the retina may also be damaged. Remember, UV light reflects off pavement, sandy beaches, snowy glaciers, and road surfaces and can also penetrate water. Being in the water does not protect our skin or our eyes from UV light.
Most exposure to the sun occurs before the age of 20. To properly protect our children, we need to put appropriate sunglasses on them. For kids, a baseball cap and a wrap-around set of aviation style sunglasses are cool.
Adults need sunglasses too. Unfortunately, only 15 per cent of adults put on sunglasses when they head outdoors. Next time you go out, don’t forget your shades!
Frames come in a wide variety of colours. Sporty-looking wrap-around frames cut down on glare and UV light from the side and below. Wrap-around frames are best as they protect not only the eyes, but also skin on the eyelids and eyebrows.
If style is key, you can buy Ray-Bans and other ultra-modern, uber-expensive sunglasses. However, more reasonably priced sunglasses can cost as little as $20 to $30.
Be careful when considering an inexpensive pair of sunglasses. Lenses are sometimes pressed or moulded, not ground. Pressed lenses can have warps or distortions that may cause headaches and eye fatigue.
Today, the maximum amount of UV protection you can get in over-the-counter sunglasses is UV 400. This is fine for most outdoor activities and sports like baseball. Lenses up to UV 550 can be ordered for those who climb glaciers or mountains.
It is also possible to order tinted polycarbonate or plastic lenses with a UV coating.
When you garden or do yard work, you will want sunglasses that double as a safety lens. Ask to be shown different choices of safety lenses and frames. You can look sporty, while staying smart and sun safe.
Tips on choosing sunglasses
- Over-the-counter sunglasses are sold at drug stores and optical shops. They have plano lenses (meaning that they do not correct vision) and are labelled as having 100 per cent UV protection. It is important to understand that they only block UVA rays. Your sunglasses should block both UVA and UVB rays.
- Photochromatic lenses, also called transitional lenses, are another option. These lenses automatically darken when you are outdoors and lighten when you go inside.
This change in the lens is triggered by ultraviolet light. However, photochromatic lenses do not work as well inside a car since the windshield blocks a lot of the UV light.
They can also take several minutes to change once you go inside. In very cold temperatures, they may darken slightly more than in normal conditions. In very high temperatures they may not darken quite as much. They also tend to age after two or three years, taking on a dirty, yellow appearance.
- If you have prescription sunglasses made, you may choose a C15 neutral grey filter. This lens blocks out 85 per cent of the light. Clear chemical coating will block out both UV rays and infrared rays. A grey filter is a good choice for driving glasses, as they dampen colours evenly. With this filter, seeing traffic lights properly is not a problem. Green and brown lenses can alter the colours you see and may interfere with judging traffic lights.
- Polarized sunglasses and mirror-coated sunglasses both reduce glare, but must be coated to block out UV light. Polarized sunglasses made of glass can be heavy. For this reason, a plastic lens is often used. A scratch coating on both sides of the lens is also recommended. It can be added for about $25 for two lenses.
- Amber and orange lenses can enhance contrast for depth perception. However, because an orange lens blocks out blue light, it can be more difficult to distinguish traffic lights.
- Although dark lenses seem to offer more protection, it is the clear chemical coating or the chemical built into the lens that actually blocks UV light. A dark lens without UV protection may still allow more ultraviolet light to the eye. Since the pupil opens wider in response to a dark lens, this may be a hazard instead of a help.
- Clip-on sunglasses are another choice for those who wear glasses. They clip to your regular frames in a number of ways, or the two may come as a set. Plastic polarized clip-ons, which are thin, light and have a UV block, are also available.
- At the high end of the range are Serengeti glasses, made with photochromatic glass lenses. These lenses have an ultraviolet block, an infrared block and a blue light filter. They come with a copper-coloured lens and can be polarized. They are ideal for pilots.
Many different types of sunglasses are available to help protect the health of your eyes. Ask your eye doctor or optician to help select the right pair for you.
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2015, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 0S1 [ML_FHab17]