Sunglasses are all the rage right now, which is great news for eye doctors who treat patients for eye diseases and disorders caused by sun exposure. Sunglasses are now available everywhere: at the grocery store, in gas stations and even at street vendors. Inevitably, many people will pick up one of these cheap but stylish pairs on a particularly sunny day while vacation.
But the question is ‘are all sunglasses created equal?’ The short answer: Absolutely not! In fact, Australia’s largest health insurer, Bupa, is warning consumers that OTC sunnies should come with a warning label.
Sunglasses that do not protect you from UVA and UVB can actually do more harm than good according to a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. These pairs will cause the pupils to dilate behind them- the same effect that you get in a dark room. However, if there is no UV blocking technology, the result is that the pupils are now 3 times larger, allowing more harmful rays to reach them. When compared to the much smaller pupil when you are fully exposed to the sun (without sunglasses), wearing these cheap sunglasses is much more harmful than if you were not wearing sunglasses at all!
Sunglass lenses without UV protection are only filtering out bright light, which may make you feel more comfortable, but do nothing to protect the eye tissues themselves. The most important benefit of a good pair of sunglasses is that they also filter out the UV rays that cause, among other things: skin/eye cancer, macular degeneration, growths on the eyeball call pinguecula, cataracts, and a host of other eye related diseases. Unfortunately, less reputable sources will even have stickers that falsely claim to protect from UV damage.
To be sure that you are getting a pair of sunglasses that meets UV demands and FDA standards, make sure you are going to a reputable source. Optical stores in the United States are required to carry lenses that filter out UV and even have polarized lenses to greatly reduce the glare so you know that everything they offer is safe. When in a trustworthy shop you can also look for stickers that state that they are protecting you from both UVA and UVB, and when in doubt, ask! And last but not least, steer clear of places that cannot guarantee their products are safe. These include street vendors, gas stations, and yes that super cute pair at your favorite clothing store. The few bucks that you save on those pair can cost you your vision in the long run!
At Visionelle Eyecare, every pair of sunnies that we carry protects from UVA and UVB, so no matter what, you are 100% covered!
Dr. Nytarsha Thomas