Sunglasses-Performance & Prevention

Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Maryland

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sunglasses-Performance & Prevention

When the pool in our neighborhood opened my children both came home sunburned.  As a parent I felt terribly guilty. Not just because they were both uncomfortable but because we are all so acutely aware of the dangers of ultraviolet light and how it can damage skin.  As an eye doctor though, I sometimes think we do not do a good enough job educating the public about the risk of visible and ultraviolet light to the eye.

Cumulative exposure to utraviolet light can cause cataracts, pterygia and skin cancers on the surface of the eye and on the lids. Excessive exposure to visible light especially blue light may increase the risk of macular degeneration.

How can we protect the eyes? Simple things like a hat with a wide brim and sunscreen, carefully applied to the lids, can reduce exposure. Contact lenses that block ultraviolet light can certainly help but they do not protect a large part of the eye surface and none of the eye lid. In addition, they do not block blue light at all. Good, large, wraparound sunglasses are the best way to protect the largest area. The lenses must block UVA and UVB up to 400 nanometers. Polarized lenses with a brown or amber tint are designed to reduce glare and block blue light.  Melanin lenses are specifically designed to absorb the blue light thought to pose the greatest risk to the retina. Many clear prescription lenses are also made with materials that absorb ultraviolet light.

With all of these options it should be possible to follow the mantra, “Protect your eyes from sun damage everyday and every season.”