Could Your Sunglasses Be Damaging Your Eyes?
Surprising as it may sound, those cheap sunglasses you picked up at the local discount store could actually be doing your eyes more harm than good. There's no way to tell if a pair of sunglasses offers any UV protection just by looking at them. UV protection is unrelated to the tint of the lenses. Even dark shades could be giving you no protection at all, and vice versa.
In fact, not only do cheap sunglasses offer no protection, they actually make your eyes more vulnerable.
Cheap sunglasses increase your UV exposure
When you are out in bright sunlight, your pupils contract, limiting the amount of light and harmful UV radiation that can enter your eyes. Cheap sunglasses reduce the amount of light reaching your eyes, causing your pupils to dilate, but do nothing to block the UV rays. In other words, by wearing cheap sunglasses, you are actually allowing more harmful radiation into your eyes than you would be if you were wearing nothing at all.
Comfort is misleading
Discomfort is your body's way of telling you something is wrong. When you are outside on a bright day with no eyewear, it can be difficult to keep your eyes open. It's unpleasant, it makes you squint, it makes you feel uncomfortable and can even give you a headache. That's when you know you're getting too much sun, and it's time to go indoors.
Unfortunately, wearing cheap sunglasses brings you comfort, but doesn't do anything for your eyes. You're getting rid of the warning signal, but not the cause. You end up staying outside a lot longer than you would have without your shades, increasing your sun exposure.
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What to look for when you buy sunglasses
Look for sunglasses with 100% UV protection. Many pairs will have a little sticker on them advertising this. Also consider frame styles that let in less light from the top, bottom, and sides of the glasses. Wraparound sunglasses are a good choice, though they don't quite block all the leaks. Glacier glasses are even better, though they may look more appropriate during outdoor sports than at the beach.
Can't remember if your old sunglasses block UV rays? Take them to your eye doctor. He or she can test them for you.
And don't forget, sunglasses aren't just for adults! Children usually spend even more time outside than their parents, and their eyes need protection too.
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