Overexposure to the sun can wreak havoc on your eyes. Sun damage can cause severe conditions such as photokeratitis (sunburn to the cornea), pterygium (tissue growth on the whites of eyes that can block vision), and skin cancer on the eyelids, and has been implicated in the development of cataracts and possibly macular degeneration as well.
"Although not every situation or every person requires sunglasses, there are many situations where the use of sunglasses will enhance comfort and may provide eye health benefits as well," says Dr. Jessica Ciralsky, an attending ophthalmologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Dr. Stephen Trokel, an attending ophthalmologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, adds, "There are strong indications that chronic exposure to the components of sunlight may accelerate aging of ocular tissues. Any protective eyewear should have side shield protection or wrap around the eye so light cannot enter the eye from side reflections."
Drs. Ciralsky and Trokel offer a five-point checklist to help you choose the best sun protection for your eyes during the summer and all year round:
Check the UV protection level. UV and sunglass protection is desirable year round, and should also be used during daylight hours, even through cloudiness and haze. Your sunglasses should provide more than 95 percent UV protection.
Check the lens tint. Most people believe that darker sunglasses provide better protection against the sun but that is not true. The lens tint should block 80 percent of transmissible light, but no more than 90 percent to 92 percent of light; neutral gray, amber, brown or green are good colors to choose from.
Make sure they block all of the light. Choose sunglasses that wrap all the way around the temples, and/or wear a hat with a three-inch brim that can block the sunlight from overhead.
Wear shades over your contact lenses. People who wear contact lenses that offer UV protection should still wear sunglasses. Sunglasses are helpful for preventing the drying effect most contact lens wearers get, which is caused by warm wind.
Buy shades for your children. For the greatest protection, consider providing UV-protected sunglasses for your children, and remember that the eyes of very small infants should always be shaded from direct exposure to the sun.