Are Your Shades Shading Your Eyes from UV Light?

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May is Ultraviolet Awareness Month, so pull out those aviators, club masters or wayfarers, and keep your eyes in the shade. Just don’t sacrifice UV blockage for style.

According to the American Optometric Association’s 2014 American Eye-Q® Survey, less than one third of people surveyed said UV protection is the most important factor when picking out sunglasses. But when you consider that short-term and long-term UV exposure can have serious adverse effects on vision, proper UV protection should always be the top priority.

Even after just a short period of time, excessive exposure to UV rays can lead to a condition called photokeratitis, which is like a sunburn of the eye. As one would imagine, having sunburned eyeballs is not a pleasant experience. Symptoms include pain, red eyes, sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, and a gritty sensation similar to having sand in the eyes. Fortunately, photokeratitis is temporary and rarely causes permanent damage to the eyes.

Long-term UV exposure is another story. Studies show that exposure to even low levels of UV radiation over a period of years can cause cataracts, damage to the retina, and macular degeneration. It’s not clear exactly how much UV exposure it takes before problems begin to occur, so it’s important to always shield your eyes from the threat as much as possible.

To make sure your eyes stay as cool as your shades, your sunglasses should:

+ Block 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation.

+ Screen out 75-90% of visible light.

+ Have gray lenses for proper color recognition.

+ Have perfectly color-matched lenses that are free of distortions and imperfections.

To ensure your next pair of sunglasses are up to snuff, consider purchasing them from your eye doctor or from a reputable brand. If that’s not a possibility, read the tags and/or stickers on the glasses and don’t make a purchase until you’re satisfied with the level of protection.

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