Sunglasses are often regarded as fashion accessories but they are more for protection from wind, dust and most importantly from the sun’s ultra-violet (UV) rays. To help make the purpose of sunglasses clearer, below are frequently asked questions (FAQs) about sunglasses and the answers to them:
Are sunglasses still needed if the sun doesn’t hurt your eyes?
Yes, to avoid eye problems like photokeratitis, pingueculae, pterygia and permanent retinal damage caused by the sun’s UV (ultraviolet) rays. UV rays come directly from sunlight and are found just after the violet portion of the visible spectrum. Its 3 types are:
UVB – unable to pass through glass but is the most harmful type hence the requirement to use sunscreen and sunglasses. This is why you cannot get a sun tan while lying indoors inside a window.
UVA – the ill effects of this on the eyes are still debated by experts but this has a longer wavelength that goes through glass smoothly.
UVC – are rays blocked by the ozone layer hence unable to reach the Earth’s surface.
When are UV rays harmful to the eyes?
The sun’s rays are at their peak from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. however the risk is not only during this time but also when the day is really sunny. UV light can go through clouds hence you still need sunglasses on overcast days. You also need them where there’s snow, sand, water or when driving because glare and reflections could spell eye problems. Other things that could harm your eyes are photosensitizing drugs, sunlamps and tanning beds. You are also at risk when you live in high places or in the tropics near the equator.
Do medical conditions potentially increase UV rays’ damage?
Precaution should be taken by sufferers of certain conditions like cataracts (even if you had previous cataract surgery), macular degeneration and retinal dystrophies.
How can eye damage from UV rays be avoided?
Even if you use contact lenses with UV protection, sunglasses are still your best defense because they cover more areas of the eyes especially those with 100% UVA and UVB light protection. Maximum coverage may be obtained from wraparound sunglasses which cover even the sides. You can also opt for “UV 400” shades that can prevent all UVA and UVB light wavelengths of up to 400 nanometers. Don’t forget that a hat with a peak can also be of great benefit in reducing sun damage to the eyes.
Must children also wear sunglasses?
Children spend more time in the sun playing and doing other outdoor activities putting them at higher risk. The damage of UV light can increase over time therefore it is best to use protection as early as possible. So the next time you allow your children outside on a sunny day, protect their eyes by having them wear sunglasses. It is a good habit for them to develop.
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