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why sunglasses are so crucial for preventing sun damage to eyes

How Your Sunglasses Combat Eye Damage from Sun

January 06, 2019

Living in Southern California sure comes with plenty of perks. Thanks to idyllic weather, most days are spent outdoors soaking up the sunshine underneath clear blue skies. Whether it’s during lunch on a patio or a stroll to your car, the sun can make a huge impact on a person’s mood by relieving stress, enhancing sleep, and strengthening the immune system.

On the flip side, overexposure to the sun can cause major damage to the body. Friends, families, and even a few corporations can’t stress enough the importance of sunblock to prevent skin burns. But rarely do people talk about the value of proper eye protection. Beyond just being a fashion statement, sunglasses serve as a shield against the sun’s detrimental ultraviolet rays and are just as important as sunblock. Here are a few things to consider when looking for the right pair of shades so you can enjoy SoCal living in style.

How the Sun Affects Different Parts of the Eye

Without the protection that sunglasses offer, the sun can do irreversible damage to a person’s vision. To better understand eye care and why sunglasses are crucial, it’s important to understand how the sun can damage five areas of the eye:


  • The cornea – a transparent membrane that forms the front outer coating of the eyeball and can burn easily, potentially causing temporary blindness.
  • The pupil – the dark center of the iris (the colored part of your eye) that controls the amount of light that enters. When too much sun gets in, blurred vision can result.
  • The lens – the area behind the iris that bends light, so it can focus on objects that are either near or at a distance. Long-term exposure to the sun can lead to cataracts forming here, causing vision to become cloudy or dimmed.
  • The retina – an inner lining at the back of the eye that receives light and produces an image for the brain to interpret. Prolonged sun exposure can lead to macular degeneration, which causes a gradual loss of visual sharpness, making it increasingly difficult to do things like read, recognize faces, and use a computer.
  • The eyelids – the thinnest layer of skin on the body, easily burned by the destructive rays of the sun when inadequately protected.


Why Ultraviolet Rays Are Harmful to Eyes

While most people are aware that UV rays are damaging to the skin, a lesser known side effect of sun exposure is that it can also harm vision. Prolonged exposure to UV radiation has been linked to an array of eye problems. There is also evidence that UV light has a greater impact on the eyes from the time of childhood into our 20s, which makes eye armor crucial for kids and young adults. UVA and UVB are the two main types of UV rays that SoCal dwellers should arm themselves against.

UVA rays are long-wave rays that radiate into the earth’s atmosphere year-round—even when it’s cloudy—and can penetrate deep into the skin’s dermis, causing long-term damage such as premature aging and even skin cancer. UVB rays are short-wave rays that can also cause skin cancer, but because they affect the outer layers of skin, their first, short-term effect is redding of the skin and sunburn. UVB rays tend to feature prominently at higher altitudes; so if you’re hitting the slopes in Mammoth, you should still bring a pair of shades to safeguard against rays and glare with full UV400 protection.  


How to Choose the Right Sunglasses

Fortunately, when it comes to shopping for the right pair of sunglasses, style and function are not mutually exclusive. The most important factor to consider when purchasing a pair is UV protection. Look for shades that are labeled UV400 or shades that offer 100 percent protection against UVA and UVB rays. While lens color isn’t important, the lens surface area is since larger lenses make more effective shields for your eyes.

The great Muhammad Ali once said, “Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision.” With clear vision, we can all reach our true paths in life, but the right pair of sunglasses—like the ones worn by EGOT winner himself, John Legend—can certainly make the journey all the easier.

Written by Rakhee Bhatt for Knockaround

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