Sunglasses are a summer staple. It’s almost a crime for summer to grace us with its heat and not have a pair. So why is it that only 31 percent of Americans wear sunglasses? That’s an insanely low amount, especially when you factor in the fact that most American states have a strong sun almost all year round.
Sunglasses are incredibly important all year round, even during the winter months. Just because the sun doesn’t feel hot, that doesn’t mean that the UV rays aren’t harmful. Some doctors even recommend that skiers and snowboarders wear sunscreen on their faces, and UV protecting goggles, when out on the slopes.
Sunglasses aren’t just fashionable summer accessories, they can (and will) protect your eyes and prevent short-term and long-term damage.
Why Don’t More People Wear Sunglasses?
The answer to this question is pretty simple. Though people seem to be aware of the effects of the sun and UV rays on the skin (like skin cancer and sunburns), few people seem to be aware of the effects of the sun on the eyes.
You can’t blame someone for not knowing something, but we should all be doing what we can to lead healthy lives and that includes taking care of our eyes. Most people who don’t wear sunglasses think that they don’t need them if they’re only going to be in the sun for an hour or so.
This is a myth. Your skin can burn in a matter of minutes if you don’t wear sunscreen, so you can imagine what it’ll do to your eyes. The eyes are extremely sensitive because unlike the skin, it doesn’t have anything protecting it. When your eyes get sunburnt, it isn’t uncommon to only notice later when it’s too late to do anything but wait for them to heal.
Whether we’ve forgotten our sunglasses or just didn’t want to wear them, either way not wearing them is a bad idea. Keep an extra pair in your bag or car in case you ever forget them. Or leave them in a place by the front door where you’re sure to see them and grab them before leaving the house.
If you’re one of the only people to not own sunglasses or are looking or a new pair, you don’t need to spend a million to look a million. So you may not be willing to drop a hundred bucks on a pair of Prada sunglasses, and you don’t have to, to get the most out of your UV protection.
Drugstores and even stores like Walmart offer a wide range of sunglasses. They not only range in price but also in style. More and more sunglasses are being made with UV protection even the cheaply priced ones. Although they may not offer the most protection, pair the sunglasses with a cool hat to get full coverage.
Look for the little “UV Protection” sticker on the lens of the sunglasses to make sure they aren’t just tinted lenses. If you’re unsure about which pair to buy or which has the most coverage, ask someone who works there for more information about the brand.
If your current sunglasses don’t offer any UV protection, they’re basically useless. They may make you look cool, but there’s nothing cool about taking off your sunglass at the end of the day and having red, burning eyes.
UV Rays Damage: Short-Term and Long-Term
UV rays don’t only affect your eyes in the short-term. Continuous sun exposure can encourage various vision conditions to develop as you get older. Let’s take a look at some of these conditions.
Short-term effects means symptoms and conditions relating to sun exposure begin to appear either immediately after sun exposure or a few weeks or months after prolonged exposure.
One short-term condition is photokeratitis, otherwise known as an eye sunburn. We all know how uncomfortable sunburns on the skin can be! This condition affects the cornea and the conjunctiva. The sunburn will likely go away within a day or two and the only treatment for it is to stick it out.
However if you’re in need of some relief, take a cold washcloth and place it over your eyes. If your eyes feel dry, eye drops can be a quick fix. If you wear contact lenses, avoid them while your eyes heal from the burn.
Photokeratitis can also happen during the winter months and it often called snow blindness. No matter what season it is, it’s always important to protect your eyes from UV rays.
Another short-term effect is pterygium, commonly known as surfer’s eye because your risk of it increases when you’re exposed to sunlight unprotected on the water. Surfer’s eye refers to a growth on the eye that develops after prolonged sun exposure.
Though the growths are not dangerous if smaller, if they are left untreated, they can continue to grow and disfigure the eyeball. Generally, the growth begins in the corner of the eye closest to the ear and progresses to grow inward and may sometimes invade the cornea.
Treatment for one of these growths really depends on the individual and their symptoms. If the growth is small, your eye doctor may prescribe lubricants or special eye drops to reduce the size. Sometimes special contact lenses are used to cover the growth to protect it from the sun and prevent it from growing larger.
Two major long-term effects of intense and unprotected sun exposure are cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. UV rays aren’t solely responsible for the development of these conditions, but they don’t do much in terms of helping prevent the diseases.
Cataracts are due to a protein buildup on the lens of the eye. When this happens, it can cause clouded vision and sometimes loss of central vision. In the US, more than half of everyone above the age of 80 will suffer from cataracts.
Right now the only treatment widely available is cataract surgery, which removes the lens of the eye completely to be replaced with an artificial one. However, a new cataract dissolving eye drop is being tested and will hopefully soon be available to the public.
Another long-term effect is age-related macular degeneration. This condition affects most people over the age of 50. It affects the macula in the retina, which causes loss of sharp and central vision. It may be age-related, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do everything to prevent this condition.
There is currently no treatment for are-related macular degeneration. The National Eye Institute does, however, suggest a high dosage of vitamins and minerals may help slow the progression of the disease. Otherwise the best cure is prevention.
Protect your eyes this summer (and every other season) by finding the best sunglasses for you. Make sure they have UV protection built into the lenses!