The 27th June is international sunglasses day. Seen largely as a fashion accessory, many people wear them to ‘look cool’ or complement their fashion sense. They feature prominently in films like The Matrix and other genre films. Marketing men and women have been successful in selling us sunglasses as the essential summer wear. So successful, that you would be forgiven for forgetting that there are health benefits to sunglasses.
Ignorance of the Health Benefits of Sunglasses
In a survey in the USA just a few years ago, people were asked why they wore sunglasses. Just 15% reported that it was good for the health of their eyes. Around 20% (that’s one in five) felt that there was no risk from sunshine to their eyes. This mistaken belief is problematic as wearing sunglasses provides the following benefits.
Sunglasses Provide Protection against Cataracts
There are many causes of cataracts (a medical condition where the lens of the eye clouds up, leading to blurred vision) Over-exposure to ultraviolet light is one of them. The UV protection offered by most sunglasses (and please check when you buy a pair that they are labelled as such) reduces your chances of developing this common eye condition.
Sunglasses Protect Against Snow Blindness
Generally referred to as ‘snow blindness’, this name is misleading. It is actually sunburn of the eye. The reflective nature of sunshine on snow can be quite blinding. Yet it is just as common during the summer, especially when going to the beach. Sunlight reflecting off the glistening water can have the same effect. It can lead to loss of vision for anything up to two days.
Protection against Eye Cancers
Eye cancer can affect the eyeball, the eyelid and the skin around the eye. We don’t put sun cream this close to our eye because of the irritating effect that it has. Yet these parts of our body are equally at risk as the rest of our skin. Wearing sunglasses reduces the damaging effects of ultraviolet light that causes cancer.
Sunglasses Reduce Migraines
There are many causes of migraines; light sensitivity is one of them. If you suffer from this neurological condition, then you can seriously reduce your chances of an attack by wearing sunglasses when it is bright outside.
Reduces Macular Degeneration
As we get older, the nerves in our eyes degenerate. This is a natural process of aging that most of us can do nothing about. However, failing to wear sunglasses at the appropriate time can speed up this process. Nerve damage caused by not wearing sunglasses means our eyesight starts to degenerate earlier.
Reduces Skin Aging
Ultraviolet light is also one of the major contributors to premature aging of the skin. Lines, liver spots and crow’s feet around the eyes can be reduced by wearing a good pair of sunglasses. Although this may come across as more of a vanity thing, there are benefits to good skin health. Prematurely aged skin can lead to health problems including dryness and cracked and flaky skin.
Choosing the Right Sunglasses
Some sunglasses are better for eye health than others. Cost is no guarantee of high quality or even that they offer the right amount of protection. When choosing, ensure that the following criteria are met:
- 100% UVA and UVB: If your chosen sunglasses do not have a stick on the glasses or a label attached saying that they offer this, then don’t buy them.
- Don’t be fooled by dark lenses: Lens darkness makes no difference, although this can make your experience more comfortable, if it does not promise UVA and UVB protection, the pair will be virtually useless.
- A good fit: When your sunglasses fit your face properly, you won’t get stray sunlight from above, below and the sides. Some people prefer ‘wrap around’ sunglasses, such as sports sunglasses, because they offer a bit more protection for the sides.