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  • Writer's pictureTim White

What Type Of Sunglasses Should I Buy?

Since spring is here, I figured it would be a great time to talk about ways protect our eyes while outdoors. Patients frequently ask me for advice when selecting sunglasses. There are so many brands and styles to choose from that it can be a bit overwhelming. The two things I always recommend are: lenses that provide 100% UVA/UVB protection and are polarized.


Why UV Protection?

UV-blocking lenses stop the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) rays from reaching the eyes. This ultraviolet light can damage and prematurely age the eye. No matter how dark the lenses are, only these certain lenses offer protection. In fact, very dark lenses that don't offer UV protection may actually allow more damage to your eyes. The pupil (the black circle in the middle of the eye) gets smaller in response to bright light. This decreases the amount of light that goes into the eye. If you wear very dark sunglasses, your pupil will be larger because less light is reaching the eye. When your pupil enlarges, this increases the amount of light (including UV) that enters the eye. Without UV protective lenses, more harmful light is entering the eye, which can cause damage over time. With 100% UVA/UVB blocking lenses, you are preventing excessive visible and ultraviolet light from entering the eye, thus providing more protection.


Why are polarized lenses important?

While the goal of UV-blocking lenses is to protect your eyes, the point of polarized lenses is to remove glare so you can see more clearly and easily. Usually, light scatters because it bounces at varying angles off an object’s uneven surface. But if the surface is smooth, as with calm water or the shiny section of a car on the road, light reflects at one angle. When this light reflects right in your eyes, this is what we know as glare. Polarized sunglasses reduce glare and solve this problem.

Left: Polarized lens. Right: Non-polarized lens.

My last piece of advice is you don't have to spend a lot of money to get quality sunglasses. Price does not equal protection! Sunglasses (like almost any retail product) vary in cost. Just because the lenses are made by a high-end designer does not mean they provide good eye protection. Drugstore sunglasses labeled as 100 percent UV-blocking are a better choice than designer store sunglasses with no protection.

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