American Academy of Ophthalmology offers tips for buying shades that give the most protection from harmful UV rays
Everyone knows sunglasses make it easier to see on a sunny day, whether out on the road or the water. However, wearing the right sunglasses is also the best defense for keeping ultraviolet (UV) rays from causing short- and long-term eye damage, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons.
Studies have shown that accumulated ultraviolet exposure from the sun can heighten the risk of cataracts, a leading cause of blindness worldwide, growths such as pterygium and several kinds of eye cancer.1 Even just a few hours of intense UV exposure can cause temporary blindness known as photokeratitis. While everyone can potentially suffer these conditions, children and people with light-colored eyes should be especially careful since their eyes may be more susceptible to damage from the sun’s rays.
In support of UV Safety Month in May, the Academy is sharing a list of important factors to consider when purchasing sunglasses to help the public better protect their eyes from the sun:
- Make it 100 percent. The single most important thing to look for when buying sunglasses to protect your eyes is a sticker or tag indicating that they block 100 percent of UV rays. However, fewer than half of people buying sunglasses bother to check whether the lenses protect the eyes from ultraviolet light, according to the Academy’s 2014 national sun safety survey.2
- Bigger is better. The more coverage from sunglasses, the less sun damage inflicted on the eyes. Consider buying oversized glasses or wraparound-style glasses, which help cut down on UV entering the eye from the side.
- Darker lenses don’t protect better. While very dark lenses may look cool, they do not necessarily block more UV rays.
- Color doesn’t matter. Some sunglasses come with amber, green or grey lenses. They do not block more sun but can increase contrast, which may be useful for athletes who play sports such as baseball or golf.
- Polarized lenses cut glare, not UV. Polarization reduces glare coming off reflective surfaces like water or pavement. This does not offer more protection from the sun, but can make activities like driving or being on the water safer or more enjoyable.
- Cost shouldn’t be a factor. Sunglasses don’t have to cost a lot of money to work well. Less expensive pairs marked as 100 percent UV-blocking can be just as effective as pricier options.
“When shopping for sunglasses, some people concentrate on appearance rather than sun protection,” said ophthalmologist Brenda Pagán-Durán, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology based in Westwood, New Jersey. “That’s why I always recommend they check for a tag or sticker that verifies the lenses block 100 percent UV rays. It’s a small step, but it really can help protect your eyes from risk of serious conditions that can affect your vision and eye health.”
Learn more about how to protect your eyes from the sun at the Academy’s public information website, EyeSmart.
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology, headquartered in San Francisco, is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons, serving more than 32,000 members worldwide. The Academy's mission is to advance the lifelong learning and professional interests of ophthalmologists to ensure that the public can obtain the best possible eye care. For more information, visit www.aao.org.
The Academy is also a leading provider of eye care information to the public. The Academy's EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit EyeSmart or OjosSanos to learn more.
Schmidt-Pokrzywniak, Schmidt-Pokrzywniaket al. Ophthalmology. 2009;116(2): 340-348
 The American Academy of Ophthalmology commissioned Harris Poll to conduct an online survey within the United States between March 31 and April 2, 2014, among 2,027 adults ages 18 and over. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and complete definition of direct selling, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.