Not Just for Looks

Why shades should be more than style

Dr. Daniel Laroche (Photo by Lonnie C. Major)

Dr. Daniel Laroche (Photo by Lonnie C. Major)

Sunglasses are the perfect accent to any wardrobe, but when selecting shades it’s important that consideration extend beyond what looks good. The primary focus should be how well they protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.  Most people understand the importance of guarding their skin against potential damage from UV rays, but many don’t consider overexposure to the sun as a danger to their eyes. According to a survey conducted by the American Optometric Association (www.aoa.org), 40% of Americans do not think that UV protection is an important factor in selecting shades.

“Ultraviolet protection [for the eyes] is very important,” stresses Dr. Daniel Laroche, director of glaucoma services and president of Advanced Eyecare of New York. “The sun has ultraviolet rays A, B, and C that can be harmful to the eye.” Photokeratitis is a type of “sunburn” of the eye characterized by symptoms that include redness, light sensitivity, excessive tearing, and/or a gritty feeling. UV rays, particularly A and B, can contribute to much more serious complications such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma, which is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the African American community, says Laroche, who is also a glaucoma specialist at The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology at the New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York.

Steve M. Davis, co-owner of Omega Optical (www.omegaoptical.net), an optical boutique in Philadelphia, offers several factors to consider:

1. The type or color of lens has nothing to do with UV
protection. Lenses must be treated with a coating that filters out UV rays. A lens can be perfectly clear and offer 100% UV protection; color filters light. Colored lenses that don’t offer proper UV protection actually cause the eyes to absorb more UV rays.

2. Purchase sunglasses and contact lenses (there are brands offering UV protection) that block out 100% of UV rays. Do not buy shades if you cannot verify the
level of protection with the merchant or by the label.
Cost of sunglasses is not an indicator of the level of
protection.

3. According to Glaucoma.org, some labels say “UV
absorption up to 400nm,” which is the same thing
as 100% UV absorption.

SOURCE: American Optometric Association

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