Why Sunglasses are Essential for Eye Health: Protecting Your Eyes from UV Rays

Jun 20, 2023 in Eye Care

Why Sunglasses are Essential for Eye Health banner image

There is no greater time to enjoy the outdoors than the summer. The weather is warmer, the days are longer and the sun is shining (well, some of the time at least).

But with more of us spending time outdoors, we thought it was a good time for a reminder as to why sunglasses are essential for our eye health and the vital role they play in protecting our eyes against UV rays.

What is UV?

image of rays from the sun across the blue and lightly clouded sky.

UV, or ultraviolet radiation, is a form of radiation that is emitted by the sun and can cause damage to our skin and eyes if not protected against.

There are three types of UV radiation: UVA, UVB and UVC. However, we only need to worry about UVA and UVB, as UVC radiation is almost completely absorbed by our atmosphere and the ozone layer.

About 95% of the UV radiation that reaches us is UVA, which has been attributed to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration later in life due to overexposure.The other 5% comes from UVB. Whilst in small amounts it can have positive health benefits by boosting our vitamin D levels, UVB is the prime suspect for causing sunburn, skin damage, and contributing to the development of some skin cancers.

What are the effects of UV on our eyes?

As mentioned above, overexposure to UV can have a significant impact on our eyes and vision, especially as we get older. This is why protection is so important.

Not only does UV radiation increase the chances of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, but it also increases the risk of other conditions such as pinguecula and cancers of the eyelid. Limiting our exposure to UV greatly reduces our risk, so it's something we should all take seriously.

It is just as important, if not more so, to protect young eyes against harmful UV radiation. This is because children are more susceptible to damage from the sun as their pupils are larger and natural lenses are clearer, allowing more UV rays into the eye. It’s estimated that 80% of a person's lifetime UV exposure is experienced before the age of 18 [1] which is why we need to get into the habit of protecting our little ones eyes from an early age.

The Role of Sunglasses in Eye Protection

Here at Leightons, we know just how important sunglasses are in protecting our eyes against harmful UV rays, but unfortunately, many people still regard them as “just another fashion accessory”. That’s why we’re here to tell you just how amazing sunglasses are at protecting your vision.

image looing through a pair of sunglasses on the beach

Block out those rays

Sunglasses are great at protecting our eyes and the skin around them by blocking out rays from the sun. In fact, sunglasses with a CE mark block at least 95% of UV rays, but these days there are a lot of sunglasses which block an impressive 99% of UV rays.

When choosing sunglasses, quality is key. Many sunglasses, despite looking the part, often offer little to no UV protection, so make sure you check for that CE mark.

Not just for sunny days

Sunglasses are not just for sunny days. Even in the winter months or on cloudy days, you are just as susceptible to UV damage. So, remember to put on a pair of sunglasses if you are out and about. Your eyes will thank you later.

Goodbye glare

Some sunglasses have special lenses that can reduce glare from horizontal surfaces such as water, sand and snow. This is known as polarisation and is a popular choice amongst our patients as it provides optimised vision and visual comfort.

For the very best polarised lenses, we would always recommend Maui Jim sunglasses. Not only have they earnt the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation by blocking 99.9% of UV rays with their lens technology, but with Maui Jim sunglasses, you experience a completely uncompromised view of the world in all of its colour and vibrance!

Mum and son riding bikes, wearing sunglasses

Sunglasses for sports

There is a wide variety of specialist sunglass frames and tints available for your favourite sport or hobby. Whether that's specialist tints to help you pick up the white of your golf ball as you hit it down the fairway or sunglasses for cycling that help you see the track ahead clearly.

Want to find out more about sunglasses for sport? - Click here.

Find your perfect sunglasses today

Although some glasses can provide a small amount of protection if they have a UV filter and anti-reflective coating, sunglasses are always the best option.

At Leightons, we have a vast array of sunglasses styles to suit all tastes and lifestyles. Simply book a style consultation at your nearest Leightons practice, and one of our qualified dispensing opticians will help you find the perfect pair.

To book, call us on 0800 40 20 20 or book an appointment online.

Book an appointment