By John Smith, Published July 28, 2014
There's nothing better to give you that extra edge of coolness than a well-chosen pair of designer shades. Though they may be aesthetically attractive, they also serve a very important purpose – to protect your eyes from the potentially damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Long-term exposure to UV rays can damage the surface of the eye as well as part of the inside, and this can sometimes lead to macular degeneration (breakdown of the macula) or cataracts (clouding of the lens).
We all apply a generous layer of Factor 15 to our skin when the sun's out, but it's just as crucial to protect your eyes.
Ultraviolet radiation is made up of invisible layers from the sun that comprises of three bands of UV light: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC rays are the least harmful as they're absorbed by the upper atmosphere and don't reach the surface of the earth. UVB rays can damage the eyes and burn the skin, and when they mix with the snow and cold wind they can also potentially cause snow blindness, a problem that might only last between 12 and 48 hours but which can be extremely painful in the cornea of the eye.
It's also been suggested by some researchers that daily exposure to UVB rays in bright light over a period of many years can lead to cataracts, whilst other experts have advocated that the primary cause of some eye growths is the result of exposure to UVB rays. UVA rays are mainly absorbed into the eye, though there's no documented evidence that they cause any kind eye disorder.
Scientists use a globally recognised scale from 1 to 11 to indicate how much of a threat exists from sun exposure at any time and place, and this information is released to the news media so they can warn people when the UV levels are particularly high. These warnings are usually relayed with pertinent protection advice, such as wearing hats, suitable clothing, sunscreen and sunglasses.
The standard for sunglass lenses are solely for UVB and UVA rays – and it's important to remember that these labelling procedures are voluntary. Nevertheless, according to these standards, sunglasses have to block at least 70% of UVB and 60% of UVA rays.
The best way to protect your eyes is to buy a pair of sunglasses that provides at least 98 protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Some of the more expensive sunglasses that are made with glass, plastic (CR-39) and polycarbonate claim to block 100% of UV rays.
The reality is that there is actually minimal eye dilation when your eyes are exposed to the sun. You get a much more significant level of protection wearing sunglasses than just standing in the shade, which effectively evenly attenuates all wavelengths of visible and UV rays.
It is true that the sun’s rays are a lot less intense during the winter, but they are still strong enough to cause damage to the eyes. Wearing sunglasses in winter can help prevent symptoms associated with dry or irritated eyes as well as reducing the risk of UV light damage, especially for people who spend a lot of time outdoors.
In fact, UV rays can be just as harmful during the winter as they can during the summer, and many skiers and snowboarders get "goggle tans" or even sunburns on the skin around the goggles from UV light. Sunlight can also reflect off snow and can cause a more intense glare than light during the summer, making glare levels very high and hazardous, especially if you're driving a car. Sunglasses can therefore alleviate this intense level of glare.
According to the World Health Organisation, fresh snow can reflect up to 80% of ultraviolet rays, while normal ground surfaces and water generally reflect less than 10%.
Yes you can, and it's a good idea. UV protected contact lenses decrease the amount of rays that enter the cornea, which can seriously damage the eye structures beneath.
Nevertheless, you'll still need to wear sunglasses over the contact lenses because UV rays can affect the eye tissue that contacts don't cover. This also means your eyes will be more comfortable because of the glare and light reduction you get from the sunglasses.
Now you've been armed with best UV protection advice, you can make a practical, sensible decision when you're next picking out a pair of sunglasses.
Browse our fantastic range of UV protected designer sunglasses.