How to pick lenses with the protection you need
By: Kirk Smick, OD, FFAO
In 2013, Atlanta’s beautiful summer weather exposed our eyes to 116 days of “very high” to “extreme” levels of UV, making our city the 20th highest UV city in America. A full day outside without protection from the UV radiation can cause immediate, temporary issues such as swollen or red eyes and hypersensitivity to light, telltale signs of sunburn of the eyes. And years of cumulative exposure can cause cancer of the eye or eyelid and accelerate cataracts, which affect nearly 22 million Americans ages 40 and older.
Despite those dangers, many Americans don’t realize the harmful effects of UV light to your eyes. In fact, a recent report by The Vision Council found that only 22 percent of Atlanta adults report wearing sunglasses whey they go outside, leaving eyes at risk for the long and short-term damage of UV-related vision disorders. Also, only 47 percent of Atlantans know that UV can accelerate age-related macular degeneration and even fewer (35 percent) know it can lead to cataracts.
The best option is to start wearing sunglasses that can protect your vision health during the course of your lifetime. When buying your next pair of shades, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
See past the tint – Darker lenses aren’t necessarily better. Tint and color of sunglasses lenses has no bearing on the level of UV protection. Even clear glasses with UV treatments provide excellent protection from the sun.
Ask your doctor – Take your sunglasses to your eye doctors’s office and check if your shades provide ample UV protection measured by a special UV meter.
Look for a label – Before purchasing a pair of sunglasses, see if they have a label, sticker or tag indicating UVA/UVB protection, There are sunglasses to fit everyone’s lifestyle, and they don’t have to be expensive.
Be mindful of where to buy – Purchase from a credible source and steer clear of street vendors, online auction sites, and secondhand stores that may acquire glasses illegally, make false claims about UV protection or sell products that are not UV-protectant.