Save Your Eyes with Sunglasses

Did You Know… that the wrong sunglasses can cost you the health of your eyes, leading to macular degeneration, cataracts, other vision disorders, and even skin cancer?

What you don’t know about sunglasses could, unfortunately, cost you your healthy vision. 

Sunglasses are more than fashion accessories; quality sunglasses protect your eyes from damaging UV rays that cause cataracts, eye sunburn, and even skin cancer.  It’s all about choosing the right sunglasses.

The Sun and Your Eyes 

If you were to take a magnifying lens and direct the sun onto a piece of paper, it could actually set the paper on fire.  Your eyes work the same way, and can therefore attract harmful UV rays that usher in a host of vision problems, such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

Two eye disorders in particular have been linked to UV exposure:

  • Pinguecula is a thickening of the clear, thin membrane that covers the whites of the eyes.  This disorder causes aesthetic damage—raised yellow spots near the cornea—and can also promote inflammation and irritation.
  • Pterygium, or “surfer’s eye,” is a wedge-shaped growth of the membrane that can obscure vision.

Your retina is a layer of tissue in the back of the eye that soaks up sunlight.  Within the retina lies themacula, which allows for high-resolution vision.  Research shows a strong link between UV light and degeneration of the macula, which results in blurred vision and blind spots.


Macular degeneration has been shown to be more common in individuals with lighter eyes, so if you have blue eyes be sure to wear those sunglasses at all times!

The lens of your eye sits behind the iris. With UV damage, the lens can cloud over, causing certain types of cataracts.  These cataracts can be corrected with surgery…or avoided with sunglasses!

The cornea, the front part of the eye, is vulnerable to sunburn, just like your unprotected skin.  Sunburn of the eye can cause extreme pain.  While no long-term damage from eye sunburn is documented, it makes sense to exercise caution.

Preventative Measures

Experts advise specific considerations when choosing sunglasses to protect your eye health, including the following:

    1. Look for “99 to 100% UV absorption” or “UV 400,” which indicates that the glasses protect against wavelengths shorter than 400nm (including all damaging UVA and UVB rays).
    2. Don’t be fooled by the word polarized.  This doesn’t mean better UV absorption.  It simply helps to reduce glare, which, while helpful when driving, is not related to protecting your eye health.
    3. Darker lenses don’t protect better.  But certain shades do work better for certain activities.  For instance, gray hued lenses are best for driving while yellow lenses work well for indoor sports and snow activities.
    4. Purchase optically ground lenses, which have less distortion than lenses made from cheap pressed plastic.
    5. If you prefer oversized glasses, you’re in luck, because these prevent rays from sneaking through the sides.  Therefore, they minimize dry eye by staving off the evaporation of the eye’s natural tear film.