Based on a new Harris Poll, The Vision Council reports 25 percent of adults in the U.S. rarely or never wear sunglasses. If you’re like two-thirds of the 2,000 adults surveyed for the poll, you probably don’t realize the high cost associated with forgoing quality sun protection for your eyes either. According to Renee Macdonald, Director of Optical Services at Key-Whitman Eye Center, “If you don’t protect your eyes from the sun’s UV (ultraviolet) rays, it could cost you your sight. Opting for inexpensive, drug store sunglasses can also be problematic. Cheap lenses often come with minimal UV protection and poor vision quality.”
Renee explains why cheap sunglasses can be a bad idea.
“The bottom line is UV rays can cause damage to the cornea and retina. Your cornea absorbs most of the UVB light rays and most of the UVA, but some of the UVA rays will reach the lens of the eye and cause cataracts. When UVA rays reach as far back as the retina, it can lead to macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness for patients 65 and older. Intense and prolonged radiation can also cause photo keratitis (known as sunburn of the eye) and even cancer of the eye,” warns Renee.
Since the damage caused by UV rays typically happens over time, most people won’t notice loss of vision until it has progressed. While you can get cataract surgery to overcome cataracts, there is presently no cure for macular degeneration. Once your vision is lost, it’s gone forever.
Why risk eye disease and blindness when a good pair of sunglasses can help protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays? Renee advises patients to choose sunglasses that offer the proper type of lenses and maximum UV protection to protect their eyes.
“Some lenses (even those without tint) are made of materials that automatically provide UV protection, such as polycarbonate, high-index and polarized lenses. Polarized lenses are the best option because they filter more glare horizontally and vertically than other types of lenses,” Renee says.
Another goal to shoot for when buying sunglasses is choosing lenses with UV 400 protection. According to Renee, “UV 400 is the best method to treat ophthalmic lenses and offers the optimum coating to help absorb the UV rays.”
Unfortunately, many people opt for cheap, drugstore sunglasses that might look nice but don’t offer the protection of polarized lenses or UV 400.
Says Renee, “You won’t get the best quality lenses and distortion is extremely common in cheap sunglasses. If you purchase a high quality pair of sunglasses through your eye doctor, the quality, comfort and clarity is typically much superior, and quality lenses can also reduce eye strain.”
Renee demonstrates how to test the quality of your sunglasses.
Renee also encourages people to compare how well they see with cheap vs. high quality lenses. “What I like to do is demonstrate the difference
between polarized and non-polarized lenses. Patients almost always respond with a ‘WOW!’ So they really see the difference. Usually after that comparison, they want the polarized lenses,” explains Renee.
While many patients turn to Key-Whitman for prescription sunglasses, the organization is probably best known for its refractive surgery practice.
Consequently, there is a big demand for non-prescription sunglasses for those patients who have had LASIK eye surgery and other vision correction procedures.
Renee says, “I always remind people they only have one set of eyes, and for those who have had a LASIK procedure, PRK or Crystalens surgery, they should protect that investment along with their eyesight. We also offer many of the best known brands of sunglasses on the market, so patients have plenty of frame options to choose from.”
Renee acknowledges that high-quality sunglasses will cost you more than the $15 you might spend at the drug store, but if you want to protect your eyesight, it’s worth the investment.
“People often object to paying more, because high-quality sunglasses may cost $195 and up, but you’re doing your eyes an injustice with cheaper lenses. You could be damaging your eyes and not even realize it, and losing your eyesight is a much higher price to pay than the cost of a good pair of sunglasses,” says Renee.