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Everyone—including kids—needs protective sunglasses

| Safety | Healthy You | Aging Well

Adult son and older father enjoy floating in a waterway

A pair of $12 drug-store sunglasses can provide just as much protection against the sun as a $200 pair.

The last time I bought a pair of sunglasses, I popped for a pair of Maui Jims®. They’re spendy, but I like their style, quality and durability, as well as their water-repellant and non-static lens coating.

Those are all nice features—but they’re not necessary. Thankfully, it’s easy to find sunglasses that look good and protect your eyes — no matter what your budget is.

A pair of $12 drug-store sunglasses can provide just as much protection against the sun as a $200 pair.

Be sure, though, that the sunglasses you buy provide 100% protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Use reputable outlets

While you can trust UV protection labels at most reputable retail outlets, be careful about online ordering—and if you have any doubts, bring your sunglasses to an optometry office to have them tested.

Why is UV protection so important for your eyes?

Exposure to UV rays over time can cause a range of problems, including cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens that can blur vision, and “snow blindness,” a painful, temporary loss of vision. It can also hasten macular degeneration as you age, resulting in irreversible vision loss.

But the more immediate threat from UV rays is cancer—and sunglasses help protect some of the most vulnerable areas on your face.

In addition to sunglasses, get kids in the habit of wearing visors or wide-brim hats.

The skin of your eyelids—both upper and lower—is extremely thin compared to pretty much any other part of your body, raising the risk of skin damage and cancer.

In my patient practice, I occasionally find suspicious spots around the eyes, some of which turn out to be skin cancer or pre-cancerous lesions.

The bigger the lens the better

A couple notes on sunglass style:

This may be obvious, but the larger the lens, the more protection it provides—so I’ve been pleased to see the oversized lens fashion trend continuing.

You might also think that a darker lens provides more protection—but it actually makes no difference. In fact, darker lenses cause your pupils to dilate, which makes the eyes more vulnerable to damage from UV rays.

As for polarized lenses, they help deflect glare (that’s especially useful when you’re in the water or on snow), but they’re no more protective against UV rays than regular glasses.

Start safe sun habits early

With my young patients, I try to explain why it’s important—perhaps even more so at a young age, when skin is tender—to wear sunglasses. That can be a hard sell.

Sometimes kids tell me their parents haven’t pushed sunglasses, even when they nag constantly about applying sunscreen.

But parents, rest assured, sunglasses provide essential protection at any age.

If your kids play sports, try to convince them to wear either safety glasses with UV protection or regular sunglasses during games and practices, if possible.

While most contact lenses guard against UV rays, they’re no help in protecting the skin around the eyes.

In addition to the sunglasses, try to get your kids in the habit early on of wearing visors or, better still, wide-brim hats. They will thank you for it later.

This healthy living tip is provided by Lee Azpiroz, OD, optometrist, PeaceHealth Medical Group, University District Optometry Clinic.