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Disease Prevention

Beyond Fashion: Why You Gotta Wear Shades


Cheap sunglasses may cost you less, but are they just as likely to protect against the effects of harmful UV rays as expensive sunglasses?

According to Dr. Donald J. D'Amico, chair of ophthalmology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, there is no certain way for consumers to be sure they are getting ultraviolet or UV protection from their sunglasses – even if they are labeled "UV absorbing" or "UV blocking." Cost is no indicator of UV protection. An expensive pair of sunglasses does not guarantee sufficient protection from the sun.

"There is no government regulating power for the classification of sunglasses," says Dr. D'Amico. As a result, company information may misrepresent how much protection their sunglasses offer; and, unfortunately, consumers sometimes assume all sunglasses have protection if they are dark in color.

Dr. Stephen Trokel, an ophthalmologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, advises that consumers buy sunglasses from reputable companies to ensure that they block both UVA and UVB rays. Another tip is to pair sunglasses with a large-brimmed hat to protect the eyes from sunlight that may enter from above and from the sides of glasses. Wraparound sunglasses and those with large temples also provide important side protection.

Sunglasses are not just a fashion statement; their lenses block harmful UV rays that, in severe cases, can cause permanent damage to the eyes in the form of cataracts, pterygium and possibly retinal degeneration.

Dr. D'Amico and Dr. Trokel caution that consumers should be aware of the following:

  • Persons with light-colored eyes, such as blue and green, are often more sensitive to bright sunlight than darker eye shades.
  • Individuals who wear contact lenses are least likely to want to wear sunglasses; however, sunglasses are helpful from preventing the drying effect most contact lens wearers get from warm wind; UV protection in contact lenses are the most effective in blocking all UV entering the eye.
  • While not always true, the darkness of sunglasses will indicate greater UV protection -- at least if they comply with the ANSI Z80.3 industry standard.
  • Automobile window tints are not a replacement for sunglasses; however, windshields screen out and are very effective in absorbing both UVA and UVB rays (because of the internal shatter-proof laminate).

In addition, Dr. D'Amico and Dr. Trokel emphasize that you are never too young to protect your eyes from the sun's harmful rays. Parents should purchase UV-protected sunglasses for their children with wraparound design and keep infants' eyes shaded.

For more information on the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, visit www.nyp.org.


© 2008 Health Resources Publishing