Column: Sunglasses: Function not just Fashion

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Commentary by Dr. Jeremy Ciano

Who doesn’t love a great pair of sunglasses? With summer in full swing, everyone is champing at the bit to get back outside and sport their stylin’ sunnies. But let’s set aside our fashion infatuation for a bit and discuss the medical and functional importance of sunglasses.

As most know, ultraviolet radiation can have a dramatic deleterious impact on human tissue. The eyes are prone to cataract formation with increased UV exposure. Research is also showing that sustained UV damage is one of the leading causes of macular degeneration. We cannot stress enough the importance of high-quality UV-A and UV-B protection in your sunglasses.

Unfortunately, a lot of the lower-quality plastics don’t provide UV protection. This is actually a double whammy for trouble, because with darkened lenses our pupils get larger to let in more light. The problem is, we are now letting in more than twice as much harmful UV light than without any sunglasses at all! Think about that the next time you are at the gas station considering your next fashion statement.

Polarization is key to visual clarity. Polarized lenses help to block glare and to crisp up our vision. Polarized lenses alone do not have UV protection. You need both in your sunglasses to ensure the most protection and best visual performance.

Another key element in choosing your perfect pair of sunnies is the curvature and your physical needs. Too much curve on your glasses or a single lens ‘shield’ will eliminate your ability to put your prescription into your new sunglasses. There are also considerations that need to be made with respect to the size of the lenses as well as the holding mechanisms to ensure your glasses stay in place even during the most rigorous of activities.

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