The sun, the star in our solar system that emits vast amounts of energy onto the earths surface. Some of this energy is visible and is perceived as light, but there are other invisible energy components to the suns power. For instance, when sitting in the sun you might think to yourself “whoa, I’m getting warm here”, this energy is heat or infrared light. Although this can be enjoyable capturing the heat of the sun and tanning while you’re at it, in our enjoyment some people forget we are also exposing ourselves to a more potent range of light known as ultraviolet (UV) light. It’s well known that UV exposure is linked to incidences of skin melanomas or cancer, and for this reason people normally use sun screen to protect their skin from harmful effects. But what about our eyes? You can say that next to our skin, our eyes are the second most susceptible organ to UV light. Unfortunately eye sunscreen isn’t a viable option, and for those of you who may have had sunscreen in your eye, you know the only outcome is a plethora of four letter words. Thankfully most healthcare professionals recommend sunglasses, no eye sunscreen needed.
Let me comfort you in saying that much of the harmful UV light is filtered away by the ozone layer. Our eyes can further filter some of the UV light that is able to penetrate through the ozone from reaching and potentially harming the retina – the photo-sensitive tissue that lines the inside of the eye. You may think to yourself now, “if we have all of this protection in place, why bother with sunglasses?” Let me answer that for you.
Although the earth and our eyes provide a form of protection from harmful UV light, the chronic exposure of UV to our eyes is a risk factor for a number of ocular conditions. This includes cataracts, pterygium, pinguecula, macular degeneration, and cellular changes to the cornea. In other words, wearing sunglasses or other forms of UV protection like contact lenses helps with reducing the amount UV exposure lowering the risk of ocular complications. This is especially true for those who spend more time than the average person outside, particularly children who play outside. Some people would also argue that the ozone layer is inevitably thinning, this of course would only increase the amount of harmful UV light reaching earths surface.
In addition to sunglasses keeping your eyes healthy, they are without a doubt a great fashion accessory. A nice pair of sunglasses can be the finishing touch for that look you’ve been wanting to have, or they could be seen as an opportunity to try something completely different (could it be the new you?). Polarized sun glasses are a must have for those who are involved in water sports or fishing, the lens reduces glare from the waters surface making viewing a more optimal experience. Or perhaps your into other sports like cycling, skiing/snowboarding, tennis, there are glasses suitable for every need.
Sunglasses are vital in maintaining the health of our eyes, in a way they are a shield protecting our eyes against arguably the most powerful source of energy in our solar system – the sun. And who knew you can look so good while wearing a shield? I know I can’t live without them, and I hope you will learn the same.