Ah, spring!  With winter finally over, we can get out and start enjoying the great outdoors once again.   Make sure you bring your sunglasses along for the journey!

Think of sunglasses as sunscreen for the eyes.  The strong rays of the sun damage your skin and cause a burn, and this can also be true for eyes.  A “welder’s flash” is a quick sunburn on the front of the eye and is REALLY painful, but you can also get sunburns on the back of the eye that can be painless yet permanently blinding.  UV exposure also worsens cataracts and macular degeneration, making sunglasses a must for outdoor adventures.

Polarized lenses are great for people who love to be by the water – fishermen swear by them!  They eliminate most of the glare from the waves but can also block some digital displays, so clocks and gas pump readouts can be hard to see with them on.  Lenses can instead be tinted to become sunglasses, which allows for many more choices such as colour, darkness, and gradient patterns.  Colour-changing lenses like Transitions® combine regular and sunglasses in one pair of glasses, but don't darken well when driving.

The colour that you choose for your lenses is mostly cosmetic.  Some look better with the frame colour while some people are light-sensitive and so go for dark gray.  Certain tints are better for sports where they enhance the contours of the terrain or make seeing a target easier.  A clear coating can instead be put onto lenses to make them “sunglasses” in terms of UV protection but do not make them dark at all.  Mirrors on the front of lenses are an option but they’re just for fun, not function.

If you have a higher prescription, then here’s some good news – your expensive lenses likely have UV protection built in!  Sunglasses are still nice to combat brightness, but they’re not as essential as for those with low or no prescription.

Frame choice is important, too.  Ones that wrap around your face or are over-sized to prevent sun from getting to your eyes are best.  Other than that, it’s just a matter of what looks the most fabulous on you!

With glasses, you often get what you pay for.  Good lens materials and coatings will cause less visual distortion and strain; however, even cheap sunglasses can protect your eyes if they are marked with “100% UVA & UVB protection” or very close to it.

Hopefully the springtime sun is shining right now, so make sure you protect your eyes to enjoy that sight for a long time to come!

This article is for informational purposes only.  Please consult a registered eyecare professional to discuss your personal needs.

Copyright 2015 Dr. Sonya Frank
Originally published in the April 2015 Baden Outlook, page 5