Q: I usually buy my sunglasses at the drugstore or some retail place, but wonder if there is any real difference between mine and the ones costing over $100?
A: You raise an important point: everyone should be wearing some sort of ultraviolet-blocking sunglasses when outdoors.
First, please realize that UV radiation is invisible to us, but is an enemy to our skin and our eyes. About 11% of skin cancers can involve the very thin and delicate tissue of our eyelids. Prevention is fairly simple, but many people ignore the science and wear their indoor glasses, or no glasses when exposed to the sun. It may seem small, but even the frame your wear affects your protection. Most “dress” glasses for general usage allow a lot of UV radiation to reach your eyelids and your eyes right over the top of the frame. This is why your best sunglasses are larger and are shaped with more “wrap” to closely fit your face and block more UV.
Second, while “over the counter” sunglasses are generally dark in color, so you feel protected, the actual ultraviolet filtering is often a “sprayed on” coating. This sort of protection is not permanent, as a coating is can wear off with handling and rubbing……leaving you with dark lenses ( allowing your pupils to enlarge outdoors ), but little or no UV blockage. In contrast, better grade lenses, called ophthalmic grade, include UV filtering built into the lens. This protection cannot degrade or wear off over time.
I should add that some contact lenses now come with some UV filtering built-in. However, the level of protection is such that the FDA still recommends true sunglasses over them. And speaking of needing extra protection……cataract patients need to use extra care. While you are developing cataracts, blocking more UV radiation can slow down the clouding of the lens in your eye, and delay the need for surgery. And after cataract surgery, when a plastic replacement lens is placed inside your eye, you need more protection than before. The man-made plastic lens used ( called an intraocular lens ) does not block enough UV radiation. This can allow dangerous radiation to reach your retina and cause more irreparable damage to your eyesight.
Lastly, I often hear people say “ I lose my sunglasses all the time, so I don’t want to spend much”. I hear you, but I believe it is a matter of perceived value….meaning, if you invest significantly in any item, you will take better care of it. For example, how often do you lose your cell phone? The bottom line: invest in ophthalmic grade sun lenses and give your eyes and your eyesight the best protection you can. Seeing well all your life is our mutual goal.
Call Morgantown Eye Associates on 304-381-5353 to schedule an eye exam with our Morgantown optometrist.
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