It’s not just about looking hip and glam: A perfect pair of sunglasses is your best fashion and health ally. Whether you wear prescription sunglasses or designer sunglasses, aviator-style or cat-eyes, you can give your peepers the protection they need against the sun’s powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can be just as harmful to the eyes as they are to the skin. Here are five expert reasons why wearing shades is the best eye care you can give to yourself on a sunny day.
Steer clear of cataracts.
Did you know that extended UV exposure can cause cataracts, a cloudiness in the eye’s lens that can blur vision and lead to blindness if left untreated? According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), exposure to UV rays is responsible for an estimated 20 percent of cataract cases.
Fend off macular degeneration.
It’s cumulative sun exposure that can lead to some of the most dangerous eye ailments, including age-related macular degeneration. By wearing the right pair of sunglasses, you can help protect the nerve cells of the macula lutea, the light-sensing hub in the middle of the retina at the back of the eye. Damage to these cells can dull color perception and blur vision; ultimately, it can destroy central vision. Fact: Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the United States.
Prevent cancer (and look cool doing it).
The delicate skin around the eye is particularly vulnerable not just to wrinkles but also to skin cancer. Wearing your sunnies can protect the cells surrounding the eye, including the eyelid and nearby skin. Fact: Some 10% of skin cancers develop on the eyelid. All the more reason to shield yours with shades.
Safeguard against sunburned eyes.
Bet you didn’t think you could get a sunburn on your eyes, but it can happen. It’s called photokeratitis, aka “snow blindness,” and skiers who don’t don protective shades can be especially at risk (beach-goers too). A severe case can impair vision for up to 48 hours.
Avoid “surfer’s eye.”
Excessive exposure to UV rays can lead to a lesser-known ailment called pterygium, or surfer’s eye—an abnormal growth of tissue on the eye’s surface that can itch and swell. Although the growth is usually benign, a pterygium can become inflamed and irritated and can disturb vision.
For surefire protection against eye ills like these, not just any sunglasses will do. Be sure to pick a pair that blocks out at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays; these different wavelengths of UV light can both lead to eye health issues (not to mention premature aging in the form of fine lines and crow’s feet). Look for a label that says your sunglasses meet the standards of ANSI, the American National Standards Institute. Best bet: Ask a Cohen’s Eyestylist for expert help in selecting shades that fit the bill both health-wise and style-wise. Choose a pair (or three!) that you love, so you’ll be sure to wear them everywhere under the sun.