Whether or not you require vision correction, sunglasses can add an element of comfort and enhanced performance to your activities, while helping you look great.
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Prescription & Nonprescription Sunglasses
Everyone should have a good pair of sunglasses. Whether you wear prescription eyeglasses or not, sunglasses are important for every age, race and gender. While sunglasses may be considered a must-have fashion accessory, even more importantly, they play a critical role in protecting your eyes from UV (ultraviolet) and other harmful radiation from the sun. They also shield your eyes from wind, dust and debris that could cause discomfort, dryness or damage.
Sunglasses should be worn in the winter as well as the summer and should be 100% UV blocking. This doesn’t mean that you have to pay a fortune for your shades. Even cheaper brands of sunglasses are made these days with full UV protection, so take the extra time to ensure you select ones that do offer full protection from the sun’s rays.
- Sunglasses Shapes: Sunglasses serve as a combination of function and fashion and therefore come in a plethora of shapes and styles. Sunglasses are often larger than eyeglasses to cover more surface area and prevent sunlight from entering around the lenses. While fashion sunglasses are made in all of the latest styles from aviator to cat eyes, round, square and oversized, sports sunglasses are generally more durable and broad, often in wraparound styles that prevent sunlight from entering from the sides as well. Wrap-around frames are a good option for athletes, fishermen and bikers that spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun.
- Lenses: Lenses are the most important part of any pair of sunglasses. As mentioned above, all lenses should block 100% UV rays but beyond that there are many options for sunglass lenses. Polycarbonate or trivex lenses are impact-resistant to increase safety during sports and outdoor activities.
- Polarized lenses help to reduce glare and are particularly helpful during activities on or near the water such as boating, fishing or beaching.
- Anti-glare and anti-scratch coatings are also beneficial to maintain your best vision in a variety of conditions.
- For the fashion conscious there are a number of colors and reflective coatings available for sunglass lenses. It’s best to choose the lenses that allow for the most accurate color vision with the least amount of distortion to ensure they don’t obstruct clear vision.
While it’s important to choose sunglasses that you like from a style and appearance perspective, it’s also important to pay attention to comfort and fit. Here are a few tips for purchasing sunglasses that fit well for maximum comfort and sun protection:
- Make sure the lenses completely cover your eyes and provide extra coverage above and to the sides.
- The frames shouldn’t pinch at your temples or the nosepiece and should be wide enough for your face.
- Ensure that the frames aren’t too wide and stay in place when you move your head around.
Ask your doctor if prescription sunglasses might be the perfect solution for you!
Since most prescription sunglasses manufacturers block 100% UV, prescription sunglasses are a healthy way to enjoy the outdoors (especially the beach) and driving using the darkest lenses available to protect against the brightness of the sun.
Alternative prescription sunglass options for sun protection do exist & can include:
- Photochromic lenses – which turn from clear lenses to dark when you go outside.
- Clip-ons – which are sunglasses that go over your prescription eyewear.
- Or wearing contact lenses with non-prescription sunglasses.
Speak to your optician to determine the best option for you.
Having issues with glare? Ask about polarized sunglasses!
For reduced glare and increased clarity in your vision, a pair of polarized sunglasses can’t be beat. An invisible filter is built into your lenses—making images appear sharper and clearer while reducing the intensity of the sun’s glare. Make sure your polarized sunglasses block 100% UV, and remember that polarized sunglasses are available with or without a prescription.
Sunglasses for Kids
Many parents don’t know the importance of sunglasses for children, however studies show that since children spend so much time in the sunshine, that by the age of 18 our eyes and body have absorbed half of our lifetime of ultraviolet radiation (UV) exposure. This makes the use of sunglasses and proper UV protection even more critical for children.
Risks to children’s eyes from overexposure to the sun can be short term and long term.
Short terms risks include:
- Photokeratitis, also known as “snow blindness,” which is essentially a sunburn of the eye. This can cause temporary vision loss for up to 48 hours.
- Pterygium is another condition, also referred to as “surfer’s eye,” which causes an itchy, swollen growth to form on the surface of the eye. Pterygium often require surgery to remove.
Long term UV damage is known to be a risk factor for a number of eye diseases including:
- Cataracts, which is a clouding of the lens of the eye that causes vision loss.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which also causes permanent vision loss and low vision, as well as cancer of the eye, eyelid or the skin around the eye.
Wearing sunglasses with wide or wrap-around lenses will protect not only your eyes, but also the area around your eyes from UV exposure and damage. Since these diseases can be caused by an accumulation of UV exposure over a lifetime, it is important to start preventative measures early, by getting children in the habit of wearing sunglasses when they are outside.
Most importantly, let your child be involved in the process of selecting sunglasses, as any child will be more enthusiastic about wearing shades that he or she picked out and loves.
Performance and Sport Sunglasses
Whether you are out on the field, the golf course, the waves or the mountains, you want your sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun and enhance your visual experience. Sports and performance sunglasses are more than sun protection, they need to be designed for optimal, fit, comfort, acuity and strength, based on the demands of the sport or leisure activity you pursue.
- Ensure you are selecting a lightweight, strong and durable lens! You need a lens that can withstand impact from debris, other athletes, balls or falls. The leading lenses in this arena are polycarbonate or trivex lenses which are made from highly impact resistant plastic that has built-in UV protection.
- Polarized lenses may be the best option to help reduce glare that is reflected off of wet, icy or shiny surfaces! Glare can be an annoying and uncomfortable distraction in outdoor activities, which can reduce vision and have a negative impact on sports performance. Some sports sunglasses come with interchangeable lenses of different tints to allow you to choose the contrast that most suits the conditions you are playing in.
- Select the right frames! The most important consideration is whether they have a comfortable and secure fit. Look for a pair that is strong and durable, yet lightweight and that doesn’t press into your face and cause discomfort at the temples or the bridge of the nose. For some sports like snowboarding, sports goggles might be the best option for the weather conditions and specific nature of the movement. Some frame options come with grips on the nose pads or temples to avoid slippage, particularly when you perspire.
Each element of your sports eyewear needs to be designed for active wear and to stand up to the tests of extreme weather conditions, rough play, impact and of course the sun.