The never-ending debate among consumers and patients alike: are sunglasses a necessity or a fashion statement? Let’s take it back to the basics for some perspective.

The sun supports life on our planet, but its life-giving rays also pose dangers. The sun’s primary danger is in the form of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Artificial sources, like welding machines, tanning beds and lasers, can also produce UV radiation.

Most people are aware of how harmful UV radiation is to the skin. However, many may not realize that UV radiation can harm the eyes, and other components of solar radiation can also affect vision.

There are three types of UV radiation. UV-C is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not present any threat. However, UV-A and UV-B radiation can have long- and short-term negative effects on the eyes and vision.

The longer the eyes are exposed to solar radiation, the greater the risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration later in life. It is not clear how much exposure to solar radiation will cause damage. Therefore, whenever you spend time outdoors, wear quality sunglasses that offer UV protection and a hat or cap with a wide brim. Also, certain contact lenses, such as Acuvue, can provide additional protection.

To provide adequate protection for your eyes, sunglasses should

  • block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;
  • have lenses that are free of distortion and imperfection

If you participate in potentially eye-hazardous outdoor work or sports, your sunglass lenses should be made from polycarbonate or Trivex® material. These lenses provide the most impact resistance.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors in bright sunlight, consider wearing wraparound frames for additional protection from harmful solar radiation. Don’t forget protection for children and teenagers. They typically spend more time in the sun than adults. Remember, even on a cloudy day we are exposed to 40% of harmful UV rays, so ALWAYS wear protection!

Of course, our sunglasses can make a statement but consider it’s first priority: protecting your peepers!