It’s about that time. Time ditch the cold and the snow and head somewhere warm for a week. You’re already packing your bathing suit and sunscreen, but you may be wondering what are the best sunglasses you can take on spring break.
The fact is, when we think about a beach vacation, we generally don’t think about protecting our eyes. We’re more concerned with looking cool than protecting them. But the same sun rays that damage our skin can also affect our eyes. Many factors go into selecting the proper sunglasses, including:
- Ultraviolet radiation (UV) protection
- Lens shape
- How much coverage is provided by the frame.
While you can’t put sunscreen in your eyes, you can get a pair of sunglasses that will protect them. So, let’s look at what the best sunglasses have, that the others don’t, when it comes to keeping your eyes healthy.
What The Best Sunglasses Can Prevent
When you’re looking for the best sunglasses you should choose a pair that block both UVA and UVB light. According to the American Optometric Association UVA and UVB radiation can have long- and short-term negative effects on your eyes and vision.
If your eyes are exposed to excessive amounts of UV radiation over a short period of time, you will likely experience photokeratitis. Photokeratitis is an inflammation of the cornea. It’s like a "sunburn of the eye." Photokeratitis can be painful. Its symptoms include:
- Red eyes
- A gritty feeling in the eyes
- Extreme sensitivity to light
- Excessive tearing.
An extreme form of photokeratitis is snow blindness. It sometimes happens to skiers and climbers at high altitudes. Fresh snow can reflect up to 80 percent of incident UV radiation.
Cataracts are the principal cause of vision loss in people over 40 and the leading cause of blindness in the world. WHO estimates suggest that up to 20 percent of cataracts may be caused by overexposure to UV radiation and are therefore avoidable.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Blurred or hazy vision
- Reduced intensity of colors
- Increased difficulty seeing at night
Cataracts can be surgically removed and an artificial lens, or some other means of optical correction, can restore your vision.
Conjunctivitis or “pink eye” is also often tied to reflective sunlight. Some studies suggest it is more prevalent in the summer. It too, is characterized by a gritty feeling in the eyes, but other symptoms can include:
- Itching or burning sensation in one or both eyes
- Excessive tearing
- Discharge from one or both eyes
- Swollen eyelids
- Pink discoloration to the whites of one or both eyes
Conjunctivitis is usually not serious and will often go away by itself. You should still, however, see your doctor. If left untreated, chronic conjunctivitis can cause permanent eye damage.
The Best Sunglasses Block 99 Percent of UV Rays
When shopping for the best sunglasses, you should look for a tag or label that says 99-100% protection against both UVA and UVB.
You can also look for a label that says 100% protection against UV 400. The UV 400 designation means the lenses will block radiation equal to or shorter than 400 nanometers, which covers both UVA and UVB. These are, essentially, the most harmful rays.
You don’t have to pay a premium – UV protection is available in all price ranges. For full protection, wrap-around shades are best. Or find a pair that fit close to your eyes.
The Best Sunglasses Have Equal Tint
The best sunglasses have lenses with a uniform tint. They’re not darker in one area over another. Gradient lenses should lighten gradually with the bottom being lightest.
If you have macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy, amber or brown lenses will most likely work best for you. These colors enhance contrast, which can help you see better. But a high UV rating is more important than lens color if you have to choose.
The American Optometric Association recommends a gray tint. Their researchers believe it offers the best color recognition, especially when driving.
The Best Sunglasses Aren’t Always Polarized
Polarized lenses are great for cutting down glare when sunlight bounces off smooth surfaces like pavement or water. These are also great for driving, boating or being out in the snow. Polarization is unrelated to UV protection, so you still need to look for the “100% protection” label on the lens.
Even the Best Sunglasses Need to be Replaced
A study in Brazil found that you might want to consider replacing your sunglasses regularly. Researchers did an “aging test” where they put various pairs of sunglasses, about two inches from a sunlamp for extended periods of time. They’re recommendation—replace your sunglasses every two years.
There are other factors; like where you live, and how much sun you get, but it is something to consider.
Kids Also Need the Best Sunglasses
Children as young as six months old should wear sunglasses. The Vision Council of America reminds us that the damage from UVA and UVB radiation is cumulative over a person’s lifetime, so it’s a good idea to teach your children how important it is to wear sunglasses.
When choosing a pair of sunglasses for you, or your kids, you should put safety ahead of fashion sense. Sure, you want to look good, but you always want to make sure you’re not damaging your eyes in the process. Make sure your fun in the sun does not present any health risks by picking up a pair of the best sunglasses for your eyes.
You’re not just going to need them for spring break, you’ll need your sunglasses all summer long. Summer is right around the corner and UV radiation is just one of the hazards it can bring. To keep you, and your family safe, download our free “Summer Safety Survival Guide.” In it you’ll find tips you can use to make this your safest summer ever.