We all know that sunglasses are key to a summer outfit. Bad hair day? Sunglasses. No makeup? Sunglasses. But are sunglasses’ fashion status taking away from their main purpose of protecting our precious eyes?
I LOVE sunglasses. During the summer month’s paydays you’ll find me browsing our new stock deciding which frame I should treat myself to next. However, when autumn comes I usually forget about them completely. This year however, I’ve been writing the blogs for National Eye Health Week – and with that comes research.
Our brow bone, set back eyes and eyelashes all serve to shield our eyes from harmful UV rays. These do help in the quest to avoid UV light but they’re not perfect. On very sunny days or on holidays in very hot countries we can physically feel the sun in our eyes and sunglasses make us much more comfortable. In this extreme exposure to UV, neglecting to wear sunglasses at all or wearing bad quality sunglasses (which stop us squinting but do not have 100% UV protection) can have severe consequences.
Imagine your eyeball getting sunburn, it’s the same principle
Photokeratitis and photoconjunctivitis are painful conditions which are caused from UV rays inflaming areas of the eye. Imagine your eyeball getting sunburn, it’s the same principle. The symptoms normally appear within hours of exposure and are very painful, but normally subside within a few days. Fortunately, most of us are aware of the need to wear good sunglasses on a hot summer’s day so will avoid these afflictions. But what about when the suns behind a cloud or on a bright winters day?
Up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays penetrate light clouds.
The sun’s damaging UV rays have long been documented for the long term effects they can have on the skin. Skin cancer in later life is often because of too much UV exposure in younger years, wrinkles and uneven pigmentation in the skin also can happen much earlier from not protecting yourself from UV rays on beach holidays gone by. We’ve become accustomed to seeing families struggle to coat their kids in layers of sun cream. Many face creams and foundations now have UV protection built in to protect our face even on the cloudiest winter day.
But what about the long term impacts of UV on our eyes?
UV exposure increases the risk of melanoma (the most frequent cancer of the eyeball) drastically, which will normally have to be surgically removed. Cataracts progression and onset is thought to be earlier in people who have not sought proper protection against UV. Growths inside the eyeball on the conjunctiva called pterygiums are linked to consistent UV exposure. Again, these normally have to be surgically removed and quite often reoccur.
Even on those weird, rainy, bright days, think rainbow weather, sunglasses are a good idea. That sun bouncing off wet surfaces actually increases the concentration of UV rays. They’re also bouncing into the eye at such an angle, your eyebrows and brow bone aren’t doing much to fend them off.
If you’re going on a winter break skiing or snowboarding, I would urge you to invest in some polarised ski goggles. Good quality polarised lenses can be expensive but they are great at protecting you while keeping your vision crisp and cutting out glare. The problem with skiing is that it normally takes place in high altitudes where UV levels are higher, reflections off the snow also increase UV concentration and you’re normally preoccupied with the actual skiing that you don’t notice how bright it is.
A more severe version of the previously mentioned photokeratitus is nicknamed ‘snow blindness’. The UV light in snowy conditions can be so extreme it kills the outer cells of your eyes and leads to complete temporary blindness and shedding of the dead cells. Yes, you read that right, one sure way to ruin a holiday.
With so many different types of sunglasses out there, there isn’t any reason not to wear sunglasses. UV protective lenses come in so many different variations of colour and style there will always be something to suit you. Even some clear lenses we offer at Boptom, have an element of UV protection built in. A great way to protect the eye all day without even having to think about it.
There’s also transitions which adapt to the levels of UV light so you don’t have to decide at which point to switch to sunglasses. At Broadhurst we now offer lots of different colour your lenses changes to. You might go for blue and then on a bright-ish day where you wouldn’t quite swap for sunglasses, your lenses would turn a gorgeous pale blue colour – keeping stylish while taking comfort in the knowledge that your eyes are adequately protected.
We can’t wait until the sunglass season extends further and further into spring and autumn. We’d be ensuring healthier eyes and giving us great excuses to buy more and more!!