summer shades: protect your eyes

Courtney Takabayashi
July 17, 2019

Picking out the right pair of sunglasses may not be a priority, but it's summer and the sun is out in full force. Now's the time to get the perfect pair of shades. Sunglasses are good for more than looking cool. Check out these tips to keep your eyes healthy all summer long.

good habits
Carol Yee has been wearing sunglasses since age 18. “I bought a pair of polarized glasses since they allowed me see the colors of the ocean more clearly and decreased the glare when I drove,” she says. Throughout the years, she’s had clip-on lenses, prescription sunglasses, and even surf goggles to protect her eyes. Her secret to consistently wearing sunglasses? “It’s a habit I’ve had forever: I  always keep them in my purse. I wear them anytime I'm in the sun. It’s not a pain at all.”

the more coverage the better
Eye surgeon and glaucoma specialist at Hawaiian Eye Center, Christopher Tortora, M.D., says that sunglasses only protect the eyes if they block the ultraviolet (UV) light. Tortora says, “Sunglasses should be labeled to say they block UV-A and UV-B (98% or more). Or if they’re labeled ‘400 blocking,’ it means they block virtually all UV light.”  

damage you can see
If our eyes aren’t protected from UV light, Tortora says that it can cause skin cancers around the eyelids or pterygium, a growth on the surface of the eye. Also known as “surfer’s eye,” pterygium is common in people who spend a lot of time in the sun without sunglasses. “Pterygium contributes to the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration over many years,” Tortora says.

a cautionary tale
Even though Yee would never be caught outside without her sunglasses, her son, Nat, didn’t really care about protecting his eyes until he was diagnosed with pterygium as a teen. “He sailed and surfed from the age of 10 and crossed the Molokai Channel for the first time when he was 14 years old,” says Yee. “He was really lousy about wearing anything to protect his eyes.” But after his pterygium diagnosis, Yee observed, “He now appears to be almost as religious about wearing sunglasses as I am. Finally!”

Carol Yee and her son Nat

glasses that fit

When you’re shopping for sunglasses, Tortora recommends finding a pair that fits your face well so only the minimum amount of light goes around the lenses and into the eyes. Tortora says that wrap-around sunglasses or those with large lenses work well to protect the eyes as long as they fit close to the face. He notes that price and lens darkness aren't good indicators of how well glasses protect your eyes.  

Check out this UV safety article from the Hawaiian Eye Center.

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