What can a fabulous pair of sunglasses do you for? You mean apart from protecting your precious baby blues from harmful UV damage while also shielding them from uncomfortable brightness and glare? Well, let’s see. They can disguise the after-effects of a late night or a sad movie, make you look like a million bucks even if you’re wearing jeans and a tee, turn a bad hair day good and potentially allow you to travel incognito (paired with a wide-brimmed hat pulled down low).
The smart sunnies
In all seriousness, while fashion is fun, eye health is the number one reason you should always pack your shades, even when it’s cloudy out. It’s especially important to protect your vision at the beach or in the snow, where the risk from reflected radiation is amped up.
For those among us who need vision assistance, invest in prescription sunglasses. Most frames can be fitted with tailored lenses (even multifocals). Check with your optometrist to ensure you’re getting good UV protection. If you have optical cover through your health fund, you may be entitled to a rebate for prescription sunglasses.
What shape is best?
Many fashionistas claim you should choose frames based on the shape of your face, but if they meet (or exceed) the safety standards, choose ones you’ll wear because you love them. See Specs appeal, overleaf, for more info.
Do I need to spend heaps?
Nope! Designer shades can set you back, but many chic yet affordable frames meet or exceed Australian standards. Bonus, this means you can have more than one pair! It is worth considering your activities – if you’re often out on the water, polarised will reduce glare; if you’re riding you’ll want them to be shatter-resistant (just in case). Golfer? Go for lenses that adjust to changing light.
Let’s hear it for the kids! Young eyes need protecting, because sun damage to eyes, like the rest of the skin, is cumulative. Get frames designed for babies and toddlers, with elastic to help keep them snug. Toy sunglasses don’t meet Australian safety standards so be sure to buy the real slim shady (thanks Eminem).
THE LOWDOWN ON UV DAMAGE
You can’t see or feel ultraviolet rays, but they can impact eye health.
• UVA rays account for up to 95 per cent of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. UVA, which penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB, plays a major part in skin ageing and can penetrate through the cornea to the lens and retina and can harm your central vision.
• More intense, UVB rays penetrate less deeply but cause sunburn, including of the delicate skin around the eyes. UVB radiation is the most common cause of cataracts (clouding of the eye’s natural lens). It’s also linked to an increased risk of macular degeneration, an incurable but preventable retinal disease.
• The shorter bands of UVC are the most dangerous form of ultraviolet radiation, but we’re protected from it by the ozone layer.
• Prolonged unprotected sun exposure can lead to skin cancer around the eyes and eyelids. It’s more common than you might think.
• Corneal sunburn (photokeratitis or snow blindness) can occur after long hours of unprotected sun exposure – a day out on the water, for example. It may cause pain and temporary vision loss.
• Extended UV exposure can also cause growths on the surface of the eye. Pterygium (aka surfer’s eye) is harmless but can eventually cause vision problems. People who work or spend a lot of time outdoors are at the most risk.