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The Deal with Shades: Protecting Your Eyes from UV Exposure

Colleen Acker, BeWell Activities Coordinator

There is nothing shadier than sunglasses without UV protection. A good, quality pair of sunglasses are a crucial part of keeping those peepers in tip top shape.  

Besides making you look rock star cool, sunglasses protect your eyes from the ultra violet rays of the sun, all year round! These rays are contributing factors to eye conditions such as pinguecula, pterygium, and cataracts. 

Pinguecula is a buildup of protein and fat on the white part of the eye, called the sclera. It’s basically an irritant but can develop into a disturbance of the natural tear covering of the eye. A pterygium grows between the sclera and the cornea, the clear covering of the eye. This annoyance can cause vision problems, redness, and discomfort. While it can resolve on its own, occasionally a pterygium will continue to grow or recur. Cataracts are described as a clouding of the lens situated behind the pupil. The cloudiness reduces the clarity of vision and makes it difficult to see in low light conditions. Cancer of the eyelid has also been attributed to UV exposure.   

Hopefully, I have gained your attention with the unpleasantries of exposing your “windows to the soul” to UV. So now that you know why it’s important to protect your eyes, let’s talk about how.

Make sure the lenses state 99-100% UVA and UVB protection or UV400. Tint doesn’t really make a difference in protection, but it does play a role in how your lenses perform. A gray tint can be the darkest and allows objects to appear more natural in color. A brown tint brings out contrast, which can be great for driving on hazy days and is often helpful for those with beginning cataracts. A green tint can also increase contrast while providing glare reduction. 

Polarization is the gold standard in glare reduction. You will be so relieved when you are not blinded on those Michigan winter days when the sun is reflecting off the freshly fallen snow. You can thank me later.

Transitions© are lenses that darken with exposure to UV. People often choose these lenses when they need to wear prescription glasses and don’t want to switch between sun and regular glasses. No shady deal here – it’s UV protection as well as convenience. However, they do not darken as much in the car because most windshields have some UV protection. There are several versions of the lenses that may be more suitable for driving and other pursuits. You can search online for these options.   

Choose a frame that covers as much area around the eye as possible. A thicker plastic, wrap around frame is best but, personal fashion sense will surely play a part in your choice. Spring hinges will add comfort and durability to the frame, especially if frequently removed.  

That’s the deal! Protect your eyes and look forward to a healthy future.  

It’s also vital that you get regular eye exams! You may qualify for an eye exam for FREE as part of our SeeWell program. Pre-screening is required and you must be 60 or older and residing in Calhoun County. Find out if you can protect your eye health for free by calling us at (269) 966-2450.  

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