Like a bracelet or scarf, many consider sunglasses a fashion statement and switch from cats’ eyes to aviators to Jackie O styles based on their outfit or mood; before doing that, however, make sure they protect against dangerous ultraviolet (UV) sunlight.
Dr. Alan Solinsky of the Hartford Hospital Eye Surgery Center said while cheap sunglasses may be tempting, they can actually allow the sun to damage your eyes more than wearing none at all.
“A bad pair of sunglasses just darken things, allowing your pupils to get bigger and let in more light. If they don’t provide UV protection, you’re actually going to be worse off,” he explained, noting that repeated exposure to UV rays can cause cataracts and macular degeneration in the eyes.
In addition to sunlight — which causes a cumulative effect on eyes starting in childhood, much like it does to skin — there are several dangers posed to the eyes during the summer and people are exposed more to them than in colder months.
July is Ultraviolet Safety Month, encouraging people to be more aware of the dangers of UV rays, including to the eyes. These rays are the strongest in the middle of the day, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
“The sun is more intense in summer, we are outdoors more and we’re more playful — out on water and on the beach,” Dr. Solinsky said.
He suggested protecting your eyes by:
- Wearing sunglasses with UV protection. Look for a sticker, label or government rating on the sunglasses noting they protect against the dangerous rays.
- Wearing a baseball cap or sun hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.
- Pulling on goggles when swimming in a pool to prevent chlorine from getting in your eyes.
- Putting on safety goggles when doing yard work to prevent flying twigs or rocks from damaging your eyes.
- Trying sports goggles when playing summer sports like tennis or mountain biking.
“I’ve treated dozens of hard-core tennis players who get traumatic eye injuries playing the net in a doubles game,” Dr. Solinsky said. “When mountain biking, too, a branch can hit you in the eye and you’ll wind up in the emergency department.
“Sports are a big reason for eye injuries, and people are out playing them more in the summer.”
Cataracts, he continued, can also be caused by taking steroids for medical reasons, diseases like diabetes and smoking. Signs you might need to be examined for cataracts include:
- Cloudy vision.
- Trouble seeing distance, such as road signs, when driving.
- Seeing glare or halos around lights when driving at night or into a sunrise or sunset.
“Cataracts cause painless decreases in vision,” he said.
The only answer for them is surgery to remove the cataract and implant a new lens. This might also decrease the need for glasses, Dr. Solinsky said.
For more information on eye safety or surgery, go to https://hartfordhospital.org/services/eye-surgery.