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Not all sunglasses are created equal

Kyle Porisch, O.D.

With the days getting longer and the sun bearing down, more and more, it may be time to reconsider your sunwear options.  Sunglasses have come along way since their inception.  Some credit the Inuit people of the Far North for developing a type of sunwear that consisted of a flattened piece of Walrus Ivory, that had a small horizontal slit, to allow a small amount of light to pass through.  Later, in the early 20th century, it was popular for actors and actresses to try and shield their eyes from their fans.  Only after wearing them for some time, did they realize that they also served a more functional purpose: eliminating stress and strain from the sun.  In the mid 1930's Edwin H. Land was credited with experimenting with Polaroid filters attached to lenses and thus introduced the predecessor of todays popular polarized sunglasses.

When considering new sunwear, one should think about four major areas.  Function, Type, Style, and Cost.  The first and probably most important area is Function.  A good sun lens should eliminate all UVA and UVB rays from entering the eyes.  Ultraviolet damage has significant impact on the onset and progression of cataracts, macular degeneration, and many other harmful eye conditions/diseases.  A poorly made sunglass, or a “cheap pair” that one can get from any gas station or chain store, may actually damage your eyes much more than wearing no sunglasses at all.  If the proper UV protection isn't in the lens (even if it claims to be there), as the lens darkens the environment around your eyes, the pupils will naturally dilate or enlarge to allow more light into the eye.  This will consequently allow more harmful rays to penetrate the eye causing even more damage.  Second, the type of sunwear needed depends on the activity or activities one chooses.  There are many types of sunwear to choose from with the following being some of the most popular: polarized, photochromic or Transitions, standard UV lenses, clip-on lenses, etc.  Polarized lenses work by allowing only one “direction” of light to pass through the lens, thus virtually eliminating all glare in a certain plane.  Not only do they diminish the effects of direct sunlight, but after light strikes a surface, for example: water, roads, car hoods, etc., it bounces off in a particular pattern that is very consistent.  The polarization takes those specific light rays and eliminates them from also entering your eyes.  That is why drivers and fishermen have raved about these for years.  They allow a fisherman to see much further into the water and pick up underwater structure and weed lines much better than ever before.  Transition lenses or photochromic lenses are ones that darken when the lens is exposed to UV light.  The UV causes a physical change in individual crystal molecules that are embedded in the lens, that activates them and causes them to turn from a clear lens indoors to a dark sun lens outside.  The one commonly reported drawback with this type of lens, is the limitations that it has when you are driving your vehicle.  Because your windshield cuts out most, if not all, of the UV light, your sunglasses won't darken to the level that they do when you are outside.  Clip-on frames have a little magnet either in the bridge or near the temples of the frame that allows one to put a sunglass clip right on the front of your standard frame and lenses.  The next area to think about is style.  Obviously you want a frame that will not only work well, but one that is rugged, durable, and the right look for you.  There is an almost never ending amount of different styles to choose from so if you can't find what you are looking for, you just need to simply keep looking.  Last but not least is the cost factor for your purchase.  Like most things in life, the old adages are usually true:  “You get what you pay for,” and “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” 

Good quality sunwear that will look good, hold up over time, and most importantly protect your eyes from potential disease, all while allowing you to perform at the highest standard do not come cheap!  Please take the time to invest in your health and invest in yourself.  If you have any questions about your current sunwear, or if you are interested in acquiring a new pair, please come and see us at one of our 20 regional clinics and we would be more than happy to help you!