Most people think that sunglasses are a matter of comfort. They work to shade the eyes from bright sunlight – which is a useful thing. The best thing that sunglasses do, however, may not be something you ever notice. Sunglasses can save your eyesight by preventing damage caused by the sun.
The Sun may have been called the “giver of life” by some cultures – and it was. Without sunlight, plants would not grow. Without sunlight, the seasons would never change and winter may never end. That was before we had much knowledge about science. We no longer fear a never-ending winter or hide from a solar eclipse – we know that there is no malevolent force keeping the sun away. It is still there and will be back.
Sunlight allows us to see and provides energy needed for plant growth, warmer temperatures and seasonal changes but it is harsh. Without protection, the desert heat is too much to bear and the sunlight can burn everything in its path.
The energy beams, known as UV rays, in sunlight are more like x-rays and too much exposure can damage the cells. We know about sunburn, long-term sun exposure and skin cancer and how to protect the skin, but we don’t know enough about the eyes. The sun can damage your eyes in the same way it damages your skin. Preventing direct sunlight from hurting your eyes can save your eyesight. If you do it well – you will never know.
Any quality sunglasses sold today should provide 100% protection from both A and B types of UV light. These are the damaging, high-energy rays which produce the damage. Too much UV exposure to your eyes can cause:
Photokeratitis – also known as “snowblindness” because it is most commonly discussed in reference to mountain climbers. Photokeratitis is simply irritation of the eye tissue, caused by light and can really affect anyone exposed to excessive UV rays. It causes irritation of the conjunctiva tissue surrounding the eye itself and can cause temporary blindness.
Cataracts – Cataracts are “milky” white spots that appear in the lenses of the eyes. They disrupt the vision and may lead to effective blindness if not removed through surgery. Cataracts aren’t “caused” but sunlight but they can be made much worse.
Ptygerium – also known as “surfer” eyes. Ptygerium is a non-cancerous growth which develops on the eye surface. It can itch, swell and become irritated and though it can be removed surgically, it can often grow back. It doesn’t directly cause cancer – but constant irritation of a growth on the eye surface can make it impossible to see.
Macular degeneration – Macular degeneration begins with a loss of central vision which may spread to become total blindness. A set of cells at the back of the retina are damaged, limiting the ability to focus on small objects, see colors or see things directly in front of the eyes. Over time. The vision becomes worse and though it is not thought to be caused by sun exposure, the sun makes it much worse. Unfortunately – macular degeneration is considered irreversible.
Certainly, you notice if your eyes tear up or the brightness of the sun requires you to squint. What you don’t often notice, is how much your eyes can be damaged by the sun’s rays – and when it happens, you won’t be likely to notice for many years.
Luckily – if you start now by wearing UV-blocking sunglasses, you won’t ever notice what didn’t happen! Prevent blindness later by protecting your eyes now.