How Sunglasses Protect Your Eyes

two people wearing sunglasses

They may come in a variety of shapes, colors, and styles, but sunglasses are much more than just an eyewear accessory. They are the first line of defense for your eyes against the harmful effects of UV light from the sun. 

Types of Sunglasses

When you think of sunglasses, you are probably most concerned with the style and color of the frames or of the lenses. However, some styles of sunglasses are designed specifically for different purposes. Some of the most common types of sunglasses include:


Polarized sunglasses. 

These are sunglasses with a laminated filter embedded in the lenses that helps to block out light and glare, especially reflected light (for example, the light reflected off car bumpers). These also reflect UV light away from the eyes.


Prescription sunglasses

As you have probably guessed, these sunglasses incorporate your eyeglass prescription into the lenses so that you can see clearly at all distances. This is particularly important for driving since many people are nearsighted or farsighted and they can’t legally drive unless they are wearing prescription lenses. Incorporating your prescription into your sunglasses ensures you get the benefit of sun protection and clear vision. 



These are tinted from the top down and are useful in shielding the eyes from overhead sunlight. Many people prefer to have gradient coating in the glasses that they use for driving. 



Mirror-coated lenses make it impossible for other people to see your eyes, but they are also ideal for extra-bright conditions, such as when there is a glare off the snow or sun. For this reason, mirror-coated sunglasses are preferred by people who participate in outdoor sports. 



Transition lenses. 

Also known as photochromatic lenses, the tint of these sunglasses automatically adjusts depending on your environment. This means that they darken when you go outside in bright conditions and lighten when you go indoors, saving you from having to change your sunglasses. 



Diseases Caused by UV Exposure

Any damage to the eyes caused by UV light is cumulative. This means that a small number of trips outside without protection are unlikely to cause any permanent damage to your eyes. However, over time, the damage can build-up, resulting in much more serious issues. Lack of adequate eye protection has been linked to the development of a variety of eye diseases. This is because the UV light that enters the eyes can harm a part of the eye called the macula, which is a section of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. The macula helps us to see detail clearly, and although macular degeneration, which is the official name for damage to these cells, doesn’t cause total blindness, it can affect your eyes enough to make day to day tasks like watching tv, reading, driving, and even recognizing faces more difficult. 


Some of the eye diseases associated with UV exposure also include:


Photokeratitis: better known as sunburn of the eye. 

Cataracts: the clouding of the natural lens of the eye.

Pterygium: the development of a growth on the eye.

Retinal detachment: where the retina pulls away from the back of the eye. 



How do Sunglasses Protect My Eyes?

Sunglasses protect our eyes mainly by minimizing the UV light that reaches our eyes. They are important not only to protect the inside of your eyes but also to protect the delicate tissues on the front of your eyes, including the cornea, eyelids, and the skin around your eyes. Most sunglasses are also tinted which helps to cut out a portion of the visible light, reducing the need to squint against the brightness. Contrary to popular belief, darker tints don’t necessarily mean greater protection. Clear and transparent lenses can be just as effective at blocking UV light. 


Experts recommend that everyone look for sunglasses that block out at least 99% of UV rays for the best protection. You can find out how effective sunglasses are by looking at the sticker or label that is attached to them, which will show how much light they block out. If you still are not sure, you can ask your eye doctor in Wichita Falls to test them for you to confirm just how effective they are against UV light. 


Sunglasses are not just for sunny days either. UV light can still penetrate cloud coverage, so it’s advisable to wear sunglasses as much as possible, even on cloudier days. 


To find out more about how to protect your eyes with sunglasses, contact Clarke Eye Care Center in Wichita Falls, Texas at (940) 905-0700 to schedule an appointment today!