Most people don't think twice about slathering on sunscreen to protect themselves from the sun. They know that the sun is harmful to their skin, and that sunscreen will decrease their odds of acquiring any one of a number of illnesses. Unfortunately, many of these people don't realize that their eyes are just as vulnerable and need an equal level of protection. You can't go rubbing sunscreen into your eyes, but there are other things you can do to protect your vision from the sun's harsh rays. Read on to learn more.
How Can The Sun Damage Your Eyes?
The sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays are a powerful source of radiation that can actually sink deep into your eyes and skin, reacting with your DNA molecules and changing their chemical composition. As these molecules are broken down and forced to reshape into different molecules, some will weaken, some will die, and some will mutate.
When these cells of the eye weaken or die off, the result is corneal sunburn, macular degeneration, or cataracts. Mutation of eye cells results in various forms of eye cancer, some of them highly aggressive.
How Can You Protect Your Eyes?
Sunscreen is effective because it forms a barrier on top of your skin, blocking most of the harmful UV rays from ever reaching your body. Likewise, you need a barrier of protection between those UV rays and the complex, fragile organs that are your eyes. How do you get this protection? You wear eyeglasses, whether you need corrective lenses or not. Not just any glasses will do, though. Whether you're buying sunglasses or corrective lenses, look for the following characteristics to ensure that your new eyewear will actually offer protection from the sun.
UV coating is applied to your lenses in a thin, clear strips and does not alter the appearance of the eyewear whatsoever. The coating works by absorbing the UV rays before they have a chance to meet your eyes. UV coatings are available for both tinted and not-tinted sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses.
Don't confuse UV coatings with polarized lenses, though. UV coatings will protect your eyes from UV rays, but won't eliminate the glare associated with sunlight bouncing off of the surface of objects.
If you have a problem with glare, polarized lenses are the way to go. Polarized lenses are what most people think that tinted lenses are, however, the two are not the same. All polarized lenses will be tinted, but not all tinted glasses will be polarized so it's important to be able to make this distinction when shopping for glasses.
When light reflects off of objects such as the road, your car windshield, or snow, it bounces back at your eye in horizontal and vertical rays. The vertical rays are what your eyes "reads" and sends to the brain, while the horizontal rays are not interpreted by your eyes at all -- they just make it more difficult to see the vertical waves.
Tinted glasses filter all of these waves. The horizontal waves are weakened, cutting back on glare, but the vertical waves are also weakened so the vision is less crisp and clear than it should be.
Polarized lenses, on the other hand, block the horizontal waves reflecting off of surfaces while allowing the vertical waves to pass. The result is glare reduction and clearer vision combined.
All polarized lenses have UV coatings, so if you opt for polarized, tinted lenses on your sunglasses or prescription eyewear, you don't need to worry about specifically requesting UV coating.
If you're bothered by the sun's glare, yet don't like wearing darker glasses when you're inside or when the sun isn't very bright, then transition lenses are the right option for you. Transition lenses are clear when protection isn't needed, but polarize when in contact with the sun's UV rays.
Transition lenses from places like Spectacle Shoppe, Inc. are available for both nonprescription glasses, as well as prescription glasses.
There is no excuse to not protect your eyes from the sun's damaging UV rays. No matter what your preference -- tinted, clear, prescription, nonprescription -- there's an option for you. You wouldn't spend an afternoon in the blazing sun with no sunscreen on, so you shouldn't expose your eyeballs to the risks of UV radiation, either.