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Sunglasses Q&A

Question: What can a person do to protect herself from sun exposure?
Dr. Kosnoski:
Here are some general tips to protect your eyes from the sun all year long:

  • Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime, so be sure to wear UV-blocking sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats whenever you're outside.
  • Don't be fooled by clouds: the sun's rays can pass through haze and thin clouds.
  • Never look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the sun at any time, including during an eclipse, can lead to solar retinopathy, which is damage to the eye's retina from solar radiation.
  • Don't forget the kids and older family members: everyone is at risk, including children and senior citizens. Protect their eyes with hats and sunglasses.

Question: What exactly are ‘Ultraviolet rays”?
Dr. Kosnoski: All radiation is a form of energy, most of which is invisible to the human eye. UV radiation is only one form of radiation and it is measured on a scientific scale called the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum.

UV radiation is only one type of EM energy you may be familiar with. Radio waves that transmit sound from a radio station’s tower to your stereo, or between cell phones; microwaves, like those that heat your food in a microwave oven; visible light that is emitted from the lights in your home; and X-rays like those used in hospital X-ray machines to capture images of the bones inside your body, are all forms of EM energy.

UV radiation is the portion of the EM spectrum between X-rays and visible light.

The 3 categories of invisible high-energy UV rays are: UVC rays. These are the highest-energy UV rays and potentially could be the most harmful to your eyes and skin. Luckily, the atmosphere’s ozone layer obstructs essentially all UVC rays. But this likewise means deficiency of the ozone layer possibly could allow high-energy UVC rays to reach the earth’s surface and cause severe UV-related illness. UVC rays have wavelengths of 100-280 nanometer (nm). UVB rays. These have slightly longer wavelengths (280-315 nm) and lower energy than UVC rays. These rays are filtered partially by the ozone layer, but some still reach the earth’s surface area. In low doses, UVB radiation stimulates the production of melanin (a skin pigment), causing the skin to darken, producing a suntan. However, in greater doses, UVB rays cause sunburn that increases the risk of skin cancer. UVB rays also cause skin discolorations, wrinkles and other signs of premature aging of the skin. UVA rays. These are better to visible light rays and have lower energy than UVB and UVC rays. But UVA rays can go through the cornea and reach the lens and retina inside the eye.

UV Light: Good in Moderation for a Good Night's Sleep

As we sleep, our eyes enjoy continuous lubrication. During sleep the eyes also clear out irritants such as dust, allergens or smoke that may have accumulated during the day. This may be more critical as we age, when more people have problems with insomnia. While it's important that we protect our eyes from overexposure to UV light, our eyes also need minimal exposure to natural light every day to help maintain normal sleep-wake cycles.


Question: How can people protect themselves from the sun’s UV rays? 
Dr. Kosnoski: Sunglasses That Protect Your Eyes From UV And HEV Rays To best safeguard your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV and HEV rays, constantly use great quality sunglasses when you are outdoors. Search for sunglasses that obstruct 100 percent of UV rays which also soak up most HEV rays. Your optician can help you select the best sunglass lenses for your requirements. To safeguard as much of the delicate skin around your eyes as possible, try at least one pair of sunglasses with large lenses or a close-fitting wraparound style. Depending upon your outside lifestyle, you likewise might wish to explore performance sunglasses or sport sunglasses. The amount of UV protection sunglasses supply is unrelated to the color and darkness of the lenses. For instance, a light amber-colored lens can supply the very same UV security as a dark gray lens. Your optician can confirm that the lenses you choose offer 100 percent UV protection. However for HEV security, color does matter. Many sunglass lenses that block a significant quantity of blue light will be bronze, copper or reddish-brown. Again, your optician can help you pick the best “blue-blocking” lenses. In addition to sunglasses, using a wide-brimmed hat on warm days can lower your eyes’ direct exposure to UV and HEV rays by approximately 50 percent.


Question: Are sunglasses an important part of a sun protection plan?
Dr. Kosnoski: Ultraviolet Eyeglasses: Is It Work? Prolonged direct exposure to the sun’s UV rays has actually been linked to eye damage, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pingueculae, pterygia and photokeratitis that can cause temporary vision loss. And brand-new research recommends the sun’s high-energy visible (HEV) radiation (also called “blue light“) might increase your long-term risk of macular degeneration. People with low blood plasma levels of vitamin C and other antioxidants particularly appear at risk of retinal damage from HEV radiation. Threats Of Ultraviolet Radiation To Your Eyes To protect your eyes from harmful solar radiation, sunglasses need to block 100 percent of UV rays as well as take in most HEV rays. Frames with a close-fitting wraparound style supply the best security because they restrict how much roaming sunlight reaches your eyes from above and beyond the periphery of your sunglass lenses. While many people refer to ultraviolet radiation as UV light, the term technically is inaccurate since you can not see UV rays.


Question: What type of sunglasses best protects from UV rays?
Dr. Kownoski: More Tips About Sunglasses And UV Exposure Lots of misunderstandings exist about the right sun defense for your eyes. Keep these tips in mind: Not all sunglasses obstruct 100 percent of UV rays. If you’re not sure about the level of UV protection your sunglasses offer, take them to your optometrist or optician for an examination. Numerous eye care specialists have instruments such as spectrophotometers that can measure the amount of noticeable light and UV radiation your lenses block. Practically all sunglasses obstruct a portion of HEV rays, however, some tints obstruct more blue light than others. Blue-blocking sunglass lenses normally are bronze, copper or reddish-brown in color. Remember to use sunglasses even when you’re in the shade. Although shade lowers your UV and HEV exposure to some degree, your eyes still will be exposed to UV rays reflected from buildings, streets and other surface areas. Sunglasses are important especially in winter because fresh snow can reflect 80 percent of UV rays, nearly doubling your total exposure to solar UV radiation. If you ski or snowboard, picking the right ski safety glasses is essential for sufficient UV defense on the slopes. Even if your contact lenses obstruct UV rays, you still require sunglasses. UV-blocking contacts protect just the part of your eye under the lens. UV rays still can damage your conjunctiva and other tissues not covered by the lens. Wearing sunglasses protects these delicate tissues and the skin around your eyes from UV damage. If you have dark skin and eyes, you still have to use sunglasses. Although your dark skin might offer you a lower risk of skin cancer from UV radiation, your risk of eye damage from UV and HEV rays is the exact same as that of someone with fair skin. You need not fear the outdoors and bright days, as long as you are equipped with the right eye and skin protection to lower your UV exposure.


Question: I’ve heard of getting my skin sunburned, but can your eyes also get sunburned?
Dr. Kosnoski: Sunburned eyes are caused by overexposure to UV (ultraviolet) rays, like those emitted by the sun. This condition is known as photokeratitis. Photokeratitis, or ultraviolet keratitis, is an inflammation of the cornea, which is the clear covering of the front of the eye. Protecting your eyes from UV rays is the only way to avoid getting them sunburned. Over time, too much sun exposure can cause specific types of eye diseases to occur. These include:

  • cataracts
  • age-related macular degeneration
  • eyelid cancer


When your eyes get too much exposure to UV light, temporary sunburn or permanent damage can occur in several areas, including:

  • the thin, surface layer of the cornea
  • retina
  • lens
  • conjunctiva

The conjunctiva is a thin, mucus membrane comprised of two sections. One section covers and protects the whites of the eye (bulbar conjunctiva). The other section covers the inner surface of the upper and lower eyelids (palpebral conjunctiva). Either or both sections can become sunburned.

As with skin, eye sunburn can vary in intensity. The longer your exposure to UV rays, the more intense your symptoms are likely to be. The symptoms of photokeratitis can be uncomfortable. They include:

  • gritty feeling, as if you have sand in your eyes
  • eye pain
  • headache
  • twitching sensation in the eyelid
  • tearing
  • swelling
  • redness
  • blurry vision
  • sensitivity to bright light
  • seeing halos
  • constricted, pinpoint pupils (miosis)
  • temporary vision loss or color changes in your vision (these symptoms are rare)


Photokeratitis usually resolves on its own within one to two days. Treatment for this condition typically centers around reducing symptoms so you can feel more comfortable. If you suspect that you have sunburned eyes, your doctor may recommend pain relievers or antibiotic eye drops.

You can also try a few at-home treatments for symptom relief:

  • Remove contact lenses. This should be done immediately to let your eyes heal.
  • Resist the urge to rub your eyes. This will not provide relief and could further irritate the eye.
  • Use a cool compress. Place compresses over closed eyes and rest.
  • Try medication. Over-the-counter pain medication for headache relief could help.
  • Always have your sunnies. Make sure to wear your sunglasses to reduce the impact of bright light.
  • Get eye drops. Use artificial tears to lubricate eyes.
  • Skip the makeup. Using makeup and false eyelashes can further irritate the eyes.
  • Talk to your doctor. If you wear eyelash extensions, ask your doctor if it’s better to have them removed or to leave them on while your eyes heal.
  • Keep eyes clear. Avoid getting saltwater or chlorinated water in your eyes. If you swim, protect your eyes with airtight goggles.

Question: Do children need protection as well?
Dr. Kosnoski: In truth, some specialists say that due to the fact that children have the tendency to invest significantly more time outdoors than a lot of adults, as much as half of an individual’s lifetime exposure to UV radiation can take place by age 18. (Other research pointed out by The Skin Cancer Foundation says slightly less than 25 percent of our lifetime exposure to UV radiation is sustained during youth.) Likewise, children are more prone to retinal damage from UV rays because the lens inside a child’s eye is clearer than an adult lens, making it possible for more UV to permeate deep into the eye. For that reason, ensure your kids’ eyes are safeguarded from the sun with excellent quality sunglasses. Also, motivate your child to use a hat on sunny days to even more reduce UV exposure.


Question: Does having a prescription make it harder to get the right sunglasses?
Dr. Kosnoski: No, we carry sunglasses that you can put your prescription in.

Question: Do certain brands of sunglasses perform better than other brands?
Dr. Kosnoski: Yes, please see our opticians do discuss which lens is best for you.




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