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Sunglasses and UV Protection

Frequntly Asked Questions with Dr. Reimer

Q: What are the risks to not wearing sunglasses?

  • A: Here in the Okanagan many of us enjoy spending time outdoors year-round and engaging in activities such as biking, hiking and skiing. If you aren’t currently in the habit of grabbing a pair of sunglasses prior to heading outside then here are some reasons why you should start.

    1. Whether it is sunny or cloudy, we are exposed to ultraviolet radiation (UV) rays every time we step outdoors. Many of us do not think to wear sunglasses when it is overcast, however more than 90% of UV rays pass through clouds. UV eye exposure is similar year-round, which adds to the importance of wearing sun protection despite the season.

    2. UV protection has been shown to be crucial for all ages, however, it is especially essential for those 18 and younger. This age group usually spends more time outside, has larger pupils, and a clearer lens – all reasons that explain why about half of our UV exposure occurs before 18.

    3. Sunglasses shield UV rays that can cause or worsen many eye conditions including macular degeneration, cataracts, pterygium (growths on the eye), and photokeratitis (corneal sunburns).

    4. The skin around your eyes is very delicate. Sunglasses protect this area and reduce the risk of developing eyelid cancer from excessive UV exposure.

    It is important to note that not all shades are identical. You want to look for high quality sunglasses that shield against 100% UVA and UVB rays. Even with sun protection on, approximately 45% of UV rays still reach the eye. Therefore, large, wrap around sunglasses are recommended to help mitigate that.

Your doctor of optometry can make recommendations on sunglasses and complete a comprehensive eye exam to identify possibly early signs of excessive ocular UV exposure. Next time you head outside, don’t forget your shades!