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Your plane has finally touched down in Honolulu International Airport and your vacation will officially start the moment you set foot on solid ground. As you exit the aircraft, you reach into your pocket to grab your sunglasses, but you’re stricken with the sudden realization that you left them in the cab this morning. “Every time,” you think to yourself as you gather your luggage. But before you consider spending five whole American dollars on a pair of cheap plastic specs, it’s important to recognize that low-quality sunglasses may, in fact, be more detrimental to the health of your eyes than not wearing any sunglasses at all!

Aside from visible light, the sun also emits ultraviolet rays (UV) that can be harmful to your skin and your vision. The sun’s rays put you at risk of developing numerous eye problems, such as cataracts or age-related macular degeneration, and in extreme cases, the sun can cause cancer of the eye and eyelids, says Richard Shugarman, MD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

In areas of bright light, your pupils will shrink to a diameter of approximately one millimeter, depending on the intensity of the light. While many inexpensive brands of sunglasses offer full UV protection, there are many more that don’t. When you wear dark sunglasses that block incoming light, your pupils will dilate significantly. Since a dilated pupil allows more of the sun’s rays to enter your eyes, dark sunglasses without sufficient UV protection can be particularly detrimental to the health of your eyes and vision. Therefore, wearing cheap sunglasses can be more harmful than not wearing sunglasses at all. Don’t be fooled: the tint or shade of a lens has very little to do with the UV protection your glasses offer.

But we don’t want you to get the wrong impression: some brands of cheap sunglasses do provide complete UV protection, and are perfectly safe to wear on sunny days. So, when selecting your outdoor eyewear, keep these tips in mind:

  • Make sure your sunglasses block 99 to 100 percent of UVA (long-wave) and UVB (shortwave) rays. Look for a sticker on the lens that indicates the UV protection strength.
  • Remember that dark lenses don’t necessarily provide more protection than lighter lenses. Even clear lenses can offer a great degree of UV protection, so always read the product label.
  • Wider lenses or shades that curve around the sides of your face can offer protection from all angles. It’s important to block light from all directions, and not just in front of you.

If you think your eyes may have been damaged due to exposure to the sun, or you simply need an eye exam, please contact Silverstein Eye Care Centers. Call us today at (816) 358-3600 or request an appointment online. We can serve you at our convenient location in Independence/Kansas City.

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