Healthy Living

Use sunglasses to protect your eyes

Sunglass styles and designs have evolved to reflect current fashion trends, and many of us may think of them as the ultimate summer accessory.

But sunglasses do more than compliment your ensemble – they preserve your eyesight and your vision health.

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are one of the biggest threats to your eyesight, according to The Vision Council, and can result in long-term and short-term damage to your vision.

Excessive UV exposure can cause photokeratitis, like a sunburn of the eye, and can increase your risk of certain eye cancers. Prolonged UV exposure can also cause or accelerate other eye conditions, such as macular degeneration, cataracts and even blindness.

The eyelid reduces UV exposure directly to the eye, but the thin tissue does not block all of the UV radiation. Moreover, your environment can increase UV intensity. Reflective surfaces, such as water, sand and snow, can almost double exposure levels.

By selecting the right pair of shades and wearing them year round, you can protect your eyes from the harmful effects of the sun. Here are a few tips to remember when shopping for your next pair of sunglasses:

Select sunglasses with the right UV protection. Your sunglasses should block 99 percent to 100 percent of UV rays, according to the American Optometric Association. Beware of cosmetic sunglasses that provide little to no UV protection. Most sunglasses advertise the percentage of UV absorption on the sunglass label, sticker and/or product description. If not listed, ask the retailer about the UV protection and absorption percentage before you purchase. Remember, the tint of the lens has nothing to do with the UV absorption percentage.

Get the right fit. Sunglasses should provide a close or wrap-around fit, prohibiting unfiltered light from entering the top or sides of the frames.

Check for discounts in your vision plan. Before purchasing sunglasses, review your vision coverage for discounts or cost saving opportunities, especially if you are considering buying prescription sunglasses. Some vision plans provide additional discounts on extra purchases with certain vision providers, like Unum Vision’s Special Optical Discount program. These discount programs can make purchasing sunglasses and prescription sunglasses more affordable.

“Sunglasses with the proper UV protection are a form of preventive vision care,” says René Milligan, marketing director for Unum’s dental and vision center of excellence. “Just like annual eye exams, sunshades help preserve your eyesight.”

With more than seven years of educating consumers about vision health, he too warns against selecting your shades solely based on aesthetics, pointing out: “You can afford to miss a fashion trend or two, but can you afford to lose your eyesight?”

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