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Wearing Sunglasses is More Important than Just Looking Cool

Most people are aware of the danger posed by UV light to their skin, but they may not realize exposure to UV light can also be harmful to their vision. The principle danger posed by the sun is ultraviolet radiation, more commonly known as UV light. UV radiation is a component of solar energy, but it can also be emitted by artificial sources, such as welding machines, tanning beds and lasers.

In small doses, unprotected exposure to excessive amounts of UV light, even over a short period, can cause a condition called photokeratitis. Photokeratitis is essentially sunburn of the eye: it may be painful and include symptoms such as red eyes, foreign body sensation, a gritty feeling in the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light and excessive tearing. Fortunately, these symptoms are usually temporary and rarely cause permanent damage to the eyes however; long-term UV exposure can be far more serious.

A number of studies have shown that exposure to UV light over a long period, even at low levels, will increase chances of developing cataracts and can cause damage to the eyelids and retina. While cataracts can be surgically removed, damage to the retina is not reversible. The effects of UV light are cumulative. This means that the longer the exposure to UV light, the greater the risk of developing conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, or eyelid cancer.

Researchers have not yet specifically determined how much UV exposure causes what degree of damage, but the best advice is to wear quality sunglasses that offer UV protection and a hat or cap with a wide brim whenever working outdoors, participating in outdoor sports, talking a walk, running errands, or doing anything in the sun. It is equally important for children to remember UV protection. Young people typically spend more time in the sun than adults do.

To provide sufficient ocular protection, sunglasses must block out 99 - 100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation and screen out 75 to 90% of visible light. It is important to realize that wearing sunglasses is for the eyes what using SPF 50 sunscreen is for the skin: it is essential when spending time in the sun!

Presently, there is no uniform labeling of sunglasses that provides adequate information to the consumer. Labels should be examined carefully to insure that the lenses absorb 99 - 100% of both UV-B and UV-A radiation. If it is unclear how much protection your pair of sunglasses provides, we have a special instrument that can measure the UV blocking ability. We are happy to analyze any pair of lenses for their UV blocking ability as a complimentary service.

At Cockrell Eyecare Center, we offer the most advanced lens technology for UV protection in addition to, the most popular brands of sunglasses including Oakley, RayBan, and Maui Jim. Both prescription and nonprescription lenses are available as well as the most advanced Transition lens technology with or without polarization. Come choose your favorite designer frame and having them made into sunglasses today!

If you have questions about protecting your eyes from UV light and/or what sunglasses would be best for you and your activities, please contact our office in Stillwater at 405-372-1715. We also invite you to visit our website at and like us on Facebook at Cockrell Eyecare Center!