Sunglasses and UV Protection – Important for All Seasons

Labor Day has come and gone; the kids are back in school – it’s time to pack up the sunscreen, put away the sunglasses, and break out the sweaters.  Not so fast, a recent report from The Vision Council emphasizes the importance of sunglasses and UV protection during all seasons.  As a runner, I sometimes find myself exercising outdoors squinting into the sun.  Maybe that one 30 minute run is not such a big deal, but The Vision Council report notes the effects of UV exposure are cumulative.  So I’m not getting sunburn of the eye during this short run without sunglasses, but repeated, unprotected exposure to UV rays could lead to eye problems down the line – cataracts, macular degeneration, or even cancer.  Children are especially at risk, and 80% of their lifetime exposure to UV occurs before the age of 18.  Continue reading for more details on the importance of proper sunglasses and UV tips for travelers and those outdoors.

The Vision Council - UV Safety

Proper sunglasses are the best UV protection, but 40% of adults are not wearing them.  Furthermore, children’s eyes have increased susceptibility to UV, but over half of parents don’t have their children wear sunglasses outside.  Sure, we remember to slather kids with sunscreen to protect their skin, but their eyes are still vulnerable to the sun’s rays.

The Vision Council - UV Safety

UV damage accumulates over time, making it necessary to always wear sunglasses (throughout the year, whenever outside) to minimize exposure.  The effects of improper UV protection could lead to photokeratitis (sunburn of the eye), pterygium (non-cancerous growth on the eye’s surface), cataracts (hardening/clouding of the lens of the eye), macular degeneration (selective death of a dense grouping of photoreceptors in the eye), as well as an increased risk of cancer of the eye and surrounding skin.  Simple wearing of sunglasses with proper UV protection can dramatically decrease the risk of all these eye problems.

The Vision Council - UV Safety

In addition to wearing sunglasses, you need to make sure you are wearing the PROPER sunglasses for maximum UV protection.  They should be both UVA and UVB protective – look for a sticker on the lens indicating both types of rays are blocked.  Also, purchase your sunglasses from a reputable vendor.  Beware of street vendors, online auction sites, flea markets, or garage sales, where you can’t confirm the level of UV protection.  Finally, there are many different types of lens options available including photochromic lens that change from lighter to darker with different lighting conditions.  These photochromic lenses would be a perfect choice for me because many of my long distance training runs and races begin early in the morning before the sun comes up and end closer to noon.  Even the clear lenses of the photochromic sunglasses will offer UV protection for my eyes before darkening.  Check out The Vision Council’s Bureau of Missing Sunglasses to learn more about just the right pair of sunglasses for you as well as trip tips, packing lists, and UV indexes for where you may be traveling.

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.