Protect Your Eyes This Summer (And All Year Round)

Over time, ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can damage the eyes. Macular degeneration, cataracts, corneal sunburn and skin cancer around the eyes can be caused by UV damage, according to Prevent Blindness. Protecting your eyes from glare and brightness today can prevent future damage, so remember to use eye and skin protection.

Did You Know? Ultraviolet (UV) light is a type of electromagnetic radiation. The sun emits electromagnetic radiation at different wavelengths and frequencies. Most of the natural UV light people encounter comes from the sun. Only a small percentage of UV rays reach the ground, and these are the main cause of the sun’s damaging effects.

UV Protection

Protecting your skin by using sunscreen is important to guard against skin cancer. Labels on sunscreen bottles disclose the level of UV protection. The same is true for sunglasses, which protect your eyes from damage to the cornea, lens or retina.

When you purchase sunglasses, the manufacturer must offer some level of sun protection. The level varies, though, so it is important to read the labels. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates whether companies adhere to what the label says. It does not set standards for the minimum sun protection required.

If you buy sunglasses with a label saying “100% UV protection,” they must provide that level of protection. If the label states the sunglasses “absorb UV”, without giving a percentage, or lists the glasses as “sunware” or “sun blockers,” put them back on the shelf and keep shopping. It is important for your eye health to look for labels that list 99-100% UV protection.

Sunglasses with a sticker that says “UV Eye Protection.”

Sunglasses that only have a label with “UV Eye Protection” and no percentage do not offer adequate protection.

Note: Price is not a good indicator of the quality of sun protection sunglasses offer. If the label on a pair of sunglasses says they provide 99-100% UV protection, they likely do.

Remember that filtering out light does not always protect from UV rays. Polarized lenses have a chemical on them that filters light, particularly when that light is reflecting off a flat surface, such as water. By keeping some light from passing through the lens, glare can be reduced and vision can be more crisp. While polarized sunglasses can be helpful when on or near the water, on snow, or when driving, they do not necessarily have UV protection. Remember to check the label, because it is still critical to have 99-100% UV protection.

Lens Color

Eight different lens options on display on a board.

The Council’s Sharper Vision Store has a sunglass station that allows you to try and custom build the right shades for you.

There are many different colors of lenses available that offer UV protection – no longer are the choices just brown or grey. Each person responds differently to different colors of lenses, and time of day or activity may influence which color is preferred. Take time to explore the different colors and be sure to try and get to a window to look outside with them before buying.

A woman stands in front of a sunglass display holding a pair of sunglasses.

A store customer inspects sunglasses with an orange lens color.

“I am sensitive to light and glare,” says Sharper Vision Store customer Jamada Norris. “The sunglasses I chose protect against the glare and I bought two different lens colors, so I can wear them indoors and outdoors. I liked being able to try on all the different styles. It was easy to find a pair that worked well for me.”

The Council’s Sharper Vision Store carries a large selection of sunglasses providing UV protection. There are different styles (fit-over, clip-on, non-fit-over, and slip-in), different colors (amber, plum, grey-green, grey, yellow, orange) and varying shades (light, medium, dark). Many provide protection along the sides and top of the frame. Pricing varies based on style and tint. Many styles are available for same-day purchase; others can be custom-selected by the wearer and take up to 2 to 3 weeks to arrive.

We are happy to provide one-on-one assistance. Staff will work with you to find the right pair and the right lens color; lenses and frames can be customized to meet your needs. Unlike other stores, at the Sharper Vision Store, customers can go outside to try the sunglasses. You can see what they are actually like in the sunlight, so you can be sure you are getting a pair that works well both indoors and outdoors.

Visit our store at 754 Williamson Street in Madison, go to our website at WCBlind.org/store, or call 800-783-5213 to talk about sunglasses.

You can also find sunglasses with optimal UV protection at pharmacies, big box stores, sporting goods stores, or the optical department at the eye doctor’s office. Take time to read the label and make sure you are buying a pair of sunglasses that will protect your eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun.

For more on different types of sunglasses, refer to this article.

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