Cheap sunglasses offer no protection, just risk to eyes

Slick and cheap sunglasses that are available for a couple of dinars or less at stores around the country may end up costing your eyes far more than what you paid to buy those shiny shades.

As summer heats up, the sun and glare outside can be blinding. Slip on your slick sunshades and your whole view changes. Eye doctors warn that not all sunglasses are created equal, you need to ensure that the shades you buy can really protect you from the dangerous ultraviolent (UV) light in sunlight.

The biggest danger with poor sunglasses is if the glasses are tinted but do not block the UV rays. The tinting in the glasses causes the pupils to dilate — since the eyes perceive it as being darker — but if the glasses are not UV then more harmful ultraviolet radiation is able to enter the eye.

Regular exposure to UV light can have cumulative and profound consequences. Cataracts, macular degeneration, ocular melanoma, and eyelid cancers may be caused by UV exposure to the eyes. Even a sunburn of the eye (photokeratitis), like the one you might experience on your skin, is possible. The lack of UV-blocking protection around your eyes may also cause skin cancer.

It has been shown that 5 to 10 percent of all skin cancer occurs in the eye area, so opting for a pair of sunglasses that are certified as providing polarization and UV protection is extremely important.

Look for sunglasses with a sticker or tag that certifies their UV-blocking capabilities. You should only buy lenses that provide at least 99 to 100 percent protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Even better, look for shades that block 75 to 90 percent of visible light. You also want to look for shades that feature an antireflective treatment on the back side of the lenses, as up to 50 percent of UV rays that reach the eyes come from reflection off the back surface of the lens.

The latest micro sunglasses made popular by big-screen idols are not ideal shades for outside wear as they do not offer the coverage needed to protect your eyes and surrounding skin, What you should look for instead are frames that fit your face well and cover as much of the delicate skin around your eyes as possible.

Wraparound-style glasses or surf-style glasses with larger temples or ‘arms’ block more than thin-framed glasses and help to protect you from the side. It is important to remember when you are out on the beach or near other reflective surfaces, you are getting exposed to the sun’s rays from above as well as those being reflected at you. Having glasses that fit appropriately to protect you from multiple angles is important.

Wearing sunglasses when you are in regular direct sunlight is as important as wearing sunscreens. A third protective measure, a wide-brimmed hat, can help cover any skin the sunglasses and sunscreen miss and will help block more UV rays.

Many of the cheap sunglasses are not verified to meet specific standards that eye care professionals suggest for adequate UV protection. Most of these glasses are usually made with tinted plastic. While the tint might provide you with a sense of security, they are not actually providing any protection to your eyes.

However, that does not mean that you need to go out and spend a fortune on some branded sunglasses. Look for the most important number: how much UV the lenses are certified to block. Then find a frame that is as large as you can handle without being so big it sits away from your face. That extra space lets too much light in. Polycarbonate lenses, titanium frames and other bells and whistles only add to the cost without doing anything more for your eyes.

Remember, sunglasses are more than a fashion statement they are a necessity for the long-term safety of your eyes.