Sunglasses are for all seasons

Eye Health 

Colour picture of a woman wearing sunglasses

Your eyes need protection from the sun all year round and you should know clouds do not protect your eyes from UV rays. The two main risks of sun exposure are damage from UV rays and discomfort caused by glare.

A glaring problem

Glare is nearly always present during daylight hours, whether the sun is shining or not. Bright reflections off shiny surfaces like vehicles or buildings can subject the eyes to much more light than you actually need to see. This causes irritation and discomfort as your pupils contract, your eyelids narrow and the muscles around your eyes constrict as you squint to see properly.

Besides being painful, glare can also be a dangerous distraction during driving or sporting activities. Anyone who has driven into the sunset on a late afternoon will be very familiar with this.

UV rays

A far more serious problem, however, is the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays, which are intensified when they are reflected. In the short term, exposure can cause a painful, temporary condition called photokeratitis, which is literally a sunburn on the surface of your eyeball.

Long-term exposure to UV rays increase your risk of developing two more serious conditions: cataracts, a clouding of the lens that causes blurred vision and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in Canadians over age 50.

Sunglasses: try before you buy!

The good news is that wearing a pair of good-quality sunglasses will help protect your eyes from UV damage and fatigue. Look for a manufacturer's label indicating that the glasses offer 99 to 100 per cent UV A and B protection. If youre unsure, ask the sales assistant or your eye care professional for guidance.

People who wear contact lenses, even those that offer UV protection, should still wear sunglasses.

Sunglasses should be dark enough to reduce glare, but not so dark as to distort colours or interfere with recognizing things like traffic signals. To check this, simply try them on in front of a mirror. If you can see your eyes, the lenses are probably not dark enough to block glare.

The bigger the better

Lenses should also be large enough to block light entering from the sides. Sports models that wrap all the way around the temples are ideal. A hat with a wide brim can help block sunlight that comes in from overhead.

Don't forget the kids

Just as you wouldn't send children out in the sun without sunscreen, they also should wear sunglasses with a minimum 99 to 100 per cent UV protection to protect their eyes. To reduce the risk of broken lenses, look for polycarbonate lenses, which are more shatter-resistant than regular ones.