The importance of sunglasses year round

Story by Bryan and Melissa Thome

Many people know the sun’s rays can be harmful to your skin, but did you know they are also potentially harmful to your eyes? Sunglasses are a great fashion accessory, and often improve our visual comfort and performance; but their most important job is to protect your eyes from UV (ultraviolet) radiation.

Increased exposure to UV radiation can play a role in several conditions including macular degeneration, cataracts and pterygium. Macular degeneration is an age-related condition wherein the central portion of the visual field deteriorates over time. It is the leading cause of vision loss in Canada according to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens causing a reduction in the quality of vision. Pterygium is a growth of tissue onto the cornea originating from the white part of the eye (conjunctiva). This can alter the curvature of the cornea, resulting in astigmatism which also negatively affects vision.

Now that colder weather is upon us … I guess it’s time to put away the sunglasses until next spring, right?  WRONG! Protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays is important all year round. Even after temperatures have dropped, we Albertans still get plenty of UV exposure. Did you know that Calgary receives more hours of sunlight per year than any other major Canadian city? Coupling that with increased glare off snow-covered surfaces makes year-round sun protection especially important.

When purchasing sunglasses, ensure they are designed to block 100 per cent of both UVA and UVB radiation so that you know you are receiving the proper protection. If you have any questions about protecting your eyes from the sun, please visit an eye care professional.

Bryan and Melissa Thome are optometrists with Airdrie Eye Care