With the summer just around the corner and family holidays fast approaching, we’re all squeezing into our summer shorts or splashing out on a new summer dress. Some of you may even be tempted to invest in a new pair of sunglasses for the summer months. But not all sunglasses are the same. So it is worth investing in a good pair of sunglasses, not only to look great but also to protect your sight at the same time.

We all know that ultra violet light and other radiation from the sun can burn and damage our skin, but you may not be aware that the sun can harm our eyes too. In fact, extended exposure to the sun’s UV rays has been linked to eye damage including cataracts and macular degeneration.

So let’s take a look at the three types of UV rays:

  1. UVC rays – These are potentially the most dangerous for our eyes. Fortunately, the ozone layer blocks most of these nasty rays from reaching Earth.
  2. UVB rays – These have a slightly longer wavelength than UVC rays (280-215mn). Although the rays are partly filtered by the ozone layer, some do still manage to reach the surface of the Earth. In small doses UVB radiation stimulates the production of melanin, which creates a suntan. But if overexposed to these rays without protection, the skin will burn and increase the risk of skin cancer, premature wrinkles and ageing.
  3. UVA rays – Being closer to visible light rays, UVA rays have a lower energy than UVC and UVB rays. These rays can pass through the cornea and reach the retina inside the eye.

Overexposure to UV rays has been linked to various eye conditions, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pterygia and photokeratitis (snow blindness). So it is really important to protect your eyes with UV blocking sunglasses.

Risk Factors

Anyone who spends time outside is at risk of overexposure to UV rays and the potential of future eye damage. Exposure risks are changing continuously and there are several factors that influence this, including:

Geographical location. The closer you are to the equator the higher the risk. So anyone going off trekking through the jungle this summer needs to be protected.

Altitude. UV levels increase the higher the altitude.

Time of day. The UV level increases as the sun rises in the sky. The highest levels are typically between 10.00am and 2.00pm.

Open spaces. UV levels are higher in open areas, especially if there are highly reflective surfaces, i.e. snow or sand. UV levels can be as much as double when reflecting off snow.

Medications. Some medicines can increase your sensitivity to UV radiation. It’s always wise to check with your GP and read the information sheets.

It’s also important to know that cloud cover doesn’t decrease the UV levels; the risks are just as high on a cloudy overcast day as that of a sunny day. This is because UV rays are invisible radiation and can penetrate clouds.

So, what should you look out for when buying sunglasses? Here’s a few tips:

  1. The most important factor to look for is the UV protection that the lens offers. To protect against UVA and UVB rays you need a lens which has UV400 protection. (400 being the nanometers).
  2. The depth of tint for protection against visible light should be 75% absorption and above. As all factors are linked, it is worth saying that the deeper the tint of the lenses the more the pupil will dilate, which in turn will allow more UV rays to enter the eye, which makes it even more important to have the UV400 protection.
  3. The skin around the eye is the thinnest in the body, so it can be more susceptible to skin cancers. We recommend a large eye size when choosing sunglasses to give good coverage of the eye and surrounding eyelid area.
  4. When it comes to tint colours, there are many different tint shades available. All are cosmetic but will help improve contrast in different weather conditions.
  • Yellow, orange, amber hues – increase contrast in overcast, hazy conditions and filters blue light for better clarity. Ideal for cycling, skiing, shooting and tennis.
  • Dark amber, copper – increases contrast on grass and blue skies. Ideal for fishing, golfing and water sports.
  • Grey – reduces overall brightness while keeping normal colour recognition. Ideal for use in all outdoor bright light conditions.

The risk of damage to our skin and eyes from UV radiation grows as we spend more time in the sun. So it’s therefore especially important for children to protect their eyes from harmful rays, as they tend to spend more time outside than adults. And because the lens inside their eyes are clearer than an adult, it’s easier for UV to penetrate deep into the eye.

Here at Respectacle Company in Market Harborough, we stock a selection of adult and children’s sunglasses, all with the correct UV protection. So not only can you look amazingly cool in your shades this summer but you’re helping to protect your eyes from damage and future problematic eye conditions.

With National Sunglasses Day fast approaching (June 27) there’s never been a better time to treat yourself to a good quality and stylish pair of sunglasses. To celebrate the day and promote good eye health, the guys at SPECS Network are giving you the opportunity to win an iPad in their free prize draw. You could also win a £200 Virgin Gift Card if you share a selfie wearing your favourite sunglasses. Find out more here

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