The High Cost of Cheap Sunglasses

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Posted on Sunday, March 14th, 2021 by Dr. Robert Mack
UV ray protection in Hoffman Estates

Few products offer as many choices to consumers as sunglasses. Styles, colors, shapes, materials, brands and prices vary widely, and this kaleidoscope of choices is part of the fun of twirling the drug store carousel in search of the perfect pair.

The protective power of the lenses is the most important variable — and ultimately the coolest feature of all. Here, the experienced ophthalmologists of Mack Eye Center discuss some of the risks of frugality when making your purchase, and offer a buyer checklist to ensure your choice will preserve the health of your eyes and the clarity of your vision.

Safety Over Savings

The truth is that cheap sunglasses can be quite costly in the long run. Most of these inexpensive varieties block only part of the sun’s harmful UV rays. Even worse, they trick your eyes into letting their guard down: The darker lenses of the sunglasses reduce visible light, and in response your pupils dilate. In doing so, they are allowing a higher intensity of ultraviolet light to enter and begin damaging the retina.

The consequences of subjecting your eyes to years of unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays can be severe — for your eyes and for the delicate skin surrounding your eyes. In fact, up to 10 percent of all skin cancers occur on the fragile skin near your eyes. For the eye itself, long-term exposure to the sun can cause cataracts; macular degeneration, which often leads to total loss of vision; pterygium, or growths on the eye; and photokeratitis, which is essentially a sunburn on the eye.

Buyer Checklist

For optimal protection from all these risks, look for sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVB and UVA ultraviolet rays. If the label includes a UV 400 notation, that is a sign that the product offers complete blockage of ultraviolet light.

Because much of the ultraviolet light reaching your eye is reflected off the inner surface of the lenses or penetrates through the side, wraparound or large, snug-fitting sunglasses are ideal. Wraparound sunglasses have the added benefit of protecting more of the delicate skin near your eyes. Some types of sunglasses feature anti-reflective coatings for the inner lenses. Polarized lenses are also a prudent investment, as these lenses almost always provide exemplary protection from damaging ultraviolet rays. 

If you would like to learn more about ways to protect your eyes and preserve your vision, schedule an appointment today at Mack Eye Center, conveniently located in Hoffman Estates.

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