Protect your vision by choosing the right pair of sunglasses

Friday, June 10, 2011

Whether you buy them for status, fashion or protection, sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection are a year-round must-have for keeping your eyes safe from our intense Florida sunshine.

Think of it as sunscreen for your eyes, said local ophthalmologist Amit Chokshi with Chokshi and Coluccelli Eye Institute. Everyone should wear them.

"Most people think they are only at-risk when it's sunny outside," Chokshi said. "But they should wear sunglasses year-round, because UV light can go right through the clouds."

Sunglasses are designed to provide visual clarity outdoors and shield the eyes from bright sunlight and ultraviolet radiation, which can be damaging to the eyes.

But not all sunglasses are created equal and can run the gamut from name-brand designers that cost a small fortune but don't offer much in the way of protection, to middle-of-the-road pairs that may still cost you a stack of greenbacks but keep your eyes safe, to dollar store bargains.

Chokshi says always opt for quality over cost.

"Most designer sunglasses don't come polarized [that is, designed to reduce glare]," he said. "When you invest in a good pair of sunglasses, you are not just paying for the brand name in most cases, you are paying for quality."

The purpose of wearing sunglasses is to protect the eye and the delicate surrounding skin against harmful UVA and UVB rays, he said. "Quality is always more important than cost. The only way to check if your dollar store glasses have adequate protection is to have them checked on a meter [sometimes found at eye-care centers and optical shops] to determine the amount of UV that passes through the lenses."

If you're thinking the darker the better, that may not be enough, says a report on the website Dark lenses don't necessarily filter out UV rays.

Because of the various standards and measurements, Chokshi recommends consulting with a qualified optician to find the proper lenses to fit your needs. However, he does advise buying sunglasses that block 99 percent to 100 percent UVA and UVB rays.

"All polarized lenses that reduce glare come with UV protection built in them," Chokshi said. "With regular tinted lenses, UV protection is added along with the tint color."

In fact, there are several options that can be added to or "layered" on lenses to minimize glare and optimize visibility outdoors, said optician Lynn Brown of See Clear Optical.

"In regular plastic lenses, UV is not part of the lens, so it has to be added," Brown said.

"The process is done in a lab, where the lenses are soaked in a clear liquid UV solution, which is then absorbed into the lens and never fades out. The advantage of having UV protection on lenses is that it protects the eyes from damaging rays."

Brown said in addition to UV protection, an anti-reflective coating and different shades of tinting can be added to fit individual lifestyle needs.

"You are never too old or too young to wear sunglasses," Chokshi said. "Quality makes a huge difference. Wearing a good pair of sunglasses is the one thing we can do to protect our eyes from damage."

By: Joy Batteh Freiha

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