Sunglasses are much more than a fashion statement.
They protect your eyes against the sun's damaging
ultraviolet (UV) rays. And when you have glaucoma, sunglasses can make you more comfortable by reducing glare and easing light sensitivity.
With summer around the corner, are you ready to buy your next pair? Let’s talk about why they’re so important and what features will give you the most benefit year-round.
Why do you need sunglasses?
While most of us grab our sunglasses to see better on a sunny day, there are many other good reasons to wear them regularly.
- Prevent eye-related health issues –Wearing sunglasses with UV protection can reduce your risk of cataracts and slow the progression of glaucoma and macular degeneration. Also, the skin around your eyes (including your eyelids) is particularly sensitive to sunlight. Keeping them covered can prevent skin cancer.
- Protect your eyes from the elements – If you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors this summer, keep in mind that sunglasses (especially wraparound styles) will keep your eyes safe from wind, dust, and sand. For beach goers, don’t underestimate the damage a tiny grain of sand can cause. Not only is it irritating, but sand can scratch the surface of your eye, causing permanent damage.
- Avoid snow blindness – This is when you “sunburn” your eyes, specifically your cornea. This condition is usually associated with snow since it’s highly reflective. However, it can just as easily occur on a white sandy beach or on the water. Another reason to wear sunglasses when you’re on an outdoor adventure!
- Promote recovery from eye procedures – Your ophthalmologist will always recommend wearing sunglasses after any type of eye procedure, whether it’s LASIK treatment or cataract surgery. Continuing to use them will help your eyes adjust and protect them from the elements.
- Reduce headaches and migraines – Bright sunlight forces you to strain your eyes. For those already susceptible to bad headaches and migraines, this can be a trigger. Wearing sunglasses can make them less frequent – and at the very least – less intense.
- See more clearly while driving – Studies have shown that bright sunlight is associated with increased risk of a life-threatening car accident. This probably comes as no surprise. Driving toward the sun at the end of the day is very difficult. Sunglasses can make a world of difference – and might even save your life!
How do sunglasses help people with glaucoma?
If you have glaucoma, you may experience light sensitivity (or photophobia). This is a result of the pressure buildup in your eyes. On a sunny day, you’ll also be more affected by the glare coming from surfaces like sand, water, glass, or pavement. At night, the bright halogen lights of oncoming traffic can be disorienting. Plus, some glaucoma medications constrict the pupils, which can contribute to glare problems.
In addition to all the benefits of sunglasses noted above, for glaucoma patients, you’ll feel more comfortable wearing them when you’re outside in the sun or in a bright indoor space. In some cases, they can help you see better in the early evening while driving.
What should someone with glaucoma look for when buying sunglasses?
Be sure to balance style with practicality when choosing your next pair of sunglasses. Here’s a list of features to consider:
- UV Protection – Don’t be deceived by the color. Just because it’s dark doesn’t mean it has more protection. Look for lenses with 99-100% protection. You might also see "UV absorption up to 400nm.” This means the same thing.
- Wraparound – This offers the best protection from the sun. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, some studies have demonstrated that UV rays can enter around frames, reducing the benefit of regular sunglasses.
- Light Blocking – You want to make sure the sunglasses screen out enough light and glare. An easy way to do this is to look in the mirror while wearing the sunglasses. They should be dark enough that you can just see your eyes, or not see them at all.
- Mirrored/Metallic Coating – This reduces how much visible light enters your eyes. If you spend a lot of time in high-glare environments, this could be a worthwhile addition.
- Polarized – Polarized sunglasses cut reflected glare. These are beneficial while driving, on water, or in snowy environments.
- Gradient – This is a great feature to help with driving. These sunglasses are shaded darker on top (or top and bottom) and lighter in the middle, allowing better visibility while cutting glare from above or below.
- Photochromic – For convenience, you might consider lenses that darken in bright lights and lighten in lower lighting.
Sunglasses are essential for everyone. But if you have glaucoma, they have added benefits. Sunglasses can slow the progression of your symptoms, help you see more clearly, and ease discomfort from light sensitivity. Talk to your optometrist or ophthalmologist to choose the right sunglasses for you.