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The Importance of UV Protection Sunglasses

Wearing proper sunglasses is very important when it comes to keeping our eyes healthy. Our eyes can be easily damaged by Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun.

What is UV light?

UV light is a type of electromagnetic radiation that is invisible to the human eye, and is made of electromagnetic waves with frequencies higher than those our eyes identify. UV light comes in three bands: UVA, UVB and UVC. The Earth’s ozone layer blocks out between 97 and 99 percent of the UV radiation that penetrates our atmosphere, and UVC rays rarely reach the Earth at all. UV light is also emitted from other sources such as welding tools, indoor tanning beds and lasers.

UV light and your eyes

The molecules in our eye cells and tissues absorb UV light, and too much exposure can damage eye structures such as the cornea, the lens and the retina. High levels of UVB light is particularly hazardous to our eyes, with excessive exposure potentially leading to Photokeratitis, also called Ultraviolet keratitis. Photokeratitis is similar to a sunburn and affects the cornea and conjunctiva, and is often not detected until several hours after exposure. Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Gritty feeling in the eye
  • Extreme sensitivity to light
  • Excessive tearing

Long term exposure to UV light can also lead to other serious eye diseases that include

  • Retinal damage
  • Pterygium (a growth in the corner of the eye)
  • Pinguecula (yellowish lesions on the surface of the eye)

The longer you are exposed to UV radiation the greater your risk for developing conditions such as cataracts and/or macular degeneration later in life.

Protecting your eyes

Just as sunscreen protects your skin from UV light so do UV protection sunglasses protect your eyes. Ordinary, untreated sunglasses do offer some protection against UV light with plastic lenses offering better protection than glass lenses. This is because some plastic lens materials such as polycarbonate inherently block most UV light. Photochromic lenses (lenses which gradually darken depending on sun exposure) offer full UV protection. For optimal protection opt for wrap-around frames which will protect your eyes from the UV radiation that enters your eyes from the sides of your glasses. Though some contact lenses provide UV protection you should also wear UV protection sunglasses so that the areas of your eyes not covered by the contact lenses are still afforded adequate protection.

For more information about keeping your eyes healthy, or to book an appointment, contact Market Mall Optometry today at 403.286.4884 and visit

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