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 We all know that sunglasses are one of summer’s most trendy accessories! You may be under the impression that sunglasses are just a fashionable way to keep the sun out of your eyes but they are actually doing much more than just keeping you from squinting or improving your fashion sense.

The following are characteristics of your summer eye wear that you may have never considered your sunglasses capable of.

Protect the retina

The retina (where images are formed and sent to the brain) can deteriorate over time, causing macular degeneration, which leads to vision loss.  Macular degeneration (the macula is the area of the retina with the sharpest focus) is common among people 60 and older and some studies have pointed to UV exposure as a possible link.

Research is ongoing but it is recognised that sunglasses can help protect your retina. This means sunglasses are at least one way of prevention against macular degeneration.

Stop cataracts from forming

UV rays are a contributor to the forming of cataracts, which is clouding on the crystalline lens. Cataracts often lead to blindness, since the crystalline lens is responsible for focusing your eyes. However, cataracts can be treated with surgery.

Protect the cornea from sunburn

Another area of the eye susceptible to damage from UV rays is the cornea (the clear, refracting membrane outside the retina). The cornea can literally be burned by UV light, leading to corneal sunburn (keratitis).

A good pair of sunglasses with UV protection helps prevent corneal sunburn and it’s especially important to wear eye protection when using a sunbed or whilst skiing.

Protect the whites of your eyes

The conjunctiva is the thin membrane that covers the white area of your eyes.  Excessive exposure to the sun can cause it to become inflamed and irritated. As it gets more inflamed, the conjunctiva can swell over your cornea, partially blocking your vision (a condition referred to as pterygium or “surfer’s eye”). In extreme cases, surgery is required to remove pterygium.

Not all sunglasses are created equal

Since virtually all areas of the eye can be damaged by overexposure to sunlight, sunglasses can go a long way to ensure long-lasting eye health. Choosing the right kind of sunglasses is important; some brands may offer little or no protection.

When shopping for a pair of sunglasses, look for a pair with a label that clearly states that they offer at least 99-100% UV protection. Wider lenses and wrap-around styles will also provide more protection – simply because they cover your eyes from more angles.

Early detection

While prevention is critical, all of the eye conditions described above can be detected during a routine eye exam.  Getting your eyes checked regularly is crucial to maintaining normal eye health.

So while it’s important to shield your eyes from the potentially damaging effects of the sun, there’s no reason you can’t do it in style with your favorite pair of sunglasses.

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