by Ronni Diamondstein
Jackie O was on to something with her oversized sunglasses, and it was much more than glamour and impeccable style. Sunglasses are not only a hot fashion accessory but they are an investment in your health. There are many benefits from wearing sunglasses for people of all ages, all year round.
“Sunglasses are essential for the health of the eyes because they protect the eyes from the harmful UV(ultraviolet) rays from the sun, which are known to cause skin cancer, and many conditions of the eye such as cataracts, macular degeneration and abnormal growths,” says Christine M. Kim, Director of Optometric Services at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Macular degeneration is the degeneration of the macula, an area of the retina (the seeing part of the eye) that allows for clear central vision. “It is more common in aged populations and wearing sunglasses can help to prevent it,” she says.
Dr. Chris Gentile, an optometrist and owner of Eye Gallery of Chappaqua says that sunglasses also ease the sun glare from entering your eyes. “Sunglasses should definitely be worn year round because UV rays are in the atmosphere 365 days a year, even on cloudy days!” While most people think of wearing them to the pool or beach, they are just as important to wear in winter months because the sun is lower on the horizon and sun rays get reflected off the snow and ice causing glare.
Dr. Kim recommends purchasing a good quality pair of sunglasses from a reputable company because an inexpensive pair can do more damage than good. “An inexpensive pair may say it has UVA/UVB protection, but it may not. Your pupils dilate behind the dark lenses and may allow more harmful UV rays to enter the eye,” she says. “Also an inexpensive pair may have distortions in the lenses that can make blur your vision and create eye strain or fatigue.”
While style generally doesn’t make a difference in protection, it’s important to be sure that the glasses you choose protect you from UVA and UVB rays. Larger frames give more coverage around the eye area offering more protection, as do wraparounds. However, for those who need prescription lenses larger frames and wraparounds create distortions, so Dr. Kim recommends having your optometrist or optician help you select the right frame for you. “Polarized lenses are the best way to go for on the beach or water,” says Dr. Gentile. “They are a higher quality lens which reduces glare more efficiently especially from flat surfaces such as pools, the ocean, or the road.”
Wear your sunglasses in the best of health and know that while you are making a fashion statement you are also taking good care of yourself. Dr. Gentile stresses the need to wear sunglasses as much as possible and adds, “Kids need to wear them too. Good eye care and protection can never start too early!”
Ronni Diamondstein writes the Maggie Mae Pup Reporter column for Inside Chappaqua.