While everyone should wear sunglasses that block 100% of the sun’s harmful UV rays, individuals with low vision especially benefit from the glasses’ ability to decrease glare and improve contrast and clarity.
When selecting sunglasses, here are some tips to keep in mind to protect your vision.
The first and most crucial feature to look for in sunglasses are lenses that provide 100% UV-A and UV-B protection. The lids of your eyes, the cornea, the lens, and sections of the retina can all be damaged by ultraviolet light.
Don’t buy sunglasses if the label doesn’t say 100% UV Protection against both UV-A and UV-B’ or 100% protection against UV 400. In addition, purchasing wrap-around or tight-fitting sunglasses doesn’t allow much UV light to reach your eyes from the sides or the top.
Many people mistakenly believe that darker lenses equal better protection. In fact, darker lenses don’t necessarily provide better protection and might reduce visibility, especially for people with eye conditions such as glaucoma. Before purchasing sunglasses, discuss the optimal lens darkness with your low vision eye doctor and then try a variety of lens shades in the office to see which one provides the most visibility and comfort.
Glare sensitivity is a symptom of macular degeneration and many other eye conditions, particularly in direct sunshine. Even when a person is sitting in the shade, the sun can reflect off the water, the road, a car’s hood, and other surfaces, creating a harsh glare. A polarized lens decreases the glare that is reflected off these and other surfaces. Glare reduction also improves clarity and reduces eye fatigue.
Since macular degeneration reduces one’s sharp, detailed vision, wearing sunglasses with high-quality lenses is critical. The clarity of the lens is determined by the quality of the lens material. When trying on the lenses, ask the staff about the clarity of the various lenses and choose one that is free of distortion and doesn’t produce a blurry image.
In patients with low vision, the ability to distinguish contrast is diminished. Some tinted lenses provide improved contrast. The contrast enhancement and superior depth perception of orange and yellow lenses often appeal to people with glaucoma.
Wearing sunglasses that include only a blue light blocker lens is not suggested while driving because these colored lenses cause color distortion. They may make it more difficult to discern the [colors] of traffic light signals. However, a blue blocker lens might be beneficial for computer use as it reduces glare and does not darken the screen. Blocking blue light has been shown to reduce eye strain while using a computer.
Before choosing your new pair of sunglasses, briefly wear them outside to learn whether they provide optical clarity, decreased glare, and better contrast. Indoor illumination differs significantly from that of a bright sunny day.
If you have low vision, contact an IALVS low vision eye doctor to discuss which sunglasses are right for you.
Q: Are absorptive lenses considered sunglasses?
- A: Absorptive lenses are tinted lenses that reduce glare and increase contrast to improve visual clarity. They filter out surplus light and allow only a specific wavelength of visible light, such as yellow and orange, to pass through the lens. As the colors seen with these lenses are very limited, these are not considered to be adequate for use as sunglasses.
Q: Why is UV protection important for low vision patients?
- A: The eyes of a visually impaired person may be as exposed to UV rays as the eyes of a sighted person. Sunglasses may help people with low vision prevent future vision loss caused by UV radiation exposure.