UV Protection and Sunglasses

Who doesn’t just love the idea of summer? The sunny days, cool nights, time spent near the water to cool down, and of course the perfect pair of sunglasses. We all have that pair of sunglasses right? Or are you one of those that buy a pair from a gas station?  While the price might be right, the quality might not be the best.

When looking for the perfect pair of sunglasses a few more factors come into play besides style. Always check the frames for strength, durability and flexibility, weight, and resistance to corrosion and impact. Like your standard eyeglasses, sunglasses can come in metal and plastic frames with each of their own advantages and disadvantages. Mabee Eye Clinic’s opticians are experts in choosing which material best suit your needs and style.

Another important factor is UV, or ultraviolet, protection. Dark colored lenses or depth of tint does NOT mean you are more protected. Check the labels on the sunglasses. Make sure they read “blocking 99%” or “100%.” Occasionally, you might find some labels saying “UV absorption up to 400nm (or UV400),” which is the same as 100% protection.

UV protection is also available in contact lenses as well. In 2019, Acuvue released a new contact lens utilizing the same photochromatic technology used in Transitions lenses. The Acuvue Oasys with Transitions contact lenses seemlessly adapts to balance the amount of indoor and outdoor light entering the eye, including filtering blue light and blocking harmful UV rays. The lenses become darker when activated by UV light and will constantly change and adapt to the level and intensity of light. The contacts will also fade back to clear quickly when you come back inside. Acuvue Oasys with Transitions are not meant to replace sunglasses. Other parts of the eye are exposed to UV light and high quality sunglasses are necessary. This is why the shape and size are also important in sunglass selection. Tiny round or crazy shapes may look cool, but they may not protect the sensitive skin around the eyes.

UV protection is one the most important features you want in your sunglasses as it helps prevent snow blindness. Photokeratitis, or snow blindness, is a painful, temporary loss of vision caused by an overexposure to the sun’s UV rays. Basically, you sunburned your eye – or more accurately sunburned your cornea.  Just like sunburned skin, by the time you notice symptoms of photokeratitis, you’ve already been in the sun too long.

Snow blindness doesn’t cause actual blindness, but vision can be affected so drastically making it unsafe to drive. Symptoms of snow blindness may include:

  • eye pain
  • burning eyes
  • red eyes
  • a gritty feeling or sensation that something is “in” the eye
  • sensitivity to light
  • watery eyes
  • blurry vision
  • swollen eyes and/or eyelids
  • headaches
  • glare and halos around lights

Typically these symptoms go away on their own after 24 to 48 hours. If you are noticing these symptoms lasting for longer, contact your eye care provider at Mabee Eye Clinic immediately.

Another great feature to any pair of sunglasses is polarized lenses. These specialized lenses block intense reflected light beams that travel in a more uniform direction causing glare and reduced visibility. Polarized lenses can also reduce the visibility of images on a liquid crystal display screen found on some digital screens, such as ATMs, gas station pumps, and even your phone.


Collins, A. (2020). Your guide to high-quality sunglasses.  All About Vision. Retrieved May 26th, 2020, from https://www.allaboutvision.com/sunglasses/quality-buyers-guide/

Collins, A. (2017). Snow blindness: How to prevent sunburned eyes.  All About Vision. Retrieved May 27th, 2020, from https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/snowblind.htm

Morgan, E. (2019). Polarized sunglasses: Best for reducing glare.  All About Vision. Retrieved May 29th, 2020, from https://www.allaboutvision.com/sunglasses/polarized.htm

Acuvue. Retrieved June 3rd, 2020 from https://www.acuvue.com/acuvue-oasys-transition-contact-lenses

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