Are Cheap Sunglasses bad for your eyes?

Most people have done it, whilst out shopping grabbed a cheap pair of sunglasses without a second thought. But are we doing damage to our eyes by wearing these cheap options, or are they completely safe to wear? Well surprisingly it is not so much about the expense, it is about picking shades that come with the proper UV protection, and this applies to cheap and expensive sunglasses. So what should you look out for when choosing your shades?

Copyright: CarolineWPhotos/Flickr

Copyright: CarolineWPhotos/Flickr

First, look at the minimum safety label:

  • In Europe the minimum EN1836 standard carry a ‘CE’ label.
  • In America minimum safe standard is called ANSI Z80.3
  • In Australia, the standard is AS1067

There are two basic levels of protection that a good pair of sunglasses should provide for you.

Protection from ultraviolet (UV) light

When it is sunny and our eyes receive too much light, we naturally squint and our irises close to stop the light reaching the retina. When we put on dark sunglasses our irises stay open, allowing the now darker light to enter, but if there is no UV barrier in place the UV rays will be able to enter and damage eye, leading to cataracts, macular degeneration and even development of ocular melanoma — a very rare type of cancer.

Protection from glare

Surfaces such as snow, water, mirrors can reflect bright and intense light, and these bright spots can appear suddenly, without warning and be distracting. A good pair of sunglasses can eliminate glare completely using polarization.

There are experts that say not wearing sunglasses is actually better than wearing a pair of bad ones, as the eyes naturally close in reaction to bright sunlight. And much of the sun’s rays are invisible to the naked eye, and can cause untold damage, such as UV rays.

A condition called photokeratitis, also known as ‘sunburn of the eye’, is prevalent amongst skiers who don’t wear goggles with UV protection. The condition becomes apparent after a few hours in the sun, enjoying the snow. The eyes feel as if they are full of grit, they look red and tired and the vision becomes blurred and painful. If you are afflicted with this condition you should rest up, use the appropriate eyedrops and after a few days your eyes should be back to normal.

One ailment that is not so easily cured are cataracts, a condition that occurs over time, and typically requires an operation to remove. The cornea becomes cloudy over many years and it is thought that too much sunlight is the main reason they occur.

Too much UV light can trigger the condition of pterygium, which is where the surface of the eye grows of control. This is a painful and unsightly ailment that can occasionally obscures sight.

An excess of UV light can also lead to macular degeneration. The macular is the most sensitive part of the inside of our eye, and too much UV light damages this area and eventually prevents you from seeing clearly.

So to make sure you buy the correct sunglasses, expert recommend you purchase from a reputable supplier, not a market stall vendor, you look for the safety label and you buy with UV and glare protection.

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