Like baseball, cookouts, suntan lotion and swimming, sunglasses are synonymous with the summer season. Since their mass introduction to the US market in 1929, these dark-tinted fashion accessories have been a staple of American culture. But behind their glitzy reputation lies a very practical purpose, as sunglasses play an instrumental role in protecting your eyes. So, if you happen to be outside, put your favorite pair of shades and learn more about this marvelous little invention.
Though every life form on earth owes its existence to the sun, the massive celestial body at the center of our solar system can sure take a toll on your health. The sun emanates powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays, which beat down upon the earth’s surface with impressive force. Due the prevalence of skin cancer, the effects of UV rays are relatively well known. The sun’s impact on your vision, however, does not generate as nearly as much publicity. Consequentially, most people are completely unaware as to the risk the sun poses to their eyesight.
The Dark Side of Sunlight
Have you ever noticed that, after a long day enjoying the sunny beach, your eyes appeared swollen and bloodshot, and were overly sensitive to light? These symptoms can be explained by a type of sunburn – specifically, a sunburn of the eyes, medically referred to as photokeratitis. This condition isn’t limited to just beachgoers; photokeratitis strikes skiers with such a frequency that the condition has earned the nickname “snow blindness.” In severe cases, photokeratitis can temporarily blind its victims for a period or 48 hours. Fortunately, you can prevent photokeratitis from ruining your beach/skiing vacations by just slipping on some sunglasses – your eyes will thank you for it.
Photokeratitis, while meriting a proper amount of attention, doesn’t represent the only danger posed by UV rays. In fact, as shown by the proceeding list, photokeratitis is actually one of the lesser sun-related threats to your eyesight. The following ailments reveal just how dangerous sunlight can be to your eyes (each one of these conditions can be caused by long-term UV ray exposure).
Surfer’s Eye – The name of this condition belies the potency of its symptoms. Surfer’s Eye, known medically as pterygium, occurs when a growth begins to form on the surface of the eye. Though benign, these growths can easily become a persistent irritant, causing swelling, inflammation and itching. While growths can be removed via surgery, Surfer’s Eye can come right back at some point in the future.
Cataracts – Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes clouded. As one may expect, this makes it much more difficult for the afflicted person to see clearly.
Macular Degeneration – This condition strikes the macula, a yellowish area on the back of the eye, known by optometrist’s as the macula. This yellow spot is an immensely important part of the eye – it is at this spot where the retina’s vision is at its sharpest (the retina is the tissue that lines the inner surface of the eye). When Macular degeneration sets in, the macula itself begins to whither, reducing the patient’s ability to properly discern fine details and observe colors. Macular degeneration is closely link with age, as an afflicted person symptoms will generally worsen with age. Though rare, the most severe form of this affliction can cause blindness.
Eye/Eyelid Cancer – Cancer is a disease that can strike seemingly everywhere; even your eyes are not immune from its clutches.
Trouble Spots for UV Rays
UV rays are not equal opportunity offenders – some areas of the United States are more vulnerable to them than others. The identities of these geographic areas should not come as a surprise – they include the Southwestern US, as well as extreme lower potions of the Southeast. The American cities that see the greatest annual danger from UV rays are listed below, along with the average number of days that each city has extreme/very high UV risk exposure:
- San Juan, Puerto Rico 286 days
- Honolulu, 253
- Miami, 201
- TampaBay, 171
- New Orleans, 163
The strength of UV rays also depends on the season; they are much more pronounced in the summer than in the wintertime.
Underestimating the Sun’s Power
While sunscreen is certainly important for preventing skin damage, it obviously fails to protect and guard your eyes. Fortunately, it seems as if a solid majority of Americans own and wear sunglasses. According to a survey conducted by The Vision Council, an organization consisting of eyewear manufacturers and suppliers, about 73% of adults wear sunglasses. However, that number drops to 58% among the children of the survey respondents.
While Americans might love their sunglasses, they seem to be somewhat under-informed about the importance of wearing them during the warmer parts of the year. The Vision Council survey found that many of those who wear sunglasses do so just to block the sun’s glare; only 1 in 6 do so for health reasons. Furthermore, about 20% of those who don’t wear sunglasses erroneously believe that the sun poses no risk to their eyesight.
Which Pair of Sunglasses is Right for You?
Now that you are aware of the importance of wearing sunglasses, the task now is to determine which pair best suits your style. The most important factor in your decision should be the shape of your face. Here are some tips that can help you choose the right pair of shades.
- Round Faces – If you have a round face, your main goal should be to find sunglasses that make your face appear more elongated, if not somewhat oval-shaped. Rectangular sunglasses with wide/thick frames should accomplish this task, while simultaneously enhancing your facial features.
- Square Faces – Suppose your face has more of a square-like shape. In this case, your best bet would be to pick up some oval or round sunglasses. While thin frames are usually the best match for this category, you might have better luck with thicker sunglasses. Such a choice takes the edge off strong facial features, a common trait found on those with square faces.
- Oblong Faces – Oblong-shaped faces tend to be more long than wide – try and picture a rectangle with slightly curved sides. If your face falls into this group, its best to pick up some shades that are either perfectly round or perfectly square. This tactic creates the façade that your face is wider and longer than it actually is.
- Oval Faces – When it comes to having the most versatile type of face, look no further than to those with oval-shaped heads. People in this category have hit the genetic jackpot (at least as far as sunglasses are concerned), as they tend to look great in virtually any pair of shades. As an added bonus, oval-faced consumers don’t have to worry about the thickness of their sunglasses’ frames; both thin and thick frames alike should work fine.
- Heart-Shaped Faces – It’s pretty easy to guess the facial appearance of an individual in this group. When buying sunglasses, a person with a heart-shaped face should look to deemphasize their chin, while emphasizing their eyes. Consumers in this category should be able complete this task fairly easily, as either oval-shaped sunglasses or multicolored shades should do the trick. In addition, heart-faced shoppers also look good in flat-top frame sunglasses.
Sunglasses not only help us look more fashionable, but they also protect one of the most sensitive yet important areas of the body. Given their ability to shield your eyes from damaging UV rays, purchasing a few pairs of sunglasses can certainly be described as a worthwhile investment.