Selecting sunglasses: 5 tips for eye health

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Squinting in the sun and shopping for shades? Then don’t lose sight of this: Sunglasses are more than a fashion statement. They can protect your eyes from some serious harm.

That’s because the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are not merely bad for your skin—they’re also bad for your eyes. Too much exposure to those rays can raise your risk of cataracts, as well as macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. UV light can also cause cancer around your eyes.

But not all sunglasses protect eyes equally. You’ve got to choose the right pair. So keep these tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) in mind:

1. Don't settle for less than 100 percent

Before you even look at the price tag, check the label. Does it guarantee that the sunglasses block 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays? If not, leave them on the rack.

When it comes to selecting safe shades, this is the most important consideration, the AAO cautions. But most people buying sunglasses don’t check to see if they block UV rays, an AAO survey showed.

2. Go large

Opt for oversized or wraparound styles, which provide the most coverage from UV light. Wraparound styles in particular can help cut down on UV rays reaching your eyes.

3. Don't be fooled by color

While they may make you feel fancy, don’t assume very dark lenses block more UV rays. Neither do tinted amber, green or gray lenses. Look at the numbers, not the colors.

4. Be clear about glare

That’s what polarized shades cut—glare coming off reflective surfaces like water or pavement. But polarized sunglasses—just like very dark or tinted ones—don’t cut UV light.

5. They don't have to be pricey

Less costly shades can protect your peepers just as much as pricier ones. What matters is a clearly marked label specifying 100 percent UV protection.

A final tip: Once you settle on those shades, be sure to wear them anytime you’re outdoors—even on cloudy days and all year-round. The sun’s rays can still pass through clouds. And they can hurt your eyes in any season—not just summer.

Now that you’ve brushed up on the basics of sunglasses, take our quiz to see how much you’ve learned.

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