“The first thing you need to look at is the UV protection,” Dr. Migneco says. “In order to be labeled as UV protected by the government, there’s an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard. The sunglasses need to have at least 95 percent of the UVA rays blocked out and 97 percent of the UVB rays.
Always remember UVB are the bad ones. You really want the higher protection from the UVB rays.
“Even the off-the-rack cheap sunglasses from the grocery store must have those ANSI standards and be tested in order to say UV protected,” she says.
The UV protection is an actual clear coating on the lenses. All prescription sunglasses are manufactured with this clear coating. However, it’s an option on regular prescription eyeglasses and it can be added after the eyeglasses have been purchased. Dr. Migneco points out that non-prescription shades may or may not be coated. “That’s why, as a consumer, you need to make sure the sunglasses have the UV-protected label,” Dr. Migneco says.
The bottom line is that quality sunglasses are just as important as quality eyeglasses.
“It can actually be worse if you don’t have UV protection,” Dr. Migneco says. “The dark tint allows your pupils to dilate, then more light actually goes in. If UV light is going in, that can cause damage to the back of the eye. It will give you less protection than no sunglasses at all.
“Brown is the more natural tint, so if you’re looking through brown lenses you won’t get blue- or yellow-tinted hues. It looks more natural. Blue tints are good for highway driving to cut down on the reflections off the highway. Blue is also good for water sports.”
Dr. Migneco says that damage over a long period of time can lead to eye disease such as cataracts and macular degeneration. She recommends UV-protected lenses for younger people as a deterrent to help lessen the chances of eye disease later in life.
“Long-term exposure to sunlight’s UV radiation is linked to eye disease,” Dr. Migneco says.