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Sure, sunglasses might add the final touches to your chic ensemble, but the real reason to purchase your shades is to protect your eyes from the sun. Not only does glare from the sun make it difficult to see, but the UV rays it reflects can cause permanent damage to your eyes and vision. You want to make sure your sunglasses offer optimal protection, fit, comfort and of course, the best possible vision. Here are some things to consider when purchasing your next pair. 

UV Protection

There are two types of UV radiation, UVA and UVB. UVA rays are less intense yet more prevalent than UVB rays, making up 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the surface of the Earth. They have been linked to skin cancer, aging and the development of cataracts. UVB rays are very dangerous to the eyes and are the primary cause of sunburns and cancer. While they are dangerous year round, these rays are more intense during the summer months, especially mid-day between around ten in the morning and four in the afternoon. UVB rays also reflect off of snow, water, sand and concrete. 

The damage caused by UV rays is irreversible and cumulative, building up over a long period of time. This is why it is important to start wearing sunglasses when you are young (also because your eyes are more sensitive at a younger age). You want to make sure your sunglasses block out 100% of UV rays. This is the most important factor to consider when purchasing your sunglasses. 

Additionally, in certain circumstances of intense UV exposure, a condition called keratitis can occur, which is essentially a sunburn on the eye. Symptoms often occur hours after sun exposure and can include temporary vision loss and severe pain. 

Sunglass Lens Options

Once you are certain your sunglass lenses have the requisite UV protection, you can begin to consider other lens possibilities. Here are some other lens options to consider:

Polarized Lenses:

Reduce glare from light reflecting off glass, water, snow, sand or pavement. You should consider polarized lenses if you participate in water or snow sports such as fishing, boating or skiing as the water and snow can create a strong glare. They are also great for comfort while driving by reducing glare and to enhance vision when on the road. 

Tinted Lenses:

Certain lens tints enable you to see better or more comfortably under certain circumstances but you have to be careful. Lens tints can distort or reduce vision and some can even harm your vision by increasing your pupil size which leads to an increase of UV radiation penetrating the eye. Look for lenses with a medium tint that keep your eyes comfortable and do not have a negative impact on your vision. Your optometrists’ office can often make specific tint recommendations depending on your lifestyle or particularly activities (ex. golfing vs fishing) and the health of your eyes (for example, cataracts tend to cause more glare). 

Photochromic Lenses:

Automatically darken when exposed to UV light. Photochromic lenses are a great option for individuals that wear prescription eyeglasses: one pair can serve you both indoors and outdoors. As soon as you step outside, the lenses will darken, and they’ll reverse when you go back indoors. 

Lens Materials

There are also a few options when it comes to lens materials, such as plastics – including polycarbonate or acetate; trivex – which is a polymer material; or glass. The type of lens will determine the durability, clarity of vision and price of your lenses, so you should consider the factors that are most important for you and try out a few options to see how they feel. 

Sunwear Frames

Frame Size

The size of your sunglass frame is important for both comfort and protection. Your frames should fit according to your face size and provide ample coverage for your eyes. When you try on your frames, make sure they cover your eyes and feel comfortable around the bridge and temples. Also check that they don’t slip off when you move your head down toward the floor. 

Frame Materials

Frames can be manufactured from a number of materials and, these days, frame companies are constantly innovating to come up with new and improved options. These materials vary in strength, flexibility, weight, comfort and price. You need to choose a frame material that is comfortable, safe, and functional and that suits your lifestyle and your fashion style. 

Making the Purchase

When purchasing sunglasses, keep in mind that your vision insurance may help to cover the costs when purchased at an optometry office rather than at a sports or recreation store. Check with your insurance and your local optical to find out about any discounts or coverage. Another advantage of purchasing from an optometrist’s optical is that the optician can help you to find the perfect pair to suit your eye and vision needs, as well as your lifestyle and fashion preferences. 

The good news about choosing the right pair of sunglasses is that there are ample brands, colors, styles and materials to choose from. So when it comes to your shades, don’t settle for less than optimal protection, fit and comfort for your eyes. 

April is Women’s Eye Health Month in the USA and May is Healthy Vision month in Canada too, so let’s take the opportunity to look at some tips for maintaining eye and vision health, with a special focus on women. 

Statistically, women are more at risk than men for eye disease, visual impairment and blindness, especially after age 40. In fact, when it comes to serious age-related eye diseases, women represent well over half of the cases, with 61% of glaucoma cases and 65% of age-related macular degeneration cases being female. Women are also more prone to cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye syndrome and untreated refractive errors.

One of the reasons for women’s increased risk of age-related eye disease is that they statistically live longer than men. In fact, a recent study showed that there are twice as many women than men over the age of 85 in America. Additionally, not only are they living longer but they are sometimes they’re working longer as well, which often involves added computer and device use, so they tend to suffer more from conditions exacerbated by blue light and ultraviolet exposure such as dry eyes and eyestrain. 

The good news is there are certain lifestyle changes that women can make to reduce that increased risk of developing age-related eye diseases. In many cases, blindness and visual impairment are preventable or treatable with proper awareness and precautions. 

Here are seven lifestyle tips to protect your eyes and vision and reduce your risks of vision-threatening eye diseases:

  1. Protect your eyes from UV exposure.
    UV radiation has been implicated as a risk factor for a number of eye diseases including macular degeneration and cataracts. Sunglasses should be more than a fashion statement, they should have high quality lenses that fully block UVA and UVB rays. Further, sunglasses shouldn’t be reserved for the summer. UV rays can penetrate clouds and bounce off snow and water, so rock your shades year round, any time you go outside.
  2. Exercise regularly and eat a proper diet.
    Studies show that regular exercise and a diet rich in a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins and fats promotes eye health. Reduce sugar, processed foods, and white flour and of course refrain from smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. This is the recipe not only for improved eye health, but for the health of your whole body and mind as well.
  3. Take care of chronic conditions.
    If you have diabetes, high blood pressure or chronic stress, managing these conditions will reduce your chances of developing eye diseases. Make sure you take care of your overall health, as it is all related to the health of your eyes.
  4. Throw away expired makeup and skincare products, and replace brushes periodically.
    Many women habitually use makeup and skincare products beyond their expiration dates. This can be problematic, especially with liquid products and those that you apply close to the eyes, as they can carry harmful bacteria which can cause infections and irritation. Check your products regularly and toss any that are past their prime.
  5. Clean eyes from makeup daily.
    Eye cosmetics are a frequent cause of dry eye, as they can block glands within the lids. Beyond eye irritation, styes or other eye infections can result, so do yourself a favor and clean your eyelids are carefully at the end of the day.
  6. Steer clear of over-the-counter contact lenses!
    Colored contact lenses in particular are frequently worn by women. It is important to be fitted by a trained eye care professional for any pair of contact lenses, even if you don’t need vision correction. Contact lenses bought without a prescription and proper fitting can seriously damage the eyes.
  7. Schedule regular eye exams.
    Many of the serious eye diseases mentioned above require early diagnosis and treatment to prevent vision loss. When caught early, vision can be saved or restored; otherwise permanent damage can occur. That’s why it’s critical to schedule comprehensive eye exams on a regular basis to check in on your eye health and identify any early signs of disease. Your eye doctor should also know about your family history and any other relevant lifestyle concerns that may put you at a higher risk of certain conditions. 

Vision loss can be a devastating blow to one’s quality of life and independence, but so much of it can be prevented. Education and lifestyle changes can be key to helping women to live a long life with clear vision and healthy eyes.