In 1983, Tom Cruise donned a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer Sunglasses, in the hit film Risky Business, catapulting the infamous sunglasses into the spotlight. More than 30 years later, that same pair of sunglasses is back on the scene and Ray-Ban eyewear is #1 globally. But there is a greater reason than fashion for putting on a pair of sunglasses, Ray-Ban or otherwise: Sunglasses are the simplest effort you can make to protect your eyes from many different sight-threatening conditions.
It is well known that ultraviolet light from the sun is harmful to your skin, but it’s also a major factor in some serious eye conditions.
On the Outside:
The last time you applied sunscreen, do you recall putting it on your eyelids? Probably not, most people avoid this sensitive area as it burns when sunscreen makes contact with the eye. But did you know that 5-10% of all skin cancers occur on the eyelids? The lower lid is at particularly greater risk, as it’s not as well protected by your brow.
UV radiation also poses a threat to the eyeball itself. The sun’s rays frequently cause damage to the delicate outer layer of the eye (the conjunctiva) resulting in a yellowish growth on the white part of the eye, called a pinguecula or pterygium. This growth can become inflamed and irritated and has the potential to affect your vision.
And who can forget CNN News Correspondent, Anderson Cooper, whom in 2012, went on a boat in Portugal, without sunglasses, and developed solar keratitis: Essentially he sunburned his corneas. Ouch! This is a painful condition that can cause temporary blindness and is completely avoidable with proper sun protection.
On the Inside:
Cataracts are a fairly common condition that progresses more quickly with exposure to UV radiation. And cataracts can cause significant visual impairment and problems when driving at night.
The #1 cause of blindness in the US is macular degeneration, and studies have shown a relationship between UV exposure and this devastating disease. Sadly the number of Americans with this condition is expected to double in 2050 to total 17.8 million.
Who’s At Risk?
You may be shocked to know that children are at greatest risk for damage from the sun. The immature lenses in their eyes offer little protection for the inside of the eye (unlike adults). Sun exposure over the course of our lives is cumulative. Protecting our eyes at a young age significantly lowers our risk of UV-influenced eye disease.
Adults and children who spend a lot of time outside (especially those on highly reflective surfaces-The water, the roof, asphalt, the tennis court) are at increased risk.
So do your future self a big favor, and the next time you head outside, pick up a pair of sunglasses. While you’re at it, pick up a pair for the dog; dogs get cataracts too!