a pair of sunglasses on top of a cell phone lying on an outdoor deck.

If you’re a little older and your eyes are sensitive to bright light, you’re probably already used to wearing your sunglasses outside year ‘round. Others may not realize the importance of keeping their sunglasses handy, even during the winter months.

The importance of wearing your sunglasses all year long cannot be over-emphasized. Here’s why.

UV Rays

Unfortunately cloud cover doesn’t protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Your precious eyesight is constantly at risk from ultra violet rays and the discomfort caused by glare.

Of course, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are the most serious problem your eyes face. UV rays are also intensified when they’re reflected off of shiny surfaces. In the short term, exposure to UV rays can cause a painful, temporary condition called photokeratitis, which is literally sunburn on the surface of your eyeball.

Long-term exposure to UV rays increases your risk of developing more serious conditions. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens that causes blurred vision and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in Canadians over the age of 50.

Glare Also Causes Problems

During the daylight hours, glare is nearly always present, whether the sun is shining or not. Your eyes can be subjected to much more light than they actually need to see due to bright reflections off of shiny surfaces such as cars or the glass in buildings. This glare causes irritation and discomfort because your pupils contract, your eyelids narrow and the muscles around your eyes constrict as you squint so you can see properly.

Glare, besides being painful, can also be a dangerous distraction when you’re driving or playing sports.

Sunglasses Your Best Defense

Here’s the good news. Wearing a good-quality pair of sunglasses helps to protect your eyes from UV damage as well as eye fatigue. Choose a pair that has 99 to 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. If you’re not sure, ask a sales person or, better still, your eye care professional, for guidance.

Even people, who wear contact lenses that already have UV protection, should wear sunglasses.

Bigger is Better

This is one time when bigger really is better. Lenses should be large enough to block light from entering from the sides. Sports models are ideal, as they wrap all the way around the temples. A wide-brimmed hat will help to block sunlight that comes in from overhead.

Sunglasses should be dark enough to reduce glare, but not so dark as to distort colours or interfere with recognizing traffic signals. Check this by trying them on in front of a mirror. If you can see your eyes, the lenses are probably not dark enough to block glare.

Kids Too

You wouldn’t send your kids outside without sunscreen, so you should also make sure they wear proper sun protection for their eyes. Again, kids’ sunglasses should have a minimum of 99 to 100 percent UV protection.

Reduce the risk of broken lenses by buying your kids’ sunglasses with polycarbonate lenses, as these lenses are more shatter-resistant than regular ones and, after all, kids will be kids.

Image Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/sunglasses-glasses-sun-1534891/