How a pair of the right sunglasses can save you from cataracts and skin cancer

By Catherine Orda | Photos courtesy of Oakley Asia

The health benefits of wearing sunglasses, while sometimes overshadowed by the eyewear’s aesthetic function, can be life-saving. They’re more commonly donned to make a fashion statement, when in fact they can actually combat risks of vision loss and eye cancer.

It seems a trite thing to say out loud, but investing in a good pair of sunglasses is probably the single best thing you can do for your eyes, especially if you live in the tropics. And incidentally, what constitutes a good pair of glasses, according to ophthalmologists, have almost everything to do with the sun: 100 percent UVA and UBA protection. Here are four reasons why you need to start wearing sunglasses more often:

They Save You from a Range of Sun-Related Eye Problems

Macular Degeneration – This incurable eye condition is the leading cause of vision loss. It’s caused by the ultraviolet (UV) ray-induced deterioration of the retina, which is the inside black layer of the eye that records what we see. While it’s a condition that people may develop with age, you can already do a lot at this point to save yourself from retina damage—simply wear sunglasses, which effectively protect the retinas.

Skin Cancer – Nearly 10 percent of skin cancers are found near the eyes. The skin around your eyes, including the eyelids, are especially sensitive to sunlight, and so it would be wise to protect them from the sun by wearing sunglasses. Dr. Lisa Park, an ophthalmologist at Columbia University Medical Center says: “Skin cancer on the eyelids is definitely a concern. Protection from sun exposure is recommended to prevent this condition, particularly in patients with a history of skin cancers.”

Cataracts – Cataracts, or the clouding of the lenses, are something that everyone will eventually develop. Again, the role of sunglasses here has to do with prevention and damage control. If you start wearing sunglasses as early as now, there’s a better chance of slowing down and delaying the development of cataracts.

Pterygium or Surfer’s Eye – You don’t have to be a surfer to contract this condition, which is characterized by a growth of a bump on the eyeball itself. Spending long hours in the heat, especially when you’re swimming (where the water can reflect the sun’s harmful UV rays) is enough to give you the surfer’s eye. It’s nothing serious, but it can cause a lot of discomfort. Wraparound sunglasses are a good way to avoid this.

It seems a trite thing to say out loud, but investing in a good pair of sunglasses is probably the single best thing you can do for your eyes, especially if you live in the tropics. And incidentally, what constitutes a good pair of glasses, according to ophthalmologists, have almost everything to do with the sun: 100 percent UVA and UBA protection.

You’ll Get Less Headaches and Migraines

Many people suffer from sunlight-induced migraines. And it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes of being out in the sun to start experiencing one. Wearing a good pair of sunglasses not only reduces the intensity of these headaches but also the frequency with which they occur. If you don’t usually get headaches when out in the sun, wear sunglasses anyway, as they generally reduce eyestrain and fatigue. You won’t need to squint, too.

Cloudy Days Can Be Misleading

A cloudy day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear sunglasses outdoors. Clouds can only absorb 10 percent of the sun’s harmful rays; the remaining 90 percent can easily shoot past these clouds. So if you’re not wearing sunglasses, these rays can cause a lot of serious damage—the kind that can lead to any of the abovementioned problems.

Your Eyes Will Never Be the Same Once You Damage Them

While the human body naturally repairs itself—in this context, damaged eye cells are naturally replaced—you need to remember that such an intrinsic function becomes less effective the more you subject your cells to UV ray harm. And the same rule applies to whatever medical treatment you might choose to undergo: May it be surgery or steroids, the reparative effects won’t be enough to make up for the damage you’ve already incurred.