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Eye Health Center

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How to Pick Good Sunglasses

By Abbie Kozolchyk
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Alan Kozarsky, MD

Sure, “cool” is part of it. Everyone needs a little cool now and then.

But slipping on your favorite pair of shades before you go outside -- every time you go outside -- is more than just a nice look. It’s critical for a lot of reasons.

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Reading in Dim Light

Q: My daughter loves to read by a dim light at night. Isn’t it true that this could damage her eyes? A: Conventional wisdom claims that reading in the dark wrecks the eyes. But children everywhere who love to read at night under the covers can rejoice, because this myth is FALSE. Dim light might make it difficult for the eyes to focus, which can cause short-term eye fatigue, says Richard Gans, MD, FACS, an ophthalmologist with the Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute. "But there is no scientific...

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You'll ward off those little wrinkles at the corners of your eyes caused by too much time in the sun. You'll keep the whites of your eyes from getting all red and nasty. And you'll block the sun's eyeball-burning ultraviolet (UV) light.

So grab those sunglasses before you head for the beach, or the park, or anywhere outside. Grab them whether it’s bright or cloudy. And buy some for the kids in your life, too.

Here's how to pick shades that look good and protect your peepers.

UV Protection

The sun gives off UV radiation that you can’t see or feel. In small doses, it can boost vitamin D. But too much of it can cause problems like sunburns and skin cancer. It can also damage your eyes. 

So before you even think about buying a pair of sunglasses, read the label. Does it say they block 100% of UVA and UVB rays? If not, don’t buy them.

“You want both of those blocked 99 to 100 percent,” says eye doctor Rachel Bishop, MD. “It’s not too much to expect your glasses to do that.”

Too much UV light can cause cataracts. It can also destroy the retina, the lining at the back of your eyes that helps you see clearly. It could even cause tissue to grow over your eyeball.

“UV light can cause changes to cells that can lead to the development of skin cancers,” Bishop says. “In the eye, even if you’re spared the worst result ... the elastic fibers [the sclera, on the eye surface] thicken and lump up. That’s not cancer. But that can cause significant discomfort that is very real.”

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