Look Sharp: How to Choose Protective Eyewear
The appropriate glasses can prevent injuries and save your vision.
Choosing the right protective eyewear can stave off needless eye injuries
both at work and at play for adults and children, according to a leading
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), Americans will buy
eyeglasses 85 million times this year. Unfortunately, most people spend more
time shopping for a car, a computer, or even a pair of jeans than for their
But choosing and wearing the right protective eyewear -- especially among
people who wear contact lenses or who have had corrective eye surgery -- can be
invaluable in terms of protecting sight and preventing eye trauma, writes Paul
F. Vinger, MD. Vinger, an ophthalmologist in Concord, Mass., and a clinical
professor of ophthalmology at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston,
published an article on the subject in the May 2000 issue of the Review of
First and foremost, all lenses should be made of polycarbonate, he writes.
Polycarbonate is the strongest lens material available, so it's also the best
choice for all safety glasses and sports goggles.
It is also important that "all polycarbonate lenses absorb ultraviolet
light and are scratch-resistant; no further ultraviolet or anti-scratch
coatings are needed," Vinger writes. The sun's ultraviolet rays can be
harmful to the eyes.
To help you find the best pair of glasses for your needs, your
ophthalmologist may ask about your work, your hobbies, and what sports you
play, Vinger says. For example, if you work with power tools, goggles with
polycarbonate lenses are necessary. Make sure the label indicates that the
goggles meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 standard.
ANSI sets the safety standards for lenses.
Proper eye protection is also a major concern for all sports enthusiasts,
Vinger writes, especially those participating in certain high-risk sports,
including racquetball, tennis, squash, handball, ice hockey, badminton,
archery, baseball/softball, fencing, boxing, and karate.
"For sports that have the potential for eye contact with body parts, a
ball, racket, or stick, 3 millimeter thick polycarbonate lenses ... are
recommended," Vinger writes.
And once you get them, you have to wear them, Monica L. Monica, MD, PhD, an
ophthalmologist in private practice in New Orleans and a spokeswoman for the
AAO, tells WebMD.
"It's not worth the loss of an eye for the inconvenience of putting on a
pair of sports or safety goggles," Monica tells WebMD. "With today's
available fashion eyewear, everyone can find a safe, fun, and fashionable pair
of glasses. If you have just spent $4,000 on laser eye surgery, you need to
protect your investment." Be sure to wear sunglasses or sports goggles with
polycarbonate lenses whenever you play sports, she says.
"If you are an adult with one good eye and one lazy eye, you must, must,
must wear protective sports goggles," she says. All adults who see well
with both eyes should wear sports goggles when playing high-impact sports,
Parents must make sure that their children's glasses or goggles have
polycarbonate lenses, too, she says. "If the child plays any sports, they
should be in polycarbonate sports goggles with their correction, because about
20% of eye injuries in children up to age 17 occur because the child is not
wearing goggles," Monica tells WebMD. "These injuries include
everything from scratches to the eye to more serious blows to the eyes that can
Sports goggles should carry a seal from the Protective Eyewear Certification
Council, she says. "This seal tells parents that this piece of equipment is
safe," she says.