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In the summer months hardly a day goes by without a warning that the sun can cause life-threatening damage to the skin unless precautions are taken.

During very hot summer days — seemingly always growing hotter in recent times — advice on sun protection creams and oils, how long to stay in the sun and what to wear to avoid sun burn are featured in the daily press, in magazines, in ads, and frequent appearances by medical and beauty pundits on TV with dire warnings have become the norm.

Sadly, it is rarely mentioned that the effects of the sun on the eyes can be just as devastating as the effects the sun's harmful rays have on your skin.

As a consequence, too many people neglect to safeguard their sight while at the same time ensuring that their skin is well protected against the very harmful rays of the sun.

For instance, far too many look upon sunglasses as no more than a fashion accessory. Just take a visit to any seaside resort and there will most likely be endless opportunities to buy attractive and cute sunglasses at ridiculously low prices from vendors working the beaches or novelty retailers.

Yes, you can get a pair of sunglasses that really suits you and makes you look fabulous, and let's also face the fact that sunglasses are an accessory that are easily lost or mislaid so it is common to ask yourself why you should spend $100 or more when you can get such a great look for so much less.

However, these super cheap sunglasses are not as good as they seem. There is a catch of course — these cheap lenses definitely do not provide the adequate protection needed for your eyes against the same UV rays emitted by the sun that damage your skin.

The cost of manufacturing lenses that actually meet or exceed the minimum safety standards for UV rays is a major factor in how pricey these sunglasses are.

When selecting your sunglasses off the shelf you should look for a minimum of UV400 marked on the lenses. You should also make sure to look out for CE compliment sunglasses — this means that the sunglasses have passed approved safety standards and that they are very effective in reducing harmful UV rays from entering your eyes.

Note that UV400 is the minimum safety standard in sunglasses to prevent UV rays from harming your eyes.

It is extremely important to invest in good quality sunglasses with good UV filters that can block out at least 99-100% of UV radiation. Not doing so can put your eyes at a very real risk of permanent damage that can lead to blindness.

There are two types of UV radiation

  • UV-A that penetrates deep into the eye

  • UV-B that tends to damage the cornea and lens.

If your eyes get exposed to these rays all the time you can face various health risks. These include Age Related Macular Degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness world wide, cataracts, skin cancer in the tissue surrounding your eyes and tissue growth that can block your vision (pterygium).

The lens color is another important consideration, you can choose from a brown, grey or green tint — the darker the shade the more protection you will get. CE Cat (egory) 2 will give you moderate protection in most climates. It’s important to note that CE Cat 4 is illegal for driving in some countries as it is thought to be too dark for safety.

Avoid tints in yellow, pink, or blue as, although fun and fashionable, they are not capable of fully protecting your eyes and can be confusing in recognizing certain colors, drivers take note!

Obviously if you wear prescription lenses you should contact your optical advisor for options.

If you are lucky enough to have good eyesight make sure it stays that way and take sensible precautions.