Jeepers Creepers, Where'd Ya Get Those (UV Protected) Peepers?

By Martha Michael

The “Jeepers Creepers” tagline may have sold a lot of sunglasses in the ‘70s, but looking like Raquel Welch in your Foster Grants does nothing for the health of your eyes. What TV audiences didn’t know then has become common knowledge today – your sunglasses have to provide protection from ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun.

Why Sunglasses Should Have UV Protection

The energy emitted by rays of the sun has ultraviolet radiation that can harm your eyes and reduce vision.

According to Dr. Cheryl Khanna in an article on the Mayo Clinic’s website, the sun can cause damage to many different parts of the eye, including the lens, the cornea and the skin of your eyelids.

“More than 99 percent of UV radiation is absorbed by the anterior structures of the eye, although some of it does reach the light-sensitive retina,” says the American Optometric Association, in a statement about the effects of UV exposure.

There are three different aspects of the sun’s rays that give off ultraviolet radiation, the AOA says. Exposure to both UV-A and UV-B radiation is harmful, but not UV-C radiation, because it’s absorbed by the atmosphere.

The sun’s rays have been known to cause cataracts, macular degeneration and various growths on the eye, but sometimes these conditions aren’t seen until years later. Experts aren’t sure how much exposure causes permanent damage, but if you spend a lot of time in the sun you can cause sunburn to your eye, called photokeratitis.

You know you’ve been affected when you experience one or all of the following:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Gritty sensation in eyes
  • Extreme tearing up
  • Red eyes

Knowing Sunglasses Have Proper UV Protection

Ray-Ban, Oakley or Kenneth Cole – whatever your favorite style, be sure to choose a lens designed to safeguard your eyes. Dr. Khanna says the color of the lens or level of darkness doesn’t guarantee it’s safe from UV rays. She says it’s important to find glasses that:

  • Block at least 99 percent of the sun’s harmful rays
  • Screen out at least 75 percent of visible light
  • Have lenses that are free of distortions

The AOA also says you need polycarbonate lenses, which do more than protect your eyes from harmful rays; as a side benefit, they offer more resistance to impact. Also, wraparound frames are ideal, especially if you work outdoors.

Knowing how to protect your vision is probably more important than answering the question “Who’s wearing those Foster Grants?” And depending on which pair you choose, you may also turn as many heads as Sophia Loren.