An eye doctor's tips for choosing the best sunglasses

SAN DIEGO, CALIF (July 12, 2015) - The sunshine-filled days of summer are here and many of us are diligently slathering on sunscreen to protect our skin from sun damage. But sunscreen can’t protect everything - the eyes, for example.

Eyelid skin is extremely thin and allowing too much ultraviolet (UV) through can cause a number of eye problems, including cataracts and several kinds of cancer. The best defense: a good pair of sunglasses. 

“When shopping for sunglasses, people tend to focus more on appearance rather than UV protection. But it’s possible to find sunglasses that look great and protect the eyes from sun damage,” said Sandy T. Feldman, MD, a well-known ophthalmologist based in San Diego.

UV damage has been found to cause skin cancers of the eyelid, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell carcinomas make up about 90 percent of all eyelid cancers. Unlike basal cell carcinomas elsewhere on the body, which rarely spread, basal cell carcinomas on the eyelids can spread to the eye and face.

“We also tend to protect ourselves from the sun only during the summer, but it’s something to be cautious of all year long,” Dr. Feldman advised. “So be sure to wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat whenever you go outside, no matter what the season.”

Six tips for purchasing sunglasses:

  • Make it 100 percent. The single most important thing to look for when buying sunglasses is a sticker or tag indicating they block 100 percent of UV rays.
  • Bigger is better. The more coverage from sunglasses, the less sun damage inflicted on the eyes. Consider buying oversized glasses or wraparound-style glasses, which help cut down on UV light entering the eye from the sides.
  • Darker lenses don’t always better. Dark lenses may look cool but don’t necessarily block more UV rays.
  • Color doesn’t matter. Some sunglasses have colored lenses, such as amber, green or grey. These lenses don’t block more sun but they can increase contrast, which may be useful for athletes who play sports such as baseball or golf.
  • Polarized lenses cut glare, not UV. Polarization reduces glare coming off reflective surfaces like water or pavement. This doesn’t offer more protection from the sun, but can make activities like driving or being on the water safer and more enjoyable.
  • Cost shouldn’t be a factor. Sunglasses don’t have to cost a lot to work well.

“The good news is, when diagnosed early, eyelid cancers usually respond well to treatment,” Dr. Feldman said. “These cancers, as well as cataracts and other eye conditions caused by too much UV exposure, can often be found by your doctor during a routine eye exam. This is why it’s very important to have your eyes checked every year.”

About Sandy T. Feldman, MD
Sandy T. Feldman, MD is the Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center - voted best LASIK center in San Diego by CityBeat Magazine in 2013 - and has successfully performed more than 20,000 refractive procedures. Her numerous awards include “Top Doc San Diego” and the Goldline Award, an honor granted to only 10 laser eye care providers in the U.S. each year, and she has been profiled in Forbes, Newsweek, and other respected publications. Dr. Feldman is a fellow of the prestigious American College of Ophthalmic Surgeons, as well as a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. For more information, please visit clearvieweyes.com.