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It’s critical to protect your peepers — even when the temps drop.

Spending time in the sun can be fun. But if you’ve forgotten your sunglasses? Your day might not be so great. Sunglasses are a wardrobe staple. And they’re not just for the summer. Those dark-tinted lenses are there to keep your eyes healthy all year long.

"Shielding your eyes from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays protects against cataracts, macular degeneration and other eye problems," says Spencer Onishi, DO, an ophthalmologist at Geisinger Healthplex Woodbine Lane.

For all your sunny days

When the sun is out, it transmits UV rays. This means even in the winter, those harmful rays are still in full force. And when the sun reflects off water, ice or snow, those rays hit your eyes twice. So even if you think you don’t need eye protection in January, consider keeping those shades nearby.

Keep them handy for overcast days, too. Even when it’s cloudy, the sun’s rays still reach your eyes.

"Wearing sunglasses, regardless of what time of the year it is, is the equivalent of wearing sunscreen," Dr. Onishi says. "They block the same harmful rays that cause sunburn and skin cancer.”

Protecting your eyes from the sun

Without sunglasses, UV rays that enter your eyes from the sun get absorbed by the cornea and lens of your eye. This can leave unprotected eyes at risk of sun damage. Have no fear — your favorite aviators are there to block the sun. But that’s not all they do.

Wearing shades benefits you in ways you might not think about, like:

  • Keeping debris out of your eyes
  • Protection against cataracts
  • Reducing sun-related headaches
  • Lowering your risk of developing skin cancer
  • Reducing the likelihood of macular degeneration
  • Keeping wrinkles and sun damage away

Finding the right pair of sunglasses

How do you know if your shades are properly protecting your eyes from the sun? It isn't the price tag.

"The price doesn't matter,” notes Dr. Onishi. “Many inexpensive glasses can block 99 to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.”

To find the maximum level of sun protection, keep these things in mind when shopping for your next pair:

Compare UV protection

Just because the lenses are dark doesn’t mean they deliver better defense from the sun. To find the level of protection, check the label. Look for one that says “UV400 protection.” “A UV400 label means 100% UV protection," Dr. Onishi says.

Use caution with polarized lenses

Polarized sunglasses help reduce glare and they can be helpful when you’re driving. But having polarized lenses doesn’t automatically mean they block UV rays. If you’re unsure, look for a pair that offers UV protection and polarized lenses.

Consider fit and size

The more coverage your frames give your face, the better. Choosing larger and close-fitting sunglasses that protect your eye from all angles will help to minimize UV damage.

Ask about a prescription pair

For sun protection that corrects your vision, consider prescription sunglasses. Ask about them at your next eye exam.

Finding your ideal sunglasses is a process. So don’t worry if it takes a little time to find the pair that best suits your needs.

Next steps:

Meet Spencer Onishi, DO
Find an ophthalmologist
Learn about eye care at Geisinger