My youngest daughter, Elaine, is very busy giving swim lessons at the pool to lots of little ones, and sunglasses are a regular component of her work uniform. The lifeguards all think they look great in the sunglasses, but they actually need them not only to do their job well and keep those at the pool safe but to protect their ocular structures.

Darker lenses do not necessarily provide more protection from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays—consumers need to check the label to be sure the pair blocks 99%–100% of both ultraviolet A (UV-A) and ultraviolet B (UV-B) radiation or say “UV absorption up to 400 nm." The American Optometric Association, Mayo Clinic, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology have extensive online reasources for selecting sunglasses. Some of the reasons to choose carefully follow.

The Top 10 Reasons You Should Talk to Your Patients About Wearing Sunglasses

10. Sunglasses help with dark adaptation. Spending just two or three hours in bright sunlight can hamper the eyes' ability to adapt quickly to nighttime or indoor light levels. This can make driving at night after spending a day in the sun more hazardous.

9. Sunglasses help prevent photokeratitis, which is a sunburn of the eye. It can be painful, causing blurred vision, light sensitivity, and the sensation of having sand in your eye.

8. Sunglasses prevent skin cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes.

7. Sunglasses prevent wrinkles by helping you to avoid squinting.

6. Sunglasses protect your eyes from debris. If you engage in outdoor activities, wearing sunglasses can help deflect dirt and other particles from finding their way into your eye.

5. Sunglasses prevent squinting and watery eyes from the sun's brightness and glare from interfering with comfortable vision and the ability to see clearly.

4. Sunglasses can enhance safety, even in the winter. Extremely bright reflections off of snow and ice can cause glare, which seriously impairs vision, making activities such as driving or skiing dangerous.  

3. Sunglasses provide UV-A and UV-B protection. UV exposure can lead to the formation of cataracts.

2. Sunglasses provide blue-light protection. Long-term exposure to the blue and violet portion of the solar spectrum has been implicated as a risk factor for macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness.

1. Sunglasses are a great-looking fashion accessory—is there really a better reason to wear sunglasses?

Take some time to educate your patients on the importance of selecting a pair that blocks 99%–100% of UV-A and UV-B and the important health benefits of wearing sunglasses. Your patients will not only look good, they will be protecting their precious ocular structures.