Fitness & Health

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50 Shades of Ray

Choosing the right pair of sunglasses can be tricky. Various factors such as price, brand, look, and feel need to be considered. Strictly for health purposes, it’s important to have a pair of shades.

As the days start to get longer, we become exposed to more sunlight, which contains ultraviolet radiation (UV) that the eyes need protection from.

“We always talk about sunscreen and the importance of putting that on. A lot of people don’t realize that ultraviolet levels can damage the area of skin around the eye,” said Dr. Sheldon Butler, lead optometrist at the Rideau Optometric Clinic in the Rideau Centre.

“It can increase the risk of skin cancer around the eye if you’re not able to protect that area, and it can increase the risk of developing other health problems such as cataracts or glaucoma.”

According to Dr. Butler, UV is able to penetrate human tissue and cause damage to it. This includes tissue inside the retina, which absorbs light so that humans can see. Therefore, it should be blocked so that it doesn’t get to the tissue. That’s why sunglasses are important, and the need for that protection is only increasing.

“With the thinning of the ozone layer, more and more damaging UV light is reaching the earth,” said Dr. Adam Brown, an assistant professor in the University of Ottawa’s Department of Biology.

“Particularly at higher latitudes like here, this will lead to more damage from the harmful rays.”

Dr. Brown recommended purchasing sunglasses that have 100 per cent filtering of both UVA and UVB, which are differing wavelengths of UV light. For consumers, there’s an easy way to determine if a pair can do that. A UV 400 sticker on sunglasses means that it can block approximately 99-100 per cent of UVA and UVB, according to Dr. Butler.

Getting that level of protection does require some cost, as the lowest quality shades sold in drug stores and supermarkets will normally block 95 per cent of UV. Students can also spend a bit more to get polarized sunglasses.

Polarization blocks and reduces glare that comes from light reflections, while regular sunglasses don’t. While this feature is more important for activities such as driving, boating, and skiing, Dr. Brown said that polarization reduces the intensity of the light and allows the eyes to relax and not squint.

“Polarized glasses are great for visual comfort and I do highly recommend it,” added Dr. Butler.

When it comes to the most expensive shades, such as brands like Ray-Ban or Oakley, consumers are not really paying for more protection. But there will be a higher quality of construction, durability, and visual comfort, according to Dr. Butler.It’s up to the purchaser to decide if these qualities are worth the extra price.

The most important thing is to find a pair that fits well, looks good, and provides proper sun armour.