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      Sunglasses are an extremely important part of sun protection. They are an excellent method of protecting your health from the possible harm that the sun's rays can cause. We all understand how important it is to protect our skin from the sun; however, many of us don't realize that protecting our eyes from UV light is equally as important.

Sunglasses are a vital part of ensuring that your risk of excessive and potentially harmful sun exposure is kept to a minimum. Sunglasses can provide complete protection from UV rays that can damage the conjunctivae and corneas in the eyes. Many eye ailments can be caused or worsened by persistent exposure to strong sunlight, including age related macular degeneration, cataracts, and other diseases of the eyes.

In America, the manufacturing and distribution of nonprescription sunglasses is regulated by the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Sunglasses are classified as medical devices. In fact, sunglasses are the most widely purchased over-the-counter ophthalmic devices that the FDA regulates. Companies that manufacture and distribute sunglasses must comply with the standards enforced by the FDA. More than 300 million pairs of sunglasses are purchased annually in the U.S.

Sunglasses have one primary purpose - to screen and protect the eyes from the harmful result of exposure to UV (ultraviolet) radiation. The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests that individuals wear sunglasses that block 99% of UVA and UVB light. All experts agree that sunglasses should provide at least 90% UV protection.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has many recommendations for consumers to follow when choosing sunglasses. These suggestions include:

1)Sunglasses should always be worn while outdoors. This is essential, especially when:

- It's summer - UVA and UVB radiation is over 3 times higher in the summer than in the winter
- When near water
- During winter sports, especially those at high elevations, for example downhill skiing
- Taking medications that cause photosensitivity

2) Wear nonprescription or prescription sunglasses that block at least 99% of Ultraviolet Rays. UVB radiation is understood to be more dangerous than UVA. Some manufacturer's labels on sunglasses state: 'UV absorption up to 400nm.'. This is equal to 100% UV absorption.

3) Wear sunglasses with polarized lenses. Polarized lenses minimize the glare that is reflected from surfaces like water and concrete. These sunglasses lenses do not provide UV absorption, so polarized lenses should always provide additional UV protection.

4) Buy wraparound sunglasses. Wraparounds provide protection in that they prevent light reaching the eyes from the sides of the frames.

5) Sunglasses are imperative for certain people. These include:

a) Individuals with any history of vision problems or eye disease, for example retinal dystrophy or macular degeneration.
b) Cataract surgery patients. This is especially true of patients whose lens was replaced during surgery with an older IOL (intraocular lens). In the past, these IOLs were not UV absorbent.
c) Patients who take photosensitizing drugs. These drugs can cause an individual's skin, and sometimes their eyes, more sensitive to the sun's rays. Photosensitive drugs include:

- Psoralens (used in treating psoriasis)
- Tetracycline
- Doxycycline
- Allopurinol
- Phenothiazine

6) Those who wear contact lenses should ensure that the contacts provide UV protection. Sunglasses should still be worn when outdoors, regardless of the kind of contacts being worn.
Sunglasses are an very important part of sun protection. As well, sunglasses aren't only practical, but can also be great fun. The variety and functionality of today's sunglasses provide options for everyone. Before you buy discount glasses, always compare the quality with designer sunglasses. These include brand names like Versace and Ray Ban sunglasses.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers information about sunglasses and UV radiation. Read FAQs about UV radiation from Prevent Blindness America.

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