For many, wearing sunglasses is more fashion statement than healthy eye-care decision. Yet, inadequate protection against the sun’s ultraviolet rays increases the risk of developing serious eye problems. Summit Medical Group’s board certified ophthalmolo¬gists, Eric Gurwin, M.D., Linda Hsueh, M.D., and Monica Khalil, M.D., explain why it’s important to shield your eyes from the sun.

“When our eyes absorb light, there is a chemical or heat reaction in the eye tissue,” states Dr. Gurwin. “These reactions can cause permanent damage in the form of cataracts, macular degeneration, and photokeratitis.”

Just as you can get a sunburn without realizing it, the sun can affect your eyes without you feeling it. “Sunglasses are like sunscreen for the eyes. You should put them on as soon as you go outside, every day, year-round,” says Dr. Hsueh. “Even on cloudy days, UV rays can still be harmful.”

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When choosing a pair of sunglasses, Drs. Gurwin, Hsueh, and Khalil recommend following these tips:

Supersize. Bigger lenses, including wrap-around styles, provide more UV protection by blocking peripheral rays.

Read the label. Look for lenses that block out 99 to 100 percent of UV rays.

Polarize. Polarized lenses block glare that can bounce off windshields and pavement when driving, or off water when fishing or sailing.

Clip and go. Clip-on lenses can attach to your regular eye¬glasses. Or, if you wear prescription glasses, why not try prescription sunglasses? Photochromic lenses automatically darken outside, then return to normal inside.

“Provide good sunglasses for your children, too,” advises Dr. Khalil. “Consider sunglasses an invest-ment in their good vision, and don’t let your child wear toy sunglasses. If your children are too young for sunglasses, have them wear a hat with a brim that will block the sun from their eyes.”