All You Need to Know About Sunglasses

Much more than solely a fashion statement, sunglasses serve an important purpose of protecting our eyes from UV rays. Learn more about sunglasses and various points to keep in mind when purchasing your pair of shades.

Sunglasses: You see people wearing them everywhere, especially in the summertime. You see them in numerous different styles; some clearly designed for function and others for fashion. However, many people do not give much thought to the function of sunglasses; why they became so prevalent, and why they should be worn.

For almost a hundred years now, sunglasses have been commonly worn to protect the eyes against bright sunlight, and as a fashion accessory. More recently, as we’ve learned, the real danger from sunlight is in fact the UV (ultraviolet) light, which is invisible to the naked eye. So, today, the sunglasses that you should be buying for yourself or your children need to provide proper UV protection.

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Sunglasses and UV Protection: Important Things to Know

UV protection is the most important function of sunglasses. Too much exposure to UV light can lead to numerous issues, many of which can be quite serious, with the eyes and the skin around them. These conditions include, but are not limited to, cataracts, macular degeneration, and cancers in both the eyes and the sensitive skin around them.

Just because a pair of sunglasses has dark lenses does not mean they will protect you; in fact, dark lenses without proper UV protection coating can lead to your eyes absorbing more UV rays, since the pupils dilate in a darker environment to let more light in.

In order to ensure the sunglasses you purchase provide adequate protection from UV rays, make sure they are labeled as providing 99 or 100 percent protection. Sunglasses that provide this level of protection are often labelled UV400.

The size and configuration of the lenses also plays a role in protecting your eyes. Larger lenses will, naturally, provide a greater area coverage, not just for the eyes but the skin around them. Additionally, sunglasses that “wrap around” the eyes to some extent (seen most often in designs aimed at people who plan to use them while playing sports or working outdoors) can prevent additional UV rays from reaching the eyes from different angles.

Additionally, sunglasses, as with any other form of eye protection, can help limit how much dust or other sorts of particles in your vicinity from reaching your eyes.

Importance of Sunglasses for Children

It is easy to rationalize forgoing sunglasses for children; after all, they are more likely to lose or break them while playing, and may resist wearing them in general. However, it is perhaps more important for children to wear them than adults.

Children’s eyes are still developing, and they have less natural protection against UV rays. Additionally, due to the simple fact that they’re shorter than adults, they tend to look up more, putting themselves more in the path of direct sunlight.

Studies have shown that as much as 80 percent of a person’s lifetime UV exposure comes before age 18, since children tend to spend more time outdoors (and without proper protection.) If that level of exposure can be reduced through the wearing of eye protection, you can drastically reduce the chances of problems later in life.

Importance of Sunglasses for Children
Additional Benefits of Sunglasses

Additional Benefits of Sunglasses

While protection against UV radiation is the primary benefit of wearing sunglasses, it is not the only one. As mentioned earlier, they can provide some protection against dust and debris in the air, and can protect the eyes from dry air (particularly helpful to those suffering from dry eye).  

Sunglasses with polarized lenses can also provide very high levels of protection against glare (note that polarized lenses does not necessarily mean they will also protect against UV rays). This can be particularly helpful for those working outdoors, especially if they’re on the water or in an area with many reflective surfaces. Reflective surfaces, including snow, can lead to your eyes being exposed to significantly higher levels of UV radiation, in addition to momentarily blinding you.

Through darkening what you see by filtering out a portion of the light around you, sunglasses with polarized lenses can also help increase visual clarity and reduce eye strain when out in bright light. 

Sunglasses can also be a great fashion accessory, especially with so many style options available.

Additional Benefits of Sunglasses


Few things in this world lack drawbacks, and sunglasses are no exception to that rule. There are some tasks that can be made more difficult by the wearing of sunglasses. These include looking at LCD screens, such as those on phones or ATM machines. Additionally, if your sunglasses do not include a reflective coating on the rear side of the lenses (which is something you can ask our optometrist about), the lenses themselves can reflect light, including UV rays, into your eyes.

Other Considerations

If you regularly wear prescription glasses, you can also purchase prescription sunglasses, so there is no need to lose the advantages of your prescription lenses while out and about in the sun.

Remember to know what you’re buying. As mentioned above, sunglasses need to provide at least 99 percent protection against UV rays to be considered effective protection. Additionally, just because lenses are polarized does not mean they will protect you against UV, and just because they protect against UV, does not mean they are polarized and will protect against glare. Sunglasses in stores should be labeled as per their qualifications, and if you are uncertain, your optometrist will be able to help guide you to the most reliable brands. Remember that they are also available to answer any other questions you might have about proper eye protection.

Common Questions

It's a lengthy process from start to finish but we'll go over the broad strokes of it. Now there's two different ways of producing lens blanks, the disc that makes a lens. The first method was a blank was ground down into the proper dimensions that would constitute a specific Rx. The newer method is that blanks are "cast" into a mold that is already the proper measurements for a given Rx so no grinding is needed. After the blank is finished it's sent out to an optician. The optician then uses a combination of machinery to size the blank into the frames they belong to. After all of this, you'll have a finished pair of glasses.
While not necessary, Anti-glare treatments are generally recommended for glasses and for good reason. Anti-glare or anti-reflective coatings come with a bevy of benefits. They eliminate glare from incoming light which provides for more crisp vision. Also, most anti-glares come with secondary benefits such as scratch and water resistance which helps to keep the surface clean and clear.
The best way to store our glasses when they are not in use is in their case. Keeping it in the case while sleeping, or not in use, will increase the odds that we don't end up with unseemly scratches on the lenses. Another way to reduce scratches is daily and preventative care. What this means is using a proper cloth and cleaning solution daily and properly storing it will keep our lenses in mint condition.
All You Need to Know About Sunglasses
Dr. Zurcher cartoon


Sunglasses are far more than a stylish fashion accessory; they are protection for your eyes. In particular, they protect your eyes from harmful UV radiation, which leads to better health for them--and for you overall--in the future. Especially for children, who spend more time outdoors, on average, than adults, it’s important that they wear proper eye protection. Before making purchases, it is also important to understand the features of different types of lenses so you get the protection that you need.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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