Exposing your eyes to very high levels of sunlight can cause serious and sometimes irreversible damage. Some sunglasses can also impair your vision in other ways. Protecting your eyes from the harsh Australian sun could be as easy as choosing the right pair of sunglasses. Give your eyes a bright future – keep them protected.
Why safe sunnies? The hazards
Solar ultraviolet radiation can cause an inflammation of the front surfaces of the eye.
Cataracts, pterygium or eyelid cancers
Long-term exposure of the eyes to ultraviolet radiation may also be a factor in causing cataracts, pterygium (abnormal tissue growth over the eye) or eyelid cancers.
Long-term exposure to near ultraviolet radiation in the wavelength band 315 to 400 nm may be a factor in causing degeneration of the retina of the eye.
Some sunglasses reduce the ability to see at low light levels (e.g. late evening or night), or to distinguish colours while driving.
Give your eyes a bright future – keep them protected.
- Look for sunglasses labelled category 2, 3 or 4 to give your eyes the best UV protection.
- Choose the right sunglasses for you and your activity. Talk to your optometrist or sunglass specialist in-store to help you choose the right pair.
- For sport, consider durable, glare reduction sunglasses such as those with a lens category 3 or 4.
- Some sunglasses may be unsafe to wear while driving – avoid sunglasses labelled category 1 and category 4 if you plan to wear sunglasses while driving.
- Always wear sunglasses in combination with other UV protection measures such as remaining in the shade where possible, wearing a hat and sunscreen.
- Make UV eye protection part of your everyday routine, even on days when you feel the sunrays may be less harmful.
Sunglasses come in five categories. Choose the right category for you.
Lens category 0 – Fashion comes first
These are fashion spectacles, not sunglasses. They have a very low ability to reduce sun glare and may provide only some or no UV protection.
Lens category 1 – Fashion comes first with a hint of UV protection
Like category 0 lenses, these are fashion spectacles, not sunglasses; however, they do provide limited sun glare reduction and some UV protection. Fashion spectacles with category 1 lenses are not suitable for driving at night.
Lens category 2 – Fashion and daily wear
These sunglasses provide a medium level of sun glare reduction and good UV protection. As the lenses are not as dark as categories 3 or 4 sunglasses, they’re good for wearing day-to-day. These sunglasses are good if your preference is for a brighter view and you’re not overly sensitive to light.
Lens category 3 – Fashion and fun in the sun
Similar to category 2, these sunglasses provide a good level of UV protection. Lens category 3 glasses also provide a high level of sun glare reduction. These sunglasses are good if you prefer darker lenses or are particularly sensitive to light in particular situations (e.g. while driving in direct sunlight, sunlight reflection on the water at the beach).
Lens category 4 – Ultimate sun protection
These are special purpose sunglasses that provide a very high level of sun glare reduction and good UV protection. Lens category 4 sunglasses must not be used when driving at any time.
Sunglasses with photochromic lenses (i.e. variable tint)
Photochromic lenses darken on exposure to specific types of light. Once the light source is removed (like when walking indoors) the lenses gradually return to their clear state. As the lenses react to light, some lenses may not be suitable for night driving, depending on the time it takes for the tint on those lenses to change. Talk to your sunglass specialist or optometrist for more information.