July 8, 2020

Here’s what you need to know when picking out sunglasses to protect your eyes.


When it comes to sun safety, most people are quick to grab a hat and lather on sunscreen. Doctors at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute want consumers to be on the lookout for another protective measure: sunglasses.

“For the eyes’ sake, it is so important to wear sunglasses,” said Nathan Podoll, M.D., assistant professor of Clinical Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Sunglasses with UV protection will provide 99 percent coverage from harmful rays.

“Tinted glasses don’t always block UV light. For extra reassurance, look for a sticker or tag designating that the glasses have a UV filter. And everyone, no matter the age, needs to wear sunglasses year round to shield the eyes.”

Prolonged exposure to sunlight can lead to a number of possible complications, including the development of cataracts, macular degeneration, growths on the surface of the eye and skin cancer around the eye.

Podoll offers the following tips for protecting the eyes from the sun:

  • Wear sunglasses year round.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Look for close-fitting, large lenses or wraparound frames to prevent harmful rays from coming in from the sides and top of sunglasses.
  • Pay attention to cloudy days: The sun’s UV rays filter through clouds.

Protective eyewear is an important tool in shielding the eyes from the sunlight exposure, but it also serves as a protection during everyday tasks like yard work, sports, relaxing outside and driving with the windows down.

“A lot of sunglasses are made of plastic, but for a more impact resistant material, look for polycarbonate for lenses,” said Podoll. “There is a better chance that an impact from debris, dirt and dust will be deflected from the eye decreasing the risk of a trauma when the lenses are polycarbonate.

“Of course safety sunglasses that wrap around are best when doing outdoor projects or yard work,” he stressed.

Certain contact lenses have UV-absorbing properties, but sunglasses are still recommended for full sun protection.

Are your eyes in need of care? The Vanderbilt Eye Institute assesses and treats a variety of conditions. Call 615-936-2020 for an appointment.