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Sunglasses More Than a Style Statement

The importance of 'shades' in eye protection

From Tom Cruise's "Risky Business" Ray-Bans to Bono's wraparounds, sunglasses have long been an integral element of celebrity style.

But finding the right shades is about more than being fashion-forward. Studies suggest too much sunlight can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration, making sunglasses a key factor in prevention.

"In the long term, it's a good idea to wear them to decrease sun exposure," says Mathew MacCumber, MD, an ophthalmologist at Rush.

UV protection is crucial

Regardless of brand name or price point, the key thing to look for in a pair of sunglasses is how well they protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says it's best to go with 100 percent UV protection.

"Certainly I think the UV protection helps, and cheaper sunglasses may not provide that," says MacCumber, who also recommends wearing a hat to further reduce sunlight exposure.

Perhaps even more important, MacCumber notes that wearing glasses also can help prevent injuries while hiking or enjoying other activities like racquetball and tennis.

Tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology:

  • Choose wrap-around styles to block rays from the side.
  • Even if your contact lenses have UV protection, you should still wear sunglasses.
  • Wear glasses even if it's cloudy. Rays can pass through haze and thin clouds.
  • It's particularly important to wear glasses in the early afternoon and at higher altitudes where UV light is more intense.