Sunglasses and Macular Degeneration

Summer is underway, and that means people are starting to think about sunglasses and UV (although really, you should think about it year-round). UV radiation can cause damage to the cells of the retina, and too much light can actually reduce your ability to see properly, especially in sunlight. Sunglasses protect the cells of the macula from being damaged by UV radiation. But darker does not mean better. The darkness of sunglasses does not protect the eyes from the ultraviolet radiation. What the darkness does is reduce eye discomfort for those who are very sensitive to the bright light. UV coatings are applied to lenses and are colorless—in fact, standard glasses and even goggles very often have UV protection. The tint of sunglasses provides comfort; the UV coating provides the protection.

The amount of light needed by each individual to see differs, and the use of sunglasses that are too dark can actually contribute to unnecessary distraction and falls. Many people with macular degeneration have not been prescribed specialized sunglasses by their eye doctors. This means that their vision is not being used to its greatest potential AND their eyes are not as protected as thy should be.

When in doubt, ask, right? To find out about lens options and tints available for your specific low vision situation, ask your eye care professional. Prescription sunwear is available in all different shapes, sizes, and fashions. If prescription sunwear is not for you, there are even sunglasses that you can fit over your regular eyeglasses.

Many people with macular degeneration have reduced color vision and reduced contrast vision. The use of yellow, amber, and brown lenses can improve contrast vision and make it easier to see, especially in bright light—natural light or light that comes from bulbs.

Light sensitivity is also prevalent in people with aging eye diseases, particularly macular degeneration. This is because the macular cells regulate how the eyes adapt to various lighting conditions. When the macular cells are damaged, being in bright sunlight can be uncomfortable. Eyeglass frames that block the light from the top, bottom, and sides will reduce the discomfort of the eyes. Low vision eye care specialists will often use a grey, plum, green, or blue lens to reduce the glare discomfort and some of these lenses may be coated with a mirror to reduce the amount of light that enters the eyes.

So, no matter how your vision has been affected, there is a sunwear option to fit your needs—and allow for more comfort in sunlight…or light of any kind.

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