You hear about how important it is to protect your skin from UV rays, but it is also important to protect your eyes. Long-term exposure to UV rays increases your chances of developing cataracts, or clouding of the eyes, from the rays penetrating the cornea. Sunglasses are often suggested as protection from UV light. In fact, patients are given a pair after cataract surgery. Here are some tips on choosing the right sunglasses to lower your chances of cataracts.

Look for Complete UV Protection

When you shop for sunglasses, look for labels on the glasses indicating they offer 99%-100% UV protection. If you are unsure, take the suglasses to an optometrist for evaluation so they can measure the amount of UV light in the glasses with a spectrophotometer. Also keep in mind that sunglasses with 'cosmetic' labels won't offer the eyes protection.

A good pair of sunglasses blocks 75%-90% of visible light. You should be able to see through the glasses, but not too clearly. 

Consider Polarized Lenses

Polarized lenses on sunglasses are useful when you drive, or spend a great deal of time outdoors. They have a special coating that eliminates the reflective glare from the sun bouncing off concrete or water.

The only drawbacks are that you may have a hard time seeing your cell phone or ATMs, and the coating does not fully protect the eyes from UV rays. Ask an optometrist if they are suitable for you.

Opt for Bigger Frames and Ensure Fit

Wraparound sunglasses prevent UV light from entering the eyes from the sides, and they offer more protection if they have bigger frames. Bigger frames cover more of the facial skin, which leaves little room for UV rays to penetrate. Try the sunglasses on to test for a secure fit around the ears and nose, and make sure they don't pinch the skin or come in contact with eyelashes.

Test Lens Quality

Test the glasses for wave distortion by wearing them near a florescent light, and moving your head in various directions. Waves or wiggles are a sign of an optical defect in the sunglasses. The tint should be even, and not darker on one side than the other. Inspect the glasses to make sure the lenses have the coating embedded in them so they won't chip or peel.

Wearing the right sunglasses help reduce your risk of cataracts and cataract surgery. Treat your eyes like you would your skin in the sun, and wear the sunglasses even on cloudy days, since UV rays could still be present. If you haven't been tested for cataracts, and think you already have them, make an appointment with an optometrist.

For more information, contact a group like California Eye Specialists Medical Group Inc.