If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve ever left the beach looking like a lobster, you know that sun exposure can seriously harm unprotected skin. But as it happens, the sunÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rays can also burn your eyesÃ¢â‚¬”and you might not even notice until after the damage is done.
Just ask Anderson Cooper: Last week, the host of Anderson Live temporarily lost his vision after he filmed for several hours on the coast of Portugal. The culprit, he said, was UV light, which bounced off the water and into his peepers. The diagnosis? Eye sunburn, also known as UV keratitis or photokeratitis.
Eye sunburn may sound strange, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not uncommon, according to David Sendrowski, O.D., chief of the ocular disease and chronic care service at Southern California College of Optometry. Whenever visible areas of the eye are exposed to the sun for more than 30 minutes, UVA and UVB light can damage the cells on the top layer of the eye. The highest-risk locations for trouble are in warmer climates, and near snow or water, where sunrays enter the eyes from both the sky and the reflective surface, says Sendrowski. The result: pain and burning, the feeling that something is stuck in your eye, light sensitivity, and blurry vision. According to Sendrowski, these symptoms generally develop 24 to 36 hours after outdoor exposure, and can last anywhere from a few days to two weeks in more severe cases.
The good news: You can keep your sight safe with a good pair of shades. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what to look for:
Protection Any sunglasses that provide 99 to 100 percent UVA and UVB protection will effectively shield your eyes, according to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not sure whether your shades qualify, check the label, or bring them to your eye doctor to test the lens.
Size The lens should be on the bigger side, and the specs should come with thick plastic temples. They should sit close to your face so sunrays canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sneak between the glasses and your eye. And donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worry about the color or thickness of the lens: while dark lenses might protect your identity, they wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t necessarily do the same for your eyes, says Sendrowski.
Material Glass lenses are your best bet, because the material is a natural UV protector, but coated plastic lenses are more common and can be just as effective. Sendrowski says a good coating should last for the life of the lens, unless you leave them in nail salon where acetone in nail polish remover can peel the coating, or on the beach where salt water can cause erode it.
Too much to think about? We did the hard work for you. Grab one of these eye-protective specs, hand-selected by Women's Health senior fashion editor Thea Palad:
Dior Taffeta sunglasses, $395, Solsticesunglasses.com 100% UV protection Ã¢â‚¬Å“I love the simple, architectural update on the oversize style. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very stoic, like a vault for your peepers,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Palad.
Ray-Ban 4186 sunglasses, $130, lenscrafters.com for stores 100% UV protection; prescription friendly This mod take on the classic Wayfarer has rosy lenses (good for overcast days) which can take on prescriptions, so you can give your eyes a break.
Nike Miler sunglasses, $110, marchon.com for stores 100% UVA/UVB protection The cutout at the bridge makes this shield style fresh, all the while protecting the sensitive skin around the eyes.
Oakley Break Point sunglasses, $130, oakley.com 100% UVA/UVB/UVC protection; polarized and prescription options available Oakley offers the option of iridium-coated lenses, so no one can see your eyes. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I love that these look like fashion sunglasses, but theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re totally technical,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Palad.