By Alexa Kaczka
The general public should not only view sunglasses as a fashion accessory, according to one expert who has pointed out that they can help to prevent blindness in many cases by shielding people from the harmful effects of the sun.
This year, thousands of Brits will be heading overseas and taking things such as sunscreen to protect their skin, but many will be neglecting other essential safety items, such as sunglasses, that can safeguard their vision, observed Dr Susan Blakeney, optometric adviser at the College of Optometrists.
She explained that it just as important to cover eyes from the sun as it is to protect skin.
However, as many people regard sunglasses as merely a fashion accessory, they are failing to put the right safeguards in place, the expert added.
When people do buy sunglasses, they need to ensure that they are investing in a decent pair which have strong sun protection properties, Ms Blakeney recommended.
She elaborated: "Up to 80 per cent of exposure to UV over a person's lifetime occurs before the age of 18, so it's particularly important for younger people to take care of their eyes, and for parents to make sure that children wear sunglasses so that any long-term damage is minimised."
Her comments follow the publication of the results of a test by Which?, after the consumer organisation tested 21 pairs of sunglasses from seven high street shops, which found that 15 failed key lab tests, breaching the British Standard.
Ms Blakeney said that sunlight damages the retina and lens of the eye, which can lead to a number of disabling conditions, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in the western world.
It is therefore vital that sunglasses and other protective items – such as a wide-brimmed hats and UV contact lenses – are worn where appropriate.
by Emily Tait