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Made in the shades.


Only mad dogs and Englishmen go walking in the midday sun, or so the wise man said, but if you choose to join them, how effective are those designer sunglasses for which you paid the equivalent of the family jewels? At least as good as the pair you can buy off the rack at the corner drugstore (we hope)?

Although delicate and complex, the human eye can take and incredible amount of abuse, but years of ultraviolet light exposure can do serious damage to the lens, corned and retina. It makes sense, therefore, to take the simple precaution of wearing sunglasses at all times when out in the sunlight. Contrary to what some manufacturers of expensive sunglasses will tell you, any "shades" are better than none at all, and you need not pay more than $10 for a decent pair. Because the eye's lens protects the retina by filtering out UV rays, those who have had cataract surgery are advised to consult an eye-care specialist about sunglasses, as are persons taking tetracycline or other drugs that increase sensitivity to UV rays, or persons with unusual exposure to sunlight by reason of outdoor occupation or sports.

Look for sunglasses that block as much UV radiation as possible (100 percent is the ideal) and at least 75 percent of visible light. Chemicals added to clear lenses in the manufacturing process can block the UV rays, but tinting is required to reduce visible light. Unfortunately, no government standards exist for either requirement, so try to find glasses with the ANSI label (for the American National Standard Institute). The ANSI offers three types of labeling: General Purpose (medium-to-dark tinted lenses, suitable for any outdoor activity); Special Purpose (for very bright situations, such as skiing or tropical beaches); and Cosmetic (lightly tinted for ordinary use, not in bright sunlight).

Sunglasses should first of all fit comfortably. Plastic lenses are lighter than glass, although they scratch more easily. Color is important to the extent that some tinting distorts colors (such as those in traffic lights) excessively. Brown or amber block blue light best (of importance to skiers and sunbathers), but they distort colors to some extent. Grey or green lenses distort colors the least; avoid blue and purple lenses. Whatever the color, it should not be so dark as to impair your vision--just dark enough that you cannot see your eyes in a mirror. For driving, lenses darker at the top than the bottom give a clearer view of the instrument panel. Finally, use glasses that block light from all sides as much as possible--but not enough to obscure peripheral vision when driving.
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Title Annotation:sunglasses
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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