PUBLISHED: 4:36 PM on Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Price, lenses factor into halting UV rays
AUGUSTA, Ga. - Although it might matter that your sunglasses are the right shape for your face or the right style for what's in fashion, it's more important that they protect your eyes.

Dr. J. Christopher Gibbs, an urgent-care physician and doctor of internal medicine at Urgent MD in Augusta, said he gets questions all year about eye protection and what's best.

His answer is to buy sunglasses with lens that block 99 to 100 percent of ultraviolet rays.

"Too much exposure to rays can cause cataracts and macular degeneration," Gibbs said. "But people are mostly interested in the appearance with sunglasses more so than if they are medically appropriate for their eyes."

Gibbs said that with little government regulation, it is possible that companies advertise products that don't block as much of the sun's harmful rays as they claim.

"The chemical that is blocking the UV is invisible, so you don't know if it is there or not, no matter what the sticker says," Gibbs said.

"To know how much they really block the sun, you'll have to have sunglasses measured with a UV meter."

Some opticians and high-end sunglasses stores offer the service, but consumers can do themselves the best good by not falling for common myths:

DARKNESS MATTERS: It doesn't matter whether sunglass lenses are black or dark brown, versus amber or yellow. The darkness of the lens has nothing to do with its protection, considering that it's the invisible UV-blocking coating that protects eyes.

SUNNY ONLY: You need to wear sunglasses on cloudy days, too.

"Don't be fooled by a cloudy day," Gibbs said. "Just as you can get a tan on a cloudy day, you can get UV damage to your eyes."

It's not a bad idea to wear your sunglasses year-round if you're outdoors or in high altitudes, where the sun is more intense.

PRICE COUNTS: Though expensive sunglasses are more likely to have the UV-blocking coating, you don't have to spend $100 on a pair.

Still, it is better to invest in a good pair rather than picking up a $10 pair at a drugstore.

DRIVING CHIC: It's a good idea to wear sunglasses while driving but pick colors that don't interfere with your vision.

Yellow or amber lenses give the world a sunny look; you want gray, brown or green lenses to give you true color vision.