Those sunglasses are much more than a fashion statement. Sunglasses can shield your eyes from health problems like sunburns, cataracts, and skin cancer.
Skin around the eyes: The skin around the eyes and, in particular, the eyelids is made up of a very thin tissues. Over time, repeated UV exposure (not to mention constant squinting) can lead to wrinkles and age spots, we well as small cancers around the eye.
White of the eyes: Sun damage can cause a condition called pinguecula, a thickening of the conjunctiva, which is the clear, thin membrane that covers the white of the eye. This causes raised, yellow spots on the eye, near the cornea. While there's no known danger to vision, it can get irritated and inflames. The conjunctiva can also thicken and grow over the cornea, creating a condition called pterygium (also known as surfer's eye, which might obscure vision.
Iris: Research has suggested that blue eyed people are more susceptible to macular degeneration. While as this point we don't know the exact reason, we recommend even more strongly that people with light eyes wear sunglasses.
Retina: The retina is a light-sensitive layer of tissues that lines the back of the eye. The macula is the part of the retina where we have straight ahead and detailed vision. That macula can start to deteriorate, causing a condition called macular degeneration, leading to blurred vision or a blind spot. Some information suggests there could be an association between UV light and macular degeneration.
Lens: Behind the iris of the eye is a crystalline lens that helps focus light onto the retina. That lens can develop a cloudiness, which is known as cataract. UV light has been implicated in the development of some types of cataracts.
Cornea: Here's a common summertime scenario: People go to the beach for a day and as they are driving home their eyes feel kind of gritty, like maybe there's sand in there. By 10 p.m. they are in agony and by 11 they've landed in the ER for a sunburned cornea, which can cause tremendous pain and blindness.
You can avoid all of these issues in the future by just wearing your sunglasses!