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Can cheap sunglasses ruin my vision?

Both of my parents developed cataracts on their eyes before the age of 50, so I have always been careful to wear sunglasses outside, especially when I'm spending time in direct sunlight. I thought this was an obvious, simple way to take care of my eyes, but recently a friend mentioned that some sunglasses can actually cause vision problems. I don't spend a lot of money on fancy sunglasses, so I'm concerned now that I might actually be harming my eyes. Can cheap sunglasses ruin my vision?
This is a commonly circulated notion, that cheap sunglasses may damage your eyes. The two reasons that are most commonly cited are that (1) the glasses do not provide enough UV light protection, but still allow your pupils to dilate, resulting in more UV light entering the eyes or (2) that the thick plastic in the glasses may bend the light to some degree, just like prescription glasses, leading to eye strain. Although both of these reasons make some sense from a physiological point of view, I am not aware of any scientific or medical studies that have actually evaluated them and proven whether or not they are true. So the best thing to do is to discuss this with your eye doctor. It stands to reason, at a bare minimum, that you should read the UV light rating on any pair of sunglasses that you buy, to make sure that they are adequately excluding the UV light. Many inexpensive sunglasses do this quite well. Again, it would be a good idea to mention this issue to your regular eye doctor the next time you see them. Since they know your specifics of your eye health better than anyone else, they will be able to provide you with more detailed advice and answer any other general questions you might have!
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.

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