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Sunglasses and Macular Degeneration

Do you know why it is important that all of us wear sunglasses when outside? Studies have shown that exposure to sunlight throughout life, including childhood, increases the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

People with AMD struggle with central vision loss ranging from mild distortion to total central darkness. You may think that sunglasses are just for protecting the eyes from damage caused by ultra-violet or blue light, but really they serve several different purposes for those with macular degeneration.

Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting your sunglasses…


Of course the first and most important feature is that the lens provides 100% protection from UV-A and UV-B light. Ultra-violet light exposure can damage your eyelids, cornea, lens, and parts of the retina. Wrap around and tight fitting glasses prevent UV light from entering your eyes from the sides or the top.


Often people equate a darker lens with better protection but darker does not mean better and in fact can mean less visibility, especially for those with macular degeneration. The darker the lens the harder it is to see clearly. The reduced light makes it harder to navigate and to distinguish details. You may have to try different shades of darkness to find out which one does not compromise your visibility.


Sensitivity to glare is a symptom of macular degeneration, especially when a person is out in bright sunlight. Even when a person is sitting in the shade, sun can reflect from the water, the road, the hood of a car, etc. producing harsh glare. Using a special filter, a polarized lens, helps to eliminate glare that is reflected from these surfaces. Less glare means better clarity and visibility. Reduced glare also helps with eye fatigue. Prescription sunglasses can be made with a polarized lens.


Macular degeneration also affects one’s sharp, detailed vision so it is important to have sunglasses that use a high quality lens. The lens material can determine the clarity. The lens should cause no distortion and should not give a blurred image. You don’t need a poor quality lens to add to your already loss of sharp, distinct vision.

Enhanced Contrast

The ability to distinguish contrast is diminished in those with AMD. However, some tinted lenses offer enhanced and better contrast. People with macular degeneration tend to like the orange and yellow lenses because of the contrast enhancement and better depth perception. A blue blocker lens also helps to reduce glare and does not make the world darker – so things do appear more visible because of the brightness.

To get the best feel for whether your new pair of sunglasses offer optical clarity, reduced glare and enhanced contrast you will need to try them on outside. Indoor lighting is very different and not comparable to a bright sunny day.

Our doctors and staff are here to help you with all your eye care needs. Call our office today or stop by! We can help make sure your eyes are fully protected with a quality pair of polarized sunglasses.