To protect yourself from cataracts and other vision problems associated with ultraviolet (UV) light radiation, what should you do? Wearing sunglasses immediately comes to mind but do they really protect your eyes from the sun?

To compare how well sunglasses block UV rays, Consumer Reports tested more than 48 brands using a spectrophotometer. This instrument measures the amount of UV and visible light which sunglasses block. The standards used were those issued by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

"The ANSI standards apply to three classes of nonprescription sunglasses: cosmetic, general purpose, and special purpose sunglasses. The standards include limits on transmission of both UVB and UVA (the two kinds of UV rays that damage the eyes). Cosmetic models are allowed to transmit up to 30 percent of the UVB striking the sunglass lens. General purpose models, however, must block at least 95 percent of the UVB and much of the UVA as well. Standards for special purpose models - sunglasses used for mountain-climbing, skiing, and the like - are the most stringent. Those models must filter out at least 99 percent of the UVB to meet the standard," explained Consumer Reports.

How well did the tested brands perform following the ANSI standards? Consumer Reports found that most sunglasses in the market today did very well. In the past, many failed to block UV rays and caused pupils to dilate widely, allowing more harmful radiation to enter the eye. Fortunately, improvements in design have eliminated that problem.

"We found that all models performed extremely well against UVB. All the samples we tested - including the cheapest unbranded models - met the ANSI standards for general purpose sunglasses. Most also met ANSI's more stringent UVB standards for special purpose sunglasses, even though a few of them were sold as such," Consumer Reports said. Most models also protected the user from blue light which has been associated with macular degeneration.

How much should you spend for sunglasses without compromising your sight? Since many brands provide adequate protection, there's no need to buy an expensive model. On the contrary, even the cheapest brands tested by Consumer Reports are good for everyday use. While high - priced models may offer more in terms of better workmanship or materials that is not always the case.

"Among lens choices, you don't have to go high-tech to get comfort and versatility. Polarizing lenses, which reduce reflected glare, are particularly useful for driving. A neutral, uniform-shaded lens is a good all-around performer. Medium-to-dark lenses with a gray tint, or ones with a slightly brownish or greenish tint, will generally filter out much of the blue light with little distortion in color perception. You can find all of those qualities in many inexpensive pairs of sunglasses," Consumer Reports said.

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Author's Bio: 

Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine