Sunglasses are an essential summer item when it comes to protecting yourself from the dangers of the sun.

Optometrists recommend purchasing glasses that claim to block at least 99 per cent of UV rays, UVA rays and UVB rays.

"Sunglasses is probably the number one thing you can do to protect your eyes from a lot of the damaging effects in the environment," said Dr. Shanine Lafreniere from Fort Saskatchewan Eyecare.

Ultraviolet (UV) light and glare can lead to irreversible sight disorders and are invisible to the naked eye. These rays are made up of UVA, UVB, and UVC rays.

UVC rays are stopped in the atmosphere before they reach the eye, but UVA and UVB can both reach the eye and possibly cause harm.

"Canada does have pretty good rules about quality. If you are unsure, if you have a pair of glasses you need to have tested or looked at, you can bring them to an optometry office." 

Lack of sunglasses can lead to retinal damage, tissue changes, cornea sunburn and cataracts, an issue that impairs night vision, reduces your ability to see colours and makes reading difficult. Cataracts cannot be reversed, only removed.

The Alberta Association of Optometrists cautions people to look for labels reading UV 400. This indicates that the glasses block UV rays as small as 400 nanometers, providing 100 per cent protection. 

Another tip is to protect your eyes from the glare caused by the visible spectrum as well. To do this, select products that block 75 to 90 per cent of visible light.

Polarised lenses are also a popular choice because they filter out certain types of glare that tend to radiate upward when sunlight bounces off of surfaces. These lenses are popular among boaters, runners, skiers and children. 

"UV penetrates into kids' eyes so easily, too easily."

To best protect from UV rays getting through the gaps in your sunglasses, you can also wear a wide brimmed hat.