Sight challenged: The importance of sunglasses

  • Published
  • 756th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander

I'm in my early 40s and I'm sight challenged. On July18, I completed the eighth surgery on my eyes - that's number eight within the last 10 months. And, I've never worn glasses. 

The good news - I'm not blind. That's partly a joke, but, it was a real risk every time I got on the surgeon's table. To him, it was "routine" and no big deal. If it weren't for the stack of release forms I'd just filled out I might actually believe him. 

Why am I wasting your time writing about my eyes? Well, I'm actually writing this for the sake of your eyes. The damage is already done to mine. Hopefully these next few minutes will help protect yours. 

Some background: I've always had 20/20 vision until I finally gave into the fact that I could no longer read street signs. When I moved to Luke a year ago, I had to go to the eye clinic and admit to them I could no longer see the briefing slides. The captain spent over an hour testing my eyes. To her, I was too young, but she finally accepted what the tests were telling her - I had cataracts. Glasses can't fix that. My eye lenses were like a muddy windshield. They had to come out and be replaced with plastic ones. 

Yeah, your grandparents may have had this also, but they're probably not 40. Heredity and age do cause these in older people; for me, the root cause was sun damage. And that gets us to the importance of sunglasses. 

Radiation from sunlight can damage your eyes. That damage isn't treatable, and it's cumulative, meaning old damage doesn't go away and new damage just gets added on to the old. I had a pet peeve where I didn't like sunglasses in uniform, so I never wore them. 

Most of my assignments have been in sunny areas and by 40, my eyes were literally fried. Here at Luke you know it's sunny also. My fake lens won't fry anymore, but your real ones will. That's why I'd like to give you some info on the authorized wear of sunglasses in uniform. Learn from me, and put on a pair. They are authorized. The guidance comes from AFI 36-2903, page 90. The bottom line is that sunglasses must be conservative. 

Faddish styles and mirrored lenses are prohibited. Frames may be black or brown material. Brand name glasses may be worn with a small logo on frames or lenses but the logo must be the same color as the frames or lenses. Glasses may not be worn around the neck, or on top or back of the head, or exposed hanging on the uniform. 

You don't have to spend a lot of money, but you do have to look for the right things to get the needed protection. According to the American Optometric Association,, sunglasses need to block 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation and should screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light. Look for those ratings on your next pair. 

Disclaimers: AFOSH rules do not allow normal sunglasses to replace safety glasses. Switch to safety goggles when required, on or off base. 

Sunglasses are not your only protection either. Nutrition (vitamins and antioxidants) are also key to delaying the onset of cataracts. For information on eye nutrition, go to Your eyesight is too valuable to lose. Do what you can to protect it.