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Picking The Right Shades: How To Protect Your Peepers

Summer sun means blistering hot temperatures and wilted gardens. And it also means that ultraviolet rays are out in full force.

Besides slathering on the right sunscreen to safeguard your skin, you also need to protect your eyes from blasts of UV light.

Though the effects aren't immediately obvious, basking in the sun's UV rays can cause permanent damage to your eyes. That's where the right sunglasses come in.

"We know that people who have had a significant lifetime exposure to UV radiation very commonly develop eye surface problems that lead to discomfort later in life," says Dr. Rachel Bishop, chief of consult services at the National Eye Institute. "You develop the cancers when you're 80, but you've been accumulating the sun damage your whole life," she says.

Sunglasses are a must-have to protect your eyes, and that goes for kids, too. But which ones are best at blocking the sun from your baby blues? These days, it's pretty easy if you read the labels.

"The good news is that it is FDA-regulated, and if you buy [sunglasses] in a store, they should be labeled that they block 99 to 100 percent of UV radiation," Bishop tells Shots, "and that's what you want."

And if you want to see the world through rose-colored glasses, go for it. "Choose whatever color is most comfortable on your eyes, the filter is blocking the UV, not the tint," she says. Be sure to check the label though, because tinted fashion glasses without UV filters can actually do more harm than good, she says.

You don't need to worry if your shades take some abuse in the glove box. "Scratching your glasses may make your vision a little blurry, but it doesn't hurt your eyes," Bishop says. She also recommends cleaning sunglasses with soap and warm water, then drying with a soft cloth.

Add a light-blocking hat or cap with a wide brim for more UV protection.

Sunglasses aren't all there is to summer eye health, as yard work and some sports can also lead to serious eye injuries. The National Eye Institute also recommends looking at their list of additional tips to keep your eyes in tip-top shape.

So be active this summer, but remember that injuries and sun damage are permanent, and prevention is key. "A stick to the eye can cause a loss of vision, and it could have been prevented with protective eyewear," Bishop says.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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