Sunglasses or sun glasses (informally called shades or sunnies; more names below) are a form of protective eyewear designed primarily to prevent bright sunlight and high-energy visible light from damaging or discomforting the eyes. They can sometimes also function as a visual aid, as variously termed spectacles or glasses exist, featuring lenses that are colored, polarized or darkened. In the early 20th century, they were also known as sun cheaters (cheaters then being an American slang term for glasses).
The American Optometric Association recommends wearing sunglasses that block ultraviolet radiation (UV) whenever a person is in the sunlight to protect the eyes from UV and blue light, which can cause several serious eye problems. Its usage is mandatory immediately after some surgical procedures, such as LASIK, and recommended for a certain time period in dusty areas, when leaving the house and in front of a TV screen or computer monitor after LASEK. It is important to note that dark glasses that do not block UV radiation can be more damaging to the eyes than not wearing eye protection at all, since they tend to open the pupil and allow more UV rays into the eye.
Sunglasses offer protection against excessive exposure to light, including its visible and invisible components.
The most widespread protection is against ultraviolet radiation, which can cause short-term and long-term ocular problems such as photokeratitis (snow blindness), cataracts, pterygium, and various forms of eye cancer. Medical experts advise the public on the importance of wearing sunglasses to protect the eyes from UV; for adequate protection, experts recommend sunglasses that reflect or filter out 99% or more of UVA and UVB light, with wavelengths up to 400 nm. Sunglasses that meet this requirement are often labeled as "UV400". This is slightly more protection than the widely used standard of the European Union (see below), which requires that 95% of the radiation up to only 380 nm must be reflected or filtered out. Sunglasses are not sufficient to protect the eyes against permanent harm from looking directly at the Sun, even during a solar eclipse. Special eyewear known as solar viewers are required for direct viewing of the sun. This type of eyewear can filter out UV radiation harmful to the eyes.
More recently, high-energy visible light (HEV) has been implicated as a cause of age-related macular degeneration; before, debates had already existed as to whether "blue blocking" or amber tinted lenses may have a protective effect. Some manufacturers already design glasses to block blue light; the insurance company Suva, which covers most Swiss employees, asked eye experts around Charlotte Remé (ETH Zürich) to develop norms for blue blocking, leading to a recommended minimum of 95% of the blue light. Sunglasses are especially important for children, as their ocular lenses are thought to transmit far more HEV light than adults (lenses "yellow" with age).