They are also illegal for driving, as they distort vision and colour perception.
Elderly people and children are amongst those most at risk of eye damage as they wear little or no protective eyewear. Proper sunglasses delay ageing of the eyes by 20% and decreases the risk of cataracts by 40%.
The Association of Optometrists have warned people when buying sunglasses to make sure they offer sufficient eye protection.
Optometrist Lynda McGivney Nolan said eyes are as sensitive to the sun as skin. “Yet when Irish people are out in the sun, many neglect to pay attention to the quality of sunglasses they are wearing.
“Just as the sun causes serious damage to the skin, so can the harmful rays from sunlight, cause irreversible, long-term damage to the eye, including, skin cancer on the lids, corneal burns, damage to the external eye tissue, cataracts and macular degeneration,” she said.
“The two groups at highest risk, children and the elderly, wear little or no protective eyewear in the sun and when they do, the products are often of inferior quality.”
According to the AOI, consumers should check their sunglasses offer the maximum protection, including eliminating UV A, B and C radiation.
“They should also protect the eye from blue light, which does the most damage to the back of the eye and allow normal colour perception and optimise clarity of vision. Ideally a good pair of glasses should have wide-sided or wrap-around styling to protect the eye from sunlight from the side,” said Ms Givney Nolan.