Yes, some styles of sunglasses filter the light that hits your eyes and protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. Choose brands that say that they are 99-100% effective at blocking UV rays. Some cheaper brands do not.
Yes, any sunglasses with UV protection are very good for your eyes. UV rays can damage the clear tissue that surrounds the eyeball–the cornea and conjuntiva–as well as the delicate skin of the eyelid, and can lead to cataract formation over time. Make sure that any sunglasses you buy have UV protection. Some sunglasses also offer physical protection for the eye during sports and other activities; the best kinds to look for for this kind of protection are glasses made from polycarbonate. Sunglasses can also protect the retina from some of the glare of the sun and other bright lights, but you should still never look directly at the sun, a lit welding torch, etc.
Having light eyes (light blue, green) is like having pale skin. You open yourself to even more damage without protection from the sun’s UVA/UVB rays. Wear shades all of the time, especially if you have light eyes, to avoid sun damage.
Let me summarize, because most people are getting part of the answer correct. My references are the Mayo Clinic and my hospital, which pointed out a factor that’s often overlooked.
The causes of cataracts can be many, including smoking, drinking, being overweight, poor diet, high blood pressure … and … UV rays from the sun. But it’s UV-B rays that are the problem, not UV-A, which is a different wavelength. So many sunglasses just make seeing easier, they don’t protect eyes from damage.
The people mentioning Ray-Ban are correct that all Ray-Ban glasses have 100% protection from light coming through the lenses. The problem, if you look at the page cited below, is that some are tiny fashionable lenses that don’t protect from light coming in through the sides. Yes, true, that is a small portion of the light coming into your eyes, but the ones that are more “wrap around” are going to catch even much of those! I.e., the ones where you can’t easily see natural light — even by looking to the side — are slightly better.
I am developing cataracts, my hospital said to get sunglasses that effectively stop ALL UV-B rays. They wrap up, down, and to the sides. They fit over other glasses, too, so the expense is only about $50. No, they are not a great fashion statement, but no one’s laughed at me yet. (And I do wear expensive clothes.)
So if you are high-risk, and especially if your eye doctor says you are developing cataracts, then avoid the risk factors, and get proper sunglasses that mask out almost all the unfiltered natural sunlight.
The source from the Mayo Clinic is definitive (it can also be hard to find, so bookmark it!)
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