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June 6 is National Eyewear Day

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History of National Eyewear Day

June 6 is National Eyewear Day, an awareness day founded in 2016 to encourage people to schedule their next eye exam. The eye care community, including eye doctors and opticians, observes the day by educating the public about eye health and why it’s important to get regular eye exams. 

Why National Eyewear Day is important

National Eyewear Day is a reminder that taking care of your eyes should be part of your annual health care routine. Having a comprehensive eye exam every year is the best way to make sure that: 

  • Your eyes are healthy. 

  • Your vision is clear (with or without correction).

  • Any changes in your eye health or vision are monitored and acted on appropriately. 

Getting regular eye exams make it possible for your eye doctor to: 

Detect and correct refractive errors

During your exam, your eye doctor will perform tests to check your eye health and vision. This will help them determine if you have a refractive error that causes blurry vision, such as:

  • Myopia (nearsightedness) – Things up close are clear but distance vision is blurry.

  • Hyperopia (farsightedness) – Close-up vision is blurry while objects far away are usually clear.

  • Astigmatism – Vision is blurry up close, at arm’s length and far away.

  • Presbyopia – Close-up vision is blurry due to the normal loss of near focusing ability that occurs with age. 

Refractive errors are the most common type of vision problem in the U.S. If you are one of the millions of people who has a refractive error, your eye doctor may prescribe glasses or contact lenses to correct your vision so you can see more clearly.

Diagnose and treat eye conditions

Your eye doctor will examine the internal structures of your eyes during a comprehensive eye exam, checking for abnormalities and signs of disease, including the following eye conditions: 

  • Glaucoma

  • Age-related macular degeneration

  • Cataracts

  • Diabetic retinopathy

Some serious health conditions — such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes — can also be detected early during an eye exam due to their effects on the eyes’ blood vessels. The sooner any condition is detected, the sooner it can be treated.

READ MORE: 8 things your eyes can reveal about your health

A day to celebrate your favorite glasses

If you already wear eyeglasses, National Eyewear Day is a fun way to show off your specs and appreciate how well you can see with their help.

History of glasses

Glasses have been around for hundreds of years. The first use of “reading stones” was recorded by monks in the 10th century. 

In 13th-century Italy, monks started using eyeglass lenses set in a wooden or animal-horn frames. This style had to be held up or perched on the person’s nose during use because temples — the parts that sit over the ears — weren’t invented until the 18th century.

Glasses have evolved quite a bit over the years, with frequent advances made in corrective lens design and technology. Some of the most important inventions include:

  • Bifocals – In 1784, Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals. He cut near and distance vision lenses in half then fused them together into one lens so he didn’t have to switch between pairs. 

  • Trifocals – John Isaac Hawkins invented trifocal lenses in 1827 for people with severe presbyopia. 

  • Progressive lenses – Optical engineer Bernard Maitenaz is credited with inventing the progressive lens in 1959. It corrects vision at multiple distances without the visible lines seen on bifocal and trifocal lenses.

SEE RELATED: How eyeglasses work and a history of glasses

Eyewear as fashion

For hundreds of years, glasses were simply a tool to help people see better. They were typically made with round lenses in a wire frame. It wasn’t until the 1970s that people started using glasses to make a fashion statement. At that point, eyewear became available in other shapes and styles, and celebrities wore glasses as a chic accessory.

Today, eyewear is available in a wide variety of different colors, shapes, materials, styles and price ranges. Luxury designers — including Versace, Tory Burch, Prada and Saint Laurent — have glasses and sunglasses as part of their collections. Brands like Ray-Ban are synonymous with the iconic aviator and wayfarer styles. 

Numerous celebrities have established their own eyewear lines and brand collaborations, such as Sofia Vergara x Foster Grant, gx by Gwen Stefani and Randy Jackson Eyewear. You can even wear glasses from Harley-Davidson.

Like eyeglasses, sunglasses also have their own special day. National Sunglasses Day is celebrated June 27 each year as a reminder to wear sunglasses when you go outside. Only shades with 100% UVA-UVB lens protection can protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays. 

Observe National Eyewear Day by donating your old glasses

One way you can celebrate National Eyewear Day is to donate your old glasses. Several nonprofits recycle gently used glasses and provide them to people in need.

Here are some organizations that may have glasses donation programs near you:

Your eye doctor may also participate in a recycling program for old glasses. Wherever you choose to donate, make sure your glasses are in good condition.

READ MORE: Where to donate eyeglasses

National Eyewear Day is the perfect opportunity to make your eye health a priority. Mark the occasion by scheduling an eye exam and consider donating your old glasses to give the gift of sight to someone else.

National Eyewear Day takes center stage on June 6. Vision Monday. June 2021.

Refractive errors. National Eye Institute. November 2023.

Why eye exams are important. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 2024.

Six health conditions an eye exam can reveal. University of Utah Health. November 2023.

Spectacular spectacles. Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Accessed May 2024.

Benjamin Franklin’s inventions. The Franklin Institute. Accessed May 2024. 

EssilorLuxottica mourns passing of Bernard Maitenaz, inventor of the first Varilux progressive lens. EssilorLuxottica. February 2021.

How did glasses become a fashion statement? The Yale Ledger. Accessed May 2024. 

National Sunglasses Day 2024. The Vision Council Foundation. Accessed May 2024.

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