Protect Your Eyes This Summer
Wearing Sunglasses with UV Protection Helps to Prevent Serious Eye Damage
It’s common knowledge that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can cause skin damage. But many people may not realize that UV radiation can harm the eyes and affect vision. In fact, such conditions as cataracts and macular degeneration – the primary causes of vision loss among seniors – are linked to both UV-A and UV-B exposure, two types of UV radiation.
“Since June is National Cataract Awareness Month and July is National Ultraviolet Safety Month, it’s a good time to remind people of all ages about the dangers of these UV rays, and to share tips about basic eye safety,” says Andrea Zimmerman, OD, a low vision specialist at Lighthouse Guild, the leading organization dedicated to addressing and preventing vision loss.
Long-term damaging effects
“When your eyes are exposed to UV radiation, you may experience photokeratitis, a painful condition that can cause sensitivity to light and extreme tearing,” Dr. Zimmerman explains. “These symptoms are usually temporary, but the longer your eyes are exposed to the sun, the greater the risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration later in life.”
Choose sunglasses carefully
“Because of these connections, eye health professionals urge people to wear quality sunglasses that offer UV protection whenever spending time outdoors,” says Dr. Zimmerman. “It’s also a good idea to wear a hat or cap with a wide brim.”
Glasses that are simply tinted, she notes, will not protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
“It’s important to choose eyewear that provides both UV-A and UV-B coverage, specifically those labeled 100% UV protection or UV 400. And if you spend a lot of time in bright sunlight, you should consider wearing wraparound frames for additional protection,” Dr. Zimmerman says. “Use polarized lenses if you are extremely sensitive to the sun as these lenses cut out glare more efficiently than regular tinted lenses.”
Be wary of cheap sunglasses that have poor optics or scratched sunglasses that are old as they can compound any vision impairment that may be present. She points out, “Tints can fade and lenses get damaged, so replacing sunglasses every five to ten years is a good idea.”