With summer in full swing, more people are spending time outdoors and ultraviolet (UV) protection will be top of mind. Unfortunately, according to Dr. John L. Henahan of Spectrum Eyecare in Peachtree City, most people only think about the protection of their skin when they should also be considering the safety of their eyes.
In fact, according to the AOA American Eye-Q survey, only one-third of Americans said UV protection is the most important factor they consider when purchasing sunglasses.
Whether it’s cloudy or sunny, summer or winter, the AOA urges Americans to take measures to protect their eyes from the sun’s UV rays in order to decrease the risk of eye diseases and disorders. “Over-exposure to UV rays is quite serious and can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, or, in some cases, skin cancer around the eyelids,” said Sarah Hinkley, O.D., the AOA’s UV protection expert. “Other disorders that can occur are abnormal growths on the eye’s surface and even sunburn of the eyes. These conditions can cause blurred vision, irritation, redness, tearing, temporary vision loss and, in some instances, blindness.”
Even more troubling is the lack of awareness surrounding the potential effects of overexposure to UV radiation. According to the American Eye-Q survey, 35 percent of adults are unaware of the eye health risks associated with spending too much time in the sun without the proper protection.
The following top five tips from the AOA may help prevent eye and vision damage from over-exposure to UV radiation:
- Wear protective eyewear any time the eyes are exposed to UV rays.
- Look for quality sunglasses or contact lenses that offer good protection. Sunglasses should block 99 to100 percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation and screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light.
- Check to make sure sunglass lenses are perfectly matched in color and free of distortions or imperfections.
- Purchase gray-colored lenses for the brightest conditions because they reduce light intensity without altering the color of objects to provide the most natural color vision. Choose brown or amber-colored lenses for variable light conditions, overcast days or times when you will be in and out of the shade such as hiking, golf or mountain biking.
- Don’t forget protection for young children and teenagers, who typically spend more time in the sun than adults and are at a greater risk for damage.
Children need UV Eye protection too
“The lenses of children’s eyes are more transparent than those of adults allowing shorter-wavelength light to reach the retina,” said Dr. Henahan. “Because the effects of solar radiation are cumulative, it’s important to develop good protection habits early, such as purchasing proper sunglasses for young children and teenagers.”
According to the AOA, parents should purchase sunglasses for all children, including infants.
The American Eye-Q survey found 66 percent of Americans purchase sunglasses for their children, but more than one in four parents do not check to make sure the lenses have proper UV protection. Additionally, less than one third (29 percent) of parents make sure their child wears sunglasses while outdoors.
Apart from an annual eye exam, the most important thing you can do to protect your eyes is to where quality polarized sunglasses, according to Dr. Henahan. “While I was director of Low Vision at LSU the majority of patients with vision impairment suffered from macular degeneration, which is caused in part by excess UV exposure.” For maximum protection, Dr. Henahan recommends polarized lenses which have the added benefit of being much more effective at cutting glare. “When you are driving, on the water or participating in sports, the additional glare reduction afforded by polarized sunglasses is huge”, continues Dr. Henahan. When purchasing sunglasses, you pay more for higher quality lenses, such as those made by Costa del Mar, Columbia and others.
If you would like more information or to see Dr. Henahan, click here or call the office at 770-487-0667. He sees patients in Peachtree City every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and two Saturdays per month.