Will Your Sunglasses Protect You From Serious Eye Disease?

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Advanced Eyecare Professionals joins the American Academy of Ophthalmology in offering tips on how to protect your eyes against harmful UV exposure

With summer in full swing, the days are longer, the sun hotter, and the threat from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays, greater. Excess sun exposure can put you at risk of serious short-term and long-term eye problems. This is true for young and old, year-round. Prevention is simple. Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet radiation. But how do you know if your sunglasses are up to the task of protecting your family’s sight?

To bring attention to this important eye health matter, ophthalmologists — physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care — are sharing information on how to keep eyes safe from sun damage.

“Everyone understands what happens to your skin when it comes to sun damage, but many are surprised to learn about cumulative UV damage to the eyes,” said Michael Flohr, M.D. “It is important for all ages to protect their eyes while outdoors by wearing sunglasses that have 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays.”

When shopping for sunglasses, look for a tag or label that says 100% protection against both UVA and UVB or 100% protection against UV 400. UV protection is the essential piece you need to look for in a pair of sunglasses. Darkness and color do not indicate the strength of UV protection, and neither does the price tag. Our office offers a variety of styles from budget to designer for both prescription and non-prescription sunglasses. Check out the image with this blog featuring one of our very own team members, Emily C. She is sporting shades she loves to wear to protect her eyes.

There is no doubt about the consequences of not protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. If eyes are exposed to strong sunlight for too long without proper protection, UV rays can burn the cornea and cause temporary blindness in a matter of hours.

Long-term sun exposure is linked to more serious eye disease, such as cataracts, eye cancer and growths on or near the eye. A lifetime of exposure also likely increases progression of age-related macular degeneration, a condition that can cause blindness.

“If it is really bright out our bodies natural reaction is to squint and your pupils will constrict to tiny dots — as small as half a millimeter in diameter — to limit the amount of light getting in,” said ophthalmologist David Harrell, M.D. When you put on sunglasses, the effect is the same as being in a darkened room, the pupil dilates to let in more light. A dilated pupil can change in size from half a millimeter to 5 or 6 millimeters. “No one likes to squint, but make sure that the sunglasses you are putting on have UVA and UVB protection because otherwise you are allowing your pupils to dilate and let more [harmful light] into your eyes then if you didn’t have a pair on at all. Having your eyes be dilated without the proper UVA and UVB protection may increase the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration and even the development of ocular melanoma – a very rare type of cancer.”

In addition to shades, consider wearing a hat with broad brim. They have been shown to significantly cut exposure to harmful rays. Also, don’t forget the sunscreen!
Find more information on how to protect your eyes from the sun year-round stop in one of our offices and/or visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart® website; www.aao.org/eye-health.

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