Ultraviolet light gradually damages the eyes because, unlike other cells in our bodies, the cells of the eye’s lens are never replaced. In other words, the lens cannot repair itself, and damage accumulates over a lifetime. So, exposure as a child, teenager, and young adult contributes to cataracts, macular degeneration, and even eye cancer later in life.
Fortunately, cumulative eye damage is preventable. So even if you were careless in your younger days, you could still slow progressive eye disease by starting today to care for your eyes when in the sun.
With the arrival of summer comes UV rays 3 times higher than in the winter. To help you prepare and in honor of May being Ultraviolet Awareness month, let’s look at
10 Tips related to UV awareness to help preserve vision.
- Avoid or reduce exposure from 10AM to 4PM when UV rays are at their strongest.
- Wear protective eyewear even on cloudy days since up to 80% of the sun’s rays penetrate through clouds.
- Make sure sunglasses are labeled UV400 or 100% UV before you purchase them. Unfortunately, only about 50% of individuals check, and many end up with sunglasses without UV protection, which increases eye damage.
- Consider wrap-around or large sunglasses. The sun is sneaky and can reach your eyes through your sunglasses’ open sides, top, and bottom. Also, consider adding a wide-brimmed hat for added protection, especially with increased exposure.
- Even though some contacts have UV protection, you’ll still want to wear sunglasses since most contact lenses don’t provide 100% protection.
- Be sure everyone in your family wears appropriate eye protection when in the sun. Unfortunately, kids are often overlooked when it comes to sunglasses, but they are more susceptible to damage than adults.
- Know your medication’s side effects since some drugs increase a person’s sensitivity to the sun.
- Know that lens color and shade do not impact UV protection, though they affect visibility (glare, reflection, etc.). In fact, there are many options available for clear lenses that provide 100% UV protection.
- Don’t let cost deter you from sufficient UV protection. Many inexpensive eyewear options exist that provide at least 99.9% UV protection.
- Remember that indoor tanning also damages the eyes. In fact, indoor tanners produce up to 100% stronger UV rays than the sun. This means that damage can happen quickly and be more severe for those who frequent them. The best protection when going to a tanner is to wear the protective goggles that most tanners provide and many states require.
UV Protection and Healthy Habits are Important
The CDC reports that the leading causes of blindness and low vision in the United States are age-related eye diseases like macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. Fortunately, in many cases, these diseases can be slowed and possibly even prevented through healthy habits like eating a nutritious diet, regular exercise, not smoking, and regular eye exams.
Equally and possibly more critical to eye health is the important daily practice of wearing 100% UV eyewear to prevent cumulative damage from the sun. As you prepare for the carefree summer days ahead, ensure that your eyes and those of everyone in your family are adequately protected from the sun’s damaging UV rays. Protect your eyes now to help ensure good vision for a lifetime.