Sun exposure can damage eyes; sunglasses decrease risk

Sunscreen, sunglasses. This should be your mantra as you step into the great outdoors this summer.

Your skin needs protection from the damaging rays of the sun but so do your eyes, says the Kentucky Optometric Association.

“People spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer, so too much exposure to the sun is common,” Dr. Lynn Shewmaker, an optometrist with offices in Fort Mitchell and Dry Ridge says in a news release. “Sunglasses are more than just a fashion accessory because overexposure to ultraviolet rays fast forwards aging of the eyes and increases the risk for serious diseases.”

The Optometric Association reports that the sun’s UV radiation can cause cataracts; cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes; benign growths on the eye’s surface; and what is commonly known as snow blindness, which is a temporary but painful sunburn of the eye’s surface. Long-term exposure can cause damage to the retina, a lining of the eye that is used for seeing.

Extended sun exposure can also create visibility problems for drivers. “Spending just two or three hours in bright sunlight can hamper the eyes’ ability to adapt quickly to nighttime or indoor light levels,” Shewmaker said in the release. “This can make driving at night after spending a day in the sun more hazardous.”

Long-term sun exposure is also a risk factor for macular degeneration, a disease that destroys the part of your vision that allows you to see objects clearly, says the release.

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat or cap can block about 50 percent UV radiation from the eyes, which is not enough protection, according to the release. You must also wear sunglasses.

The Kentucky Optometric Association recommends choosing lenses that:
· Block 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation
· Screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light
· Are perfectly matched in color and absorption and are free of distortion and imperfection
· Are gray for proper color recognition.
In addition, Shewmaker said some contact lenses also can block out both UV-A and UV-B radiation.

Infants’ and children’s eyes also need to be protected from the sun at all times especially because they tend to spend more time in the sun than adults.

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