It’s finally time for fun in the sun after a long winter and a wet spring. Most people know that ultraviolet or UV protection is important for our skin, but not everyone realizes the importance of protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays. People sometimes think that if the brightness doesn’t bother them they don’t need sunglasses. In reality, that’s not the case.
The sun’s primary danger is in the form of UV light. There are three forms of UV radiation: UV- C is absorbed by the ozone, so doesn’t really pose a threat; while UV-A and UV- B radiation can pose both short-term and long-term hazards. Did you ever have a perfect “10” day at the beach only to have your eyes feel scratchy, gritty and teary later that night? If so, you had a photokeratitis, or in layman’s terms, a sunburn of the eyes. Fortunately, this is usually temporary and doesn’t result in permanent damage to the cornea. Wearing sunglasses would prevent this and the “10” day might have a chance to turn into a “10” night!
However, long-term exposure can result in damage to your eyes and be more serious. The scientific literature is full of good studies and research that link UV radiation to an increased risk of cataracts and retinal problems like macular degeneration. The longer the eyes are exposed, the greater the risk of developing these problems later in life. Since it is not clear how much exposure to solar radiation will cause damage, the American Optometric Association recommends wearing quality sunglasses that offer UV protection and wearing a hat or cap with a wide brim whenever you spend extended time outdoors.
What should your sunglasses do? In order to provide protection for your eyes, your sunglasses should block out 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation and screen out at least 75% of the visible light. The best lens colors to select, so as not to alter your color perception, are gray, green and brown. There are many variations of these colors or tints that can actually enhance contrast on an overcast day.
Finally, don’t forget the kids and teenagers. Protecting eyes should be a family affair and goal. Parents, start protecting your children’s eyes at a young age as they typically spend more time in the sun. Be sure to see your eye care professional at least every 2 years for a comprehensive eye examination. A regular exam schedule is a good way to monitor your eye health, maintain good vision and keep track of your solar radiation protection needs, as well as new advances in eye protection. So put on those shades and enjoy the summer that is upon us.