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How to Prevent Eye Damage from UV Radiation

Brooke Phillips, CWCMS
Editor | Shield HealthCare
07/26/13  9:50 PM PST

We all know the importance of using sunscreen to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays, but what about protection for our eyes?  July is UV Safety Month, and Eye M.D.s across the nation are urging Americans to protect their eyes and their children’s eyes by wearing sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats.

Recent studies have shown that prolonged exposure to the sun’s invisible, high energy ultraviolet rays without protection may cause eye conditions that can lead to vision loss, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.  During the summer months, the level of ultraviolet radiation is three times greater than in the winter.

Sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat are the best defense system for your eyes against sunlight and harmful UV rays.  UV light can pass through clouds, so it’s important to protect your eyes even when it’s gray and overcast.  UV light is generally at the greatest level  from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., so extra care should be taken to protect your eyes during the midday hours.   Reflected sunlight off of water, snow and pavement can be the most dangerous type of UV light because it is intensified.

But what type of sunglasses should you buy?  The most important thing is to purchase sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays!   Neither the darkness of the lens nor the price tag reflect sunglasses’ ability to block UV light; many $10 sunglasses provide equal or greater protection than a $100 pair.

Cumulative eye damage can be caused by repeated sun exposure overtime, but acute damage can also be caused by just a single day in the sun.  Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light reflected off sand, snow or pavement can burn the eye’s surface.  Similar to sunburns, eye surface burns usually disappear within a couple of days, but may lead to eye complications later in life.

Information provided by the American Academy of Opthalmic Executives.

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