How to protect your eyes from the summer sun this week

Everyone seems to understand the importance of wearing sunscreen when you are enjoying the summer sun, but protecting your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) radiation or light is just as important. Although UV radiation comes from several sources, most people get their exposure from rays of energy from the sun. They are invisible to the naked eye, but can damage your eyes as well as your skin cells.

The good news is, you can prevent damage to your eyes by wearing the proper sunglasses. To protect your eyes from UV radiation damage, you need sunglasses designed to block UV light. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, only half of the people who purchase sunglasses check the UV rating before buying.

Here are tips for buying and wearing sunglasses:

• Look for UV labeling with UV absorption rates of 400 nanometers or higher or lenses that block at least 99 percent of UV rays. Don’t be fooled by dark tinting, the color of the lens has nothing to do with having UV protection.

• Not all polarized sunglasses have UV protection. Read the label carefully to ensure you are getting UV protection as well as polarized lenses, which reduce glare.

• When buying prescription sunglasses or transition prescription eyewear, you must order the lenses with UV protection if they are the only eyewear you wear outdoors.

• Buy oversized or wrap-around sunglasses. The more of your eyes covered by a UV protectant, the safer they are from UV radiation.

• Wear sunglasses every day, even when it’s cloudy outside. The suns UV rays don’t take a break on a cloudy day–they are still reaching the ground and your eyes.

• Buy shatter-resistant lenses to protect yourself from eye trauma. If you have an active lifestyle, you may participate in activities that put you at increased risk for breaking a lens.

Remember, even when you are wearing sunglasses, you should never look directly into the sun. Your eye acts like a magnifying glass, and you could damage the back of your eye.

It doesn’t matter your age or your health status, everyone is at risk for UV damage. If you have light colored eyes, not only may you be more sensitive to the brightness of the sun, you also have an increased risk of certain eye diseases tied to UV damage.

Additionally, if you take certain medications you can also be at increased risk for UV sensitivity. If the drug description states it may make you more sensitive to the sun, you need to be cautious about your eyes as well.

Exposure to the sun’s UV rays has been linked to:

• Cataracts

• Cancer in the eye

• Retina damage

• Macular degeneration

• Temporary vision loss

• Tissue growth on the cornea (pterygium)

Enjoy the hot summer days with outdoor activities, but be safe and protect your eyes from the harmful rays. Be sure to wear proper sunglasses and a hat to shades your eyes from UV radiation.

Dr. Frey sees patients at UPMC Susquehanna Ophthalmology. He received his medical degree from Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and completed his residency training at Letterman Army Medical Center/Walter Reed Army. Medical Center.


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