As we round out the summer months, some of us are probably a little more tan than we were a few months ago. However, given what we now know about the damaging effects of UV rays on our skin, getting the golden glow isn’t quite as desirable as it once was. That said, while more people are opting for skin safety over sunbathing, many still don’t realize how damaging sun exposure can also be to our eyes and vision.
Over time, exposure to UV rays can increase the risk of developing macular degeneration, cancers of the eye, or cataracts. In fact, the World Health Organization reports as much as 20% of cataracts may be caused by overexposure to UV radiation.
Artificial sources, like tanning beds, lasers, or welding machine also produce UV radiation that can damage our vision over time. Plus, sunlight reflected off of sand, snow, and water can cause photokeratitis, which is essentially a painful sunburn of the eye.
Despite these realities about the potentially harmful effects of UV rays on our eyes, many of us are still in the dark when it comes to sun safety for the sake of our vision. According to statistics gathered by the American Academy of Ophthalmology:
- Almost half, 47%, of sunglass wearers don’t check the UV label before buying sunglasses.
- 53% wrongly believe that sunglasses with darker lenses provide more sun protection.
- 83% know that sunglasses should be worn even if it’s cloudy, but only 17% actually do.
- Although over half, 54%, of Americans have light-colored eyes that are blue, green or hazel, 68% of them aren’t aware that their eye color puts them at higher risk for UV damage.
- While 74% of parents make their children wear sunscreen, only 32% make their children wear UV-protected sunglasses.
- As many as 82% don’t realize that certain medications increase vulnerability to UV damage—such as Retinol products and some birth control pills, antibiotics, and pain relievers, as well as certain medical conditions, like cataracts.
Do you fit into any of these statistics? If so, it’s time to rethink how you protect your eyes from UV exposure. Be sure to wear sunglasses that are labeled 100% UV protection or UV 400nm, even when it’s cloudy, and be aware that your eye color and certain medications may increase your vulnerability to UV damage.
Just because the summer months are entering their final stages, don’t be fooled into thinking your eyes are at any less risk from UV radiation damage. Continue to wear sunglasses that are labeled 100% UV protection or UV 400nm, even when it’s cloudy and even when the temperatures cool.
In addition, keep in mind that over-the-counter sunglasses don’t offer any degree of vision correction, so if you normally wear corrective lenses you may want to consider prescription sunglasses. One of our eye specialists will be happy to help you with a comprehensive eye examination so that you have the correct prescription.
Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice in Knoxville, TN, and Morristown, TN, dedicated to providing quality eye care to patients whose needs range from routine comprehensive eye examinations to treatment for vision loss from common or complex eye conditions. To meet our doctors and learn more about our specialities, visit our website or give us a call at 865-579-3920 for more information or to schedule an appointment.