To Your Health: Wear sunglasses and your eyes will thank you

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When we venture out on sunny days, we often think about protecting our skin with sunscreen, but we don’t often think of providing the same protection for our eyes.

Ultraviolet (UV) rays can have adverse effects on the eyes just as they do the skin, and too much exposure can cause cataracts and other eyes problems. Shielding your eyes with sunglasses designed to block UV rays now can protect against these issues later in life.

Cataracts are the clouding of the eye’s lens, and they can develop slowly without causing impairment early on. Eventually though, a cataract can grow to affect a larger portion of the lens and blur vision, leading to difficulty with everyday functions like reading and driving. As cataracts grow, they cloud more of your lens and distort the light passing through it.

Glasses and brighter lighting can temporarily help with impaired vision due to cataracts, but when daily activities are disrupted, surgery may be necessary. The best way to combat cataracts is to prevent it by taking precautions to protect your eyes, and wearing protective sunglasses is the best way to keep harmful rays from reaching your eyes.

If you go out in the sun without sunglasses, the corneas and lenses of your eyes absorb nearly all of the light that reaches them. In addition to cataracts, UV rays can irritate the cornea and lead to macular degeneration, which is retina damage that causes vision loss in the center of the field of vision. Too much UV exposure can even promote skin cancer or growths on or around the eyelids.

Sunglasses are worn by many as a fashion statement, but when it comes to eye protection, only one feature is important: the little tag or sticker that indicates they are rated to block UVA and UVB rays. A label of UV400 means 100 percent UV protection.

Price is not important. More expensive does not necessarily equate to better protection. Many pairs of sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV rays are inexpensive. As long as they carry that UV label, they will protect you.

Polarized glasses reduce glare, and they are helpful for activities like driving or working outside, but polarization alone does not protect against UV rays. If you prefer polarized lenses, make sure your glasses also provide UV protection. Having both is ideal, but UV protection is more important.

To protect your eyes from all angles, select larger, close-fitting sunglasses. Some contact lenses block UV rays, but they don’t cover the whole eye, so sunglasses would still be needed for full protection.

And remember, the sun is not a one-season phenomenon. It’s easy to think about wearing your sunglasses now, because summer brings so many bright, sunny days. But sunglasses should be worn throughout the year. Each season has its share of glaring sun, and other factors, like reflection off of snow during winter, can intensify exposure.

Even when the sky is full of clouds, the sun’s rays are reaching your eyes, so it’s best to always keep your sunglasses with you outside. Your eyes will thank you in the long run.



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Elena Johaness

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