Summer Eye Health: Sunglasses and the Important Role They Play
Summer’s here, and you’re finally able to enjoy the outdoors. If you plan on spending time at the pool, beach, on hikes or at backyard get togethers, sunscreen isn’t the only line of protection you should be using. For very important reasons, you should also be wearing sunglasses.
Contrary to popular belief, sunglasses are more than just fashion statements. The right ones have a lot to do with protecting your eyes from damage, diseases and even cancers. And with June being Cataracts Awareness Month and July being UV Safety Month, there’s no better time to discuss the importance of eye protection.
As we age, we’re more likely to develop eye problems, which means that protection is more important than ever. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, “By age 75, approximately half of all Americans have cataracts.” They also report that, “Nearly 2.1 million Americans age 50 and older have late age-related macular degeneration (AMD) ... By age 80, one in ten Americans has late AMD.”
Cataracts can cause blurry vision, faded colors, glare, poor night vision and other symptoms. They’re easily treatable, and while surgery is highly effective, cataracts can still cause some permanent vision loss. Symptoms of AMD include dark, white or blurry areas in your central vision; straight lines appearing wavy; sensitivity to glare; and faded colors. There are two forms of AMD: wet and dry. Currently, there are no treatments for dry AMD, but there are some treatments for wet AMD that can help slow its progression.
Both conditions can be caused or worsened by unprotected UV exposure — from both sunny and cloudy days. In fact, the National Eye Institute estimates that extended UV exposure causes 20 percent of cataracts cases. These conditions aren’t the only ones someone can suffer from because of UV exposure. Your eyes can actually get a sunburn. This is known as photokeratitis, and some symptoms include pain, tears, scratchy sensation, blurry vision and swelling. UV exposure can also cause a type of eye cancer called intraocular melanoma and eye growths known as pinguecula and pterygium.
Are you ready to go shopping for sunglasses yet? Chances are you already have a pair or two, but not every pair offers full protection. In fact, some can cause increased damage. This is because dark colors cause our pupils to dilate, which lets in more light. If the sunglasses don’t block enough light, you could be worse off than you were without them. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that you get sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV protection and pair them with a broad-brimmed hat.
Don’t let the sun scare you. Grab your shades, and get out this summer. Don’t forget about your yearly comprehensive eye exam though. Getting one of these will help detect any eye issues before they cause major problems.