Heading Outside? Bring Your Shades! - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare

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Heading Outside? Bring Your Shades!

There's more to sunglasses than you may think. Not only do they filter those bright sun rays, they also protect your eyes' health.

Long hours spent in the sun without protection increase your exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, an invisible form of radiation from sunlight. We know overexposure to UVA and UVB radiation causes damage to the skin, but what does it do to your eyes?

“You can damage the surface of your eyes in the same way you can get sunburned, with just one exposure to extremely bright sunlight reflected off sand, snow or water,” says Ani Saryan, MD, Family Medicine physician. “Exposure to sunlight over years can cause eye problems and even lead to vision loss from cataracts or macular degeneration.”

Even children and adolescents should be wearing sunglasses.

Risk Factors for Sun-Related Eye Damage

Certain factors may also increase the risk of sun-related eye damage, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Optometric Association (AOA):

  • Surfaces that reflect UV rays, such as snow, sand, water and blacktop
  • Time of day - 10 am – 4 pm is the peak time for UV rays
  • Time of year - UV radiation is higher in the spring and summer; yet even bright sunlight in winter poses dangers of UV radiation 
  • People with lighter skin or light-colored eyes can increase the skin’s and eyes' sensitivity to sunlight

Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Sun-Related Eye Damage

  • Don’t look directly at the sun
  • Wear sunglasses that protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays when you are outside, even on cloudy days
  • Wear a hat to provide additional protection, even on cloudy days

How to Choose Sunglasses

Glasses should claim blocking 99%-100% of UV rays.

  • Dark lens color does mean they block UV rays
  • Mirror coating and gradient tinting of lenses do not offer UV protection, according to the AAO and AOA
  • Wraparound sunglasses keep light from shining on your eyes from the sides, offering more protection
  • Sunglasses should be free of distortion and imperfection

If you play sports, consider getting special impact-resistant lenses made from polycarbonate plastic and have a scratch-resistant coating.

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Heading Outside? Bring Your Shades!