UV protection and the eyes: Does it really matter if I wear sunglasses?

Sun protection is a concern of those living and visiting in Southwest Florida. Most of us understand the importance of wearing proper sunblock in order to avoid a variety of damaging skin conditions, but what about our eyes?

Studies have shown that just as our skin can suffer from sun damage due to Ultraviolet (UV) exposure, UV exposure can also lead to the development of several eye conditions. Overexposure to UV rays without proper eye protection has been associated with the progression of cataracts, macular degeneration, skin cancer around the eyelids, pingueculas, pterygiums and other corneal conditions. All of these could lead to vision loss over time. A pterygium, for instance, is a growth of the conjunctiva that can grow over the cornea, requiring surgical removal.

UV-related facts
• During the summer months, ultraviolet radiation is three times greater than in the winter.
• The sun is strongest during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Reflected sunlight off of water and the pavement is intensified, and the most dangerous type of UV light.
• Prolonged UV exposure is associated with vision loss in more than 3.2 million people annually.

Proper eye protection is critical to maintaining good vision and eye health. Elmquist Eye Group recommends that people of all ages wear proper eye protection anytime that their eyes are exposed to UV rays, even on cloudy days. In order to achieve this, it is recommended that all types of eyewear, including prescription and non-prescription glasses, contact lenses and lens implants, should absorb UVA and UVB rays. To provide adequate protection for your eyes, sunglasses should:
• block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;
• screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light;
• be perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection; and
• have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition.
Routine, comprehensive eye exams are recommended annually to monitor eye health, as well as to review your vision protection needs. Early detection is crucial in preventing and treating eye diseases and conditions. For more information, contact Elmquist Eye at 239-936-2020 or visit www.Elmquist.com.

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