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Will your sunglasses prevent serious eye disease? Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians offers tips

With summer in full swing, the days are longer, the sun is hotter, and the threat from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays is greater.

Excess sun exposure can put you at risk of serious short-term and long-term eye problems. This is true for young and old people, year-round. Prevention is simple. Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet radiation.

But how do you know if your sunglasses are up to the task of protecting your family’s sight?

To bring attention to this important eye health matter, ophthalmologists – physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care — are sharing information on how to keep eyes safe from sun damage.

When shopping for sunglasses, look for a tag or label that says 100 percent protection against both UVA and UVB or 100 percent protection against UV 400. UV protection is the essential piece you need to look for in a pair of sunglasses. Darkness and color do not indicate the strength of UV protection, and neither does the price tag. Even the least expensive sunglasses can offer adequate protection.

If you doubt your sunglasses have the UV protection claimed by a retail tag, take them to an optical shop. Any shop that has a UV light meter can test your sunglasses. A UV light meter is a handy test for when you doubt your sunglasses have the UV protection claimed by a retail tag or if they are simply old and you want to make sure.

There is no doubt about the consequences of not protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. If eyes are exposed to strong sunlight for too long without proper protection, UV rays can burn the cornea and cause temporary blindness in a matter of hours.

Long-term sun exposure is linked to more serious eye disease, such as cataracts, eye cancer, and growths on or near the eye. A lifetime of exposure also likely increases progression of age-related macular degeneration, a condition that can cause blindness.

“After practicing ophthalmology for over 25 years, I have seen the consequences of people not protecting their eyes from the sun,” said Frank Burns, M.D., president of Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons. “Patients that fail to protect their eyes develop cataracts at a younger age, thus needing surgery earlier than they should have. Even though cataract surgery is almost always successful, occasional patients can have complications from the surgery that can result in permanent visual loss.

“Also, sunlight exposure increases the risk of macular degeneration, which is an irreversible disease that can result in permanent vision loss and is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly in the U.S. So be sure that you wear sunglasses with 100 percent UVA and UVB protection when you are exposed to sunlight.”

In addition to shades, consider wearing a hat with broad brim. They have been shown to significantly cut exposure to harmful rays. Also, don’t forget the sunscreen.

Find more information on how to protect your eyes from the sun year-round at the Academy’s EyeSmart website.

From Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons

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