With the summer months now upon us, we’re naturally thinking of ways to protect ourselves from the usual summer dangers – sunburn, bug bites, poison ivy and others. But, what we may not be thinking about is protecting our eyes.
Most people are aware of the need for UV protection when it comes to their eyes and skin but often give it little more thought than that. June is Ultraviolet Awareness Month and a prime time to start protecting your and your family’s eyes from these rays that can lead to all manner of visual problems.
Did you know that UV from your phone can be as damaging as UV outdoors? Recent studies are comparing the damage of outdoor UV which can be shielded with good wrap around sunglasses worn year round. These lenses can help protect your eyes against eye and eye lid cancers. These lenses while fashionable have a functional need and that is to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays causing cataracts and macular degeneration. The time to protect your eyes is now and your kids before damage takes place.
On another UV note we have studied and found that blue light UV from our electronic devices may cause as much or more damage to your vision as going outside. Blue light is found in outdoors light and from our overhead light and all electronic devices. You will need to protect your eyes from both sources both indoors and outdoors.
While we know we aren’t going to wear sunglasses indoors, there are blue filtering devices in lenses that we have used to help those with early stage cataracts and macular degeneration or have a family history.
Ultraviolet rays, which are measured by wavelengths, are categorized as UVA, UVB and UVC. The naked eye cannot see them, and we are exposed to them even when it is cloudy. Rays also are reflected from the ground, water, snow and other bright surfaces.
UVA rays are ever-present, inside as well as out, so lenses, whether for sunglasses or everyday glasses, must offer protection. These particular rays are associated with eyestrain and fatigue, especially for those people who often work on a computer.
People are most familiar with UVB rays because they are the most damaging to the skin. But, they often do not realize they also can be damaging to the eyes. Some studies have shown them to be causative factors in the development of cataracts, macular degeneration and skin cancer around the eyelids. While they are damaging for people of all ages, they are particularly dangerous for children. Parents should make sure their children wear sunglasses for outdoor activities or sports to help prevent vision problems later in life.
UVC rays can cause the most damage to us and our environment, but they are generally absorbed by the upper atmosphere and do not reach the earth’s surface. Depletion of the ozone layer is becoming more and more of a concern, these rays may become a problem in the coming years.
How to Protect Yourself
First and foremost, you must be vigilant in protecting your and your family’s eyes from UV rays. Mind UV warnings in the news, and make sure to wear sunscreen and sunglasses regularly. Wear hats as needed. Everyday lenses in both clear and tinted shades should be made of UV-blocking materials or have UV-blocking coatings. UV stickers on glasses or sunglasses doesn’t necessarily mean that they are fully protective. According to regulations, sunglasses must block at least 70 percent of UVB rays and 60 percent of UVA rays, but it’s recommended that you look for ones offering at least 98 percent protection.
In short, sunglasses should:
◾Filter out 99 to 100 percent of UV rays
◾Protect eyes with lenses that pop out, not in
◾Be comfortable to wear
◾Not distort colors
Polarized lenses with anti-glare coatings, which can provide protection in any pair of glasses, and iridium lenses are the ultimate enhancements available to filter UVA and UVB rays. Flash mirror coatings on sunglasses also reduce glare and give a bit of “red carpet” edge to any sunglass style.
For contact lens-wearers, contacts can be made with UV protection, and these will decrease the amount of rays that enter the cornea. However, it is still important to wear sunglasses to protect the areas not covered by the contacts.
As always, consult with your eye doctor on purchasing any type of prescription lenses or eyewear. based on your work or outdoor environment. Your optometrist can determine the best type of UV protection for you and your family – whether for glasses, sunglasses or contacts – and can tailor your UV protection that suits your lifestyle.
Eyewear Gallery has a number of lens types and frames for both style, casual and sport to protect your eyes from these sight threatening sources of damage. Contact the office for more information.
Dr. Warren Johnson and Dr. Do Nguyen are medical optometrists at Eyewear Gallery. Located at 428 Perkins Extended at Poplar. Eyewear Gallery’s staff has been providing vision care to Mid-Southerners for more than 30 years. They offer comprehensive eye care for all ages. For more information about Eyewear Gallery, please call (901) 763-2020 or visit http://www.EyewearGallery.com