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Summer Eye Protection

Summer Eye Protection
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By Kitt Walsh

It seemed like winter would never leave and yet–at last–summer is right around the corner. With the coming of warm weather, we who have been housebound for months make a dash for the great outdoors. Gardening, swimming, boating…I’ll take any excuse to go out, catch some rays and free my feet from socks.

If you are like me, on your way out the door, be sure to grab your sunglasses. They do more they keep you from squinting (and making even more of those less-than attractive lines). They are vital for eye health.

Here are some tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology to help you protect your eyes from ultraviolet radiation by choosing the right pair of sunglasses:

Think Jackie O and go oversized: The more of your eye that is covered by the sunglasses, the more of your eye that is protected. Buy great big shades, or even wrap-around ones, to prevent those nasty UV rays from slipping in the side and damaging your eyes.

Polarized glasses alone don’t cut the mustard: Or the dangerous UV rays. Polarizations cuts the glare, like those heat shimmers of the sidewalk or from the sun shining on the water, but they don’t offer protection from the sun’s rays. They do help with making driving safer and certainly help you squint less, but check the lenses for the percentage of UV rays they block before buying them.

Read the fine print: Every lens will have a sticker or tag indicating what percent of UV rays they protect the wearer from and you should only buy those that protect you from 100% of rays. According to a national sun survey taken in 2014, less than half of us check if the lenses we buy offer any protection at all. We go with good looks instead of good sense.

Color your world: Go ahead and get green, yellow, amber or grey lenses and know that very dark ones don’t necessarily block the most UV rays. The different shades do offer different contrast however, which may help you with driving or playing sports.

It’s not about the bling: Although celebrities make having a wardrobe of shades part of a de riguer wardrobe, it’s not about the look of the lens or the price that matters here. The pair costing $400 won’t protect your eyes from UV rays any better than the pair for $4 (and you will feel a lot better if you lose them.)

UV rays can cause both short-term and long-term damage to your vision. Studies have even shown that ultraviolet light can help cause cataracts, several types of eye cancers and growths on the eyes known as pterygium (often found in gardeners, swimmers, fishermen and other people who spend lots of time nears bodies of water). These growths can spread and grow over your field of vision, needing surgical removal, just like cataracts.

Just being exposed to the sun’s hazardous rays for a few hours can cause a temporary blindness known as photokeratitis and, if you have light eyes (blue or green) you should be extra careful about exposure as you are at a greater risk of vision damage Some of the damage takes years to show up, so be particularly careful of shielding the grandbabies when you are in charge of them. Put them in a hat or cap and grab one for yourself.

Know, too, that clouds are no block to UV rays. They can pass right through the thin mist that makes up clouds. Also, never look directly at the sun (especially during an eclipse.) Solar radiation can permanently damage your retina, causing a condition known as solar retinopathy.

So, while you are slathering sunblock all over your delicate skin this summer, remember to protect that other most important part of your anatomy, your precious eyes.


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