You slather on SPF 50 to protect your skin from the sun, but how do you protect your eyes? A recent survey says less than half of 10,000 Americans polled know the health benefits of the right kind of sunglasses, but your favorite summer accessory could save your life.
“The skin around your eye is some of the most vulnerable to the sun, both in terms of just sun damage, but also in terms of developing cancers, like melanomas, or basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas,” explained Jack Cioffi, MD, ophthalmologist-in-chief, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center.
Ten percent of skin cancers are found on the eyelid. However, it’s not just cancer, too much sun can cause photokeratitis, or sunburn of the cornea, cataracts and blinding eye diseases.
“There’s great evidence that macular degeneration is accelerated by unprotected sun exposure,” Cioffi said.
So, how can you play it safe in the sun? First off, buy sunglasses with 99 percent to 100 percent UVA or UV 400 protection with large lenses that fit close to your eyes. Just because the tag says “polarizing lenses,” doesn’t guarantee that they will protect you from the harmful rays.
Dark lenses are not always the best. They cause your pupils to dilate more, allowing more UVA radiation in.
For extra assurance, look for the skin cancer foundation’s seal of recommendation and don’t be cheap. Spending a little extra today could save your sight tomorrow.
And remember, sunglasses are not just for grownups. The risk for retinal damage from the sun’s rays is greatest in children less than 10 years old because their eyes are still developing. Experts say everyone, young and old, should wear sunglasses outside between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., even if it’s cloudy.
Sunglasses can give a person a rock star look, but they are much more than a fashion accessory. They are an essential tool in keeping eyes healthy. Just as UV rays can damage the skin, they can also harm the lens and cornea of the eyes. UV radiation increases your odds of getting cataracts, macular degeneration, pterygium (which occurs when the tissue that lies over the white of the eye grows into the cornea), and pingueculum (a yellowish bump of tissue on the white of the eye). Not to mention, having unprotected eyes in the sunlight causes wrinkles. Like sunscreen, sunglasses should be worn whenever you are outside, year round, and even on hazy days. UV eye damage is cumulative over a lifetime. (Source: www.webmd.com)
LOOK FOR COMPLETE UVA/UVB PROTECTION: Choose sunglasses that have full protection against UV light. Look for a label or sticker that has one of the following:
- Lenses meet ANSI Z80.3 blocking requirements, referring to standards set by the American National Standards Institute).
- Lenses block 99 percent or 100 percent of UVB and UVA rays
- UV 400 protection, these block light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers, which means that the eyes are shielded from even the tiniest UV rays. (Source: www.webmd.com)
CHOOSE THE RIGHT HUE: The coating that blocks UV radiation is clear, so a darker lens is not necessarily more effective than a lighter one. However, hue does play an important role in color perception. Yellow or rose tinted lenses can make it difficult to distinguish changes in traffic lights. Green, gray, and brown lenses minimize color distortion, and are a better choice when you will be behind the wheel. (www.webmd.com)
POLARIZED LENSES: If you spend a lot of time on the water, opt for polarized lenses. They reduce glare by filtering out the reflected sunlight that bounces off surfaces of water or pavement. They are a good option because they can cut down on glare form flat surfaces. The downside, however, is that it can be difficult to read cell phones, GPS devices, or liquid-crystal displays on a dashboard. Also, polarization has nothing to do with UV protection. (Source: www.webmd.com)