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Most Americans are aware of the need to protect their skin against the harmful rays of the sun. It’s become common knowledge that UV rays can age the skin and cause skin cancer.
But did you know that the sun is also a danger to your eyes? Extended exposure to UV and other solar radiation has been linked to eye damage, including cataracts, macular degeneration, “snow blindness” and a host of other vision issues.
Additionally, UV rays aren’t the only enemy of good vision, says Dr. Rob Simons of Montana Eyecare. Blue light, or high-energy visible (HEV) radiation may also put you at risk of macular degeneration.
In honor of Cataract Awareness Month this June, Dr. Simons suggests these 9 steps to protect your eyes from the sun:
1. Wear a Wide-Brimmed Hat or Baseball Cap
Hats with brims prevent about half the sunlight from getting into your eyes. That’s not nearly enough protection, but it’s a great start. Whether you want the logo on the cap to be a Bobcat, a Grizzly or a Saint is your decision.
2. Wear Eyewear That Absorbs UV Rays
Make sure the sunglasses you choose are large enough to block rays from above and below, and make sure they protect against 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays. “Off-the-shelf sunglasses rarely have the kind of UV protection you need,” says Dr. Simons, “you really have to read the label carefully or ask your eye care professional.” And don’t think that dark eyes will protect you. The color of your eyes plays no role in UV protection.
3. Make Those Sunglasses Reddish Color for Best HEV Protection
Although the color of the lens is irrelevant when it comes to UV protection, reddish-brown lenses absorb the most HEV rays.
4. Pay Attention to Altitude and Time of Day
As you might suspect, UV levels are highest around mid-day and at higher altitudes, so be especially careful with eye protection under those conditions. Wide open spaces, like much of our state, also increase UV and HEV levels.
Yes, on your eyelids. The skin there is thin and especially vulnerable to the sun’s rays, particularly if you like to fall asleep in the sun.
6. Be Careful With Medication
Some medications, most notably tetracycline, birth control pills and diuretics, amplify the harmful effects of sun exposure. When dispensing these medications, pharmacies warn against significant exposure to the sun.
7. Get Plenty of Vitamin C in Your Diet
Research suggests that Vitamin C and other antioxidants guard against the macular degeneration caused by exposure to HEV radiation.
8. Cover Those Contact Lenses
Even if you wear contact lenses with UV protection, they are only protecting the part of the eyes they cover. You still need sunglasses with UV protection.
9. Take Extra Care of Your Children
The risks of eye damage from the sun are cumulative, so get your children in the habit of protecting themselves early. Because children generally spend more time outside than adults, almost half of the sun exposure a person gets occurs before the age of 18.
You only get two eyes, so take care of them. Contact Montana Eyecare today at (406) 443-2121 and find out how they can help you find the sunglasses that best protect your eyes this summer. Visit MontanaEyecare.com for more information.