It’s the season of sun. Time to break out the shorts and flip-flops. And, while you’re at it, don’t forget to grab your shades. As Ray-Ban fans discovered decades ago, sunglasses add a definite “hip factor” to an outfit, but there are solid reasons, beyond style, why sunglasses really matter.
A certain amount of exposure to the sun is necessary for us to manufacture a healthy amount of Vitamin D, but for our eyes, large doses can be a source of real eye damage. Harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays found in bright sunlight can contribute to several serious conditions of the eye, such as:
• Cataracts, which occur when the lens of the eye becomes gradually more opaque, resulting in blurred vision. It’s estimated that 20 percent of cataracts are caused by UV exposure.
• Macular degeneration, which damages the area of the eye responsible for central vision. According to Dr. Rob Simons of Montana Eyecare, research suggests that UVA rays, which can pass through the cornea, may play a major role in the development of macular degeneration. “In older adults, UV protection is vital,” says Dr. Simons, “since macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among those 60 and older.”
• Pterygium, a tissue growth over the white part of the surface of the eye that obstructs vision by altering the curve of the eyeball. This condition is sometimes referred to as “surfer’s eye” since it results from exposure to bright sunlight for long periods. Anyone who spends long hours in the sun, not just surfers, is at risk.
All of these eye conditions are easy to prevent with the proper pair of sunglasses. While in many cases doctors leave the style of your shades up to your personal taste, they have very specific guidelines for lenses. The right choices can make the difference between a pair of sunglasses that protects your vision and a pair that looks fashionable but leaves you vulnerable to UV rays.
Here’s what experts recommend:
1. Ultraviolet protection
Lenses should offer 100 percent protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Higher cost is no guarantee of protection. Increased cost often accounts for better durability or higher fashion, so read labels carefully.
2. Complete coverage
Make sure sunglasses cover the entire eye, wrapping around to include the area around your temples (while protecting skin around the eyes). Wraparound sunglasses not only block more UV light, but also keep out sand and allergens. If you have macular degeneration, ask your optometrist about glasses designed just for this problem, including side panels and a ridge at the top to filter all light.
3. Pick polarized
Polarized lenses are the optimal choice to guarantee overall protection. These lenses are coated with a chemical film to help reduce glare, but also provide great UV coverage. By reducing glare, polarized lenses deliver clearer, more comfortable vision.
4. Contacts need sunglasses, too
While it’s true that contact lenses block some UV rays, you shouldn’t rely on the UV coating on contacts alone. You need to add a pair of sunglasses to completely block out the harmful effects of sunlight.
5. Kids need sunglasses, too
Don’t forget children’s sunglasses. “A child’s eyes are more prone to sun damage than adults,” explains Dr. Simons. “UV protection is very important for kids.”
Don’t fry your eyes this summer. Count on the doctors at Montana Eyecare to suggest the best sunglass protection for your whole family. Call 406-443-2121 to set up an appointment or visit online www.MontanaEyecare.com.
550 North Montana Avenue
Helena, MT 59601
Montana Eye Care
At Montana Eyecare, our professional eye care staff will be happy to assist you with your vision needs. We have treatment options available for everyone. Whether you are interested in making an appointment for a LASIK consultation, have cataracts, need an annual eye exam, or just need glasses, we can help!
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