Patients need reminder on UV danger to eyes

As "sun season" heats up, many patients could use a helpful reminder to wear their shades when outdoors. More than 55 percent of adults in the United States lose or break their sunglasses every year, according to a new report released by The Vision Council. For these and the 27 percent of adults who do not wear sunglasses, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation could put their eye health at risk.

The report, "Finding Your Shades, Protecting Your Vision," outlines the long- and short-term effects that can occur as a result of cumulative UV exposure, and the protective measures necessary to prevent them. It includes recent survey findings from The Vision Council that found that 20 percent of people do not feel that their eyes are at risk for sun exposure and 11 percent do not believe that unprotected exposure to UV rays causes health problems. The survey also found that many Americans aren't protecting their eyes – or their children's eyes – with proper use of sunglasses.

UV rays can penetrate the internal structures of the eye, causing serious temporary and permanent vision disorders. Short-term damage can range from bloodshot or sensitive eyes, to painful conditions such as photokeratitis (sunburn of the eye). High doses of UV radiation can lead to long-term health issues such as cataracts, abnormal eye growths, cancer of the eye and surrounding skin, and macular degeneration.

"Sunglasses and other UV protective prescription eyewear remain the best defense against UV damage to vision," said Paul Michelson, MD, chairperson of the Better Vision Institute. "In my practice, I've seen firsthand the painful and sometimes devastating consequences of unprotected UV eye exposure, most of which could be prevented by using UV-blocking sunglasses." 

According to The Vision Council, here's what consumers need to know when purchasing sunglasses:

  • Purchase sunglasses with both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Consider comfort; sunglasses won't get worn if they aren't comfortable.
  • Buy from a reputable retailer.
  • Talk with a retailer about the best lens and frame options for your face shape, activities and lifestyle.
  • Select a lens color that improves clarity and reduces glare.

You can also direct patients here, where they can access an interactive map of the nation's cities with the highest UV ratings.