Keep an eye on your vision health this summer
f you’ve ever come in from a day sailing, picnicking or lying on the beach and your eyes felt tired, sore and gritty, you likely experienced ultraviolet radiation (UVR) overexposure. It’s critical to protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays to decrease your risk of developing serious vision issues such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, the leading causes of blindness.
Maintaining vision health can be especially important for women. In fact, a report from the National Women’s Health Resource Center (NWHRC), “Women and Healthy Vision,” shows that women are at higher risk than men of having vision problems.
“Studies show women tend to live longer than men, putting them at a higher risk for developing eye issues that become prevalent with age,” says Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, a registered nurse and executive director of the NWHRC. “It is important for women to understand the facts when it comes to sun exposure and eye health so that they can better prevent unnecessary sun-related damage.”
Understanding ultraviolet radiation
There are three ranges of UVR: UV-C, UV-B and UV-A. The most damaging form is UV-C, but luckily it’s absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere and doesn’t reach your eyes.
The second kind of UVR is UV-B rays. Exposure to these rays is closely linked with photokeratitis (a kind of sunburn of the cornea and iris), cataracts, pterygium (a white or creamy growth attached to the cornea) and even a form of eye cancer called squamous cell cancer. The third type of UVR is UV-A. Although laboratory studies find it can damage the retina (the light-sensitive membrane that covers the back of the eye), very little UV-A reaches your retina because most is absorbed by other parts of the eye. Still, some researchers suspect it may contribute to cataract development.
How to protect your eyes
Think sun exposure and eyes and you probably think sunglasses. While wearing sunglasses is definitely a good idea when it comes to eye protection, not all sunglasses are created equal. Look for sunglasses that transmit no more than 1 percent UV-B and 1 percent UV-A rays. Sometimes the information on the glasses will say they block at least 99 percent of the UVR. Other things to look for when selecting a pair of sunglasses include:
* Lenses large enough to completely cover the eye and prevent as much light as possible from entering through the edges of the glasses. Wrap-around sunglasses are best.
* Gray lenses, because they provide the greatest protection.
* Darker lenses, particularly if you spend a lot of time exposed to UVR.
If you wear contact lenses, don’t toss the sunglasses. The best way to protect your eyes from the sun is a combination of quality sunglasses, contact lenses (if you wear them) and a wide-brimmed hat.
Protecting children’s eyes Just as significant exposure to the sun in childhood is a leading risk factor for skin cancer in adulthood, so, too, is it a risk factor for later eye damage. In fact, researchers estimate we receive 80 percent of our lifetime exposure to UVR rays before age 18.
Additionally, children’s eyes transmit more UVR rays to the retina than adults’, increasing their exposure and risk of later eye damage. That’s why it’s so important to protect children’s eyes. While sports glasses offer important safety benefits, they’re designed to protect a child’s eyes from injuries, not from the sun.
It is best to teach children to wear a hat that shades their eyes as well as a pair of sunglasses. Use the stroller hood and try not to walk directly into the sun, pick the shaded side of the street if you can and while at the park, pool, or beach, try to keep little ones in a shaded area.
For more information and a free copy of the “Women and Healthy Vision” report, visit www.healthywomen.org.
Courtesy of ARAcontent