• Nothing ages like sun damage. We know it’s important to wear sun block at all times – on sunny days, cloudy ones, in direct sunlight and wherever sunlight is reflected (in water, sand, snow, pavement). Now we know that sun protection is important in winter too.  But we can’t wear sunscreen on your eyes so what can we do?

    It’s important to learn about ultraviolet radiation. The sun emits UV radiation in three bands: UV-A, UV-B and UV-C rays. UV-C rays are the most dangerous but they are no threat. They’re nearly all absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer, at least at this point. UV-A and UV-B rays can be very harmful. UV-A rays are lower energy but penetrate more deeply into the eye, affecting the retina and the macula. Macular degeneration with the loss of central area vision can result. UV-B rays cause sunburn and possible damage to the lens at the front of the eye. Cataract formation may result. They can also cause temporary corneal inflammation or eyelid tumors.

    How do we prevent this damage?

    1. Wear sunglasses, or sunglass clips on your eyeglasses.

      Buy glasses that block 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B rays. Color and cost are not factors in determining the effectiveness of UV blockage. Go to a reputable optical store or check for a retail tag that states that nearly all UV radiation is blocked. Wraparound glasses with large lenses are the most effective.

    2. Wear a large brimmed hat.

      But, recognize that UV rays are reflected from water, sand and other surfaces so wearing sunglasses in addition is important.

    3. If you wear ultraviolet blocking contact lenses, wear sunglasses anyway.

      Only a very few contact lenses block nearly 100% of UV radiation. Protect both the skin around your eyes and your eyes.

    Some of us are at higher risk and need to be even more careful. If you’ve had cataract surgery and have intraocular lens implants, have had refractive surgery, or live at higher altitudes, you are even more susceptible to damage from ultraviolet light. Although most newer intraocular lens implants have an ultraviolet blocking coating, the older ones don’t. You do need the additional blocking power of sunglasses and a hat. At high altitudes, UV rays are more intense and cause damage more quickly.

    And, don’t forget to protect kids, teenagers, and grandchildren with sunglasses and hats. Children are more susceptible to ultraviolet radiation because their lenses are clearer and the eye absorbs more of the damaging rays. Teenagers spend more time in the sun. They should have shatterproof polycarbonate sunglasses to protect them from the sun and from sports injury. Polycarbonate lenses absorb 100% of UV light.

    Remember protection for outdoor activities, sports, travel, gardening, socializing, and relaxing. With the proper protection we can ensure that we are protecting our eyes and our vision.

    See this relevant article too: Do You Know These 12 Things About Sunscreen?


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    Article by: Rochelle Peck, MD

    Dr. Peck is a comprehensive ophthalmologist, a medical doctor who specializes in eye health, especially the health problems of women.  Her office is located at 40 West 72nd St in Manhattan and she can be reached at 212-496-5870 or by email at rpeckmd96@aol.com.  Dr. Peck welcomes patients of all ages for complete eye exams and treatment of eye disease.

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