By Thomas Saunders, OD, Virginia Mason-Federal Way
While sunny days mean slathering on the sunscreen to keep your skin safe, it is also important to protect your eyes from the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Long-term exposure to UV radiation can increase your risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, as well as benign growths on the surface of the eye and cancer of the eyelids and the skin around the eyes.
Additionally, excessive amounts of short-term exposure can lead to photokeratitis — “sunburn” of the eyes that causes pain, redness, foreign body sensation, light sensitivity and tearing.
The American Optometric Association offers these tips:
• Wear sunglasses that block out more than 95 percent of UV-A and more than 99 percent of UV-B radiation.
• Ensure that your sunglasses screen out 75 percent to 90 percent of visible light.
• Be sure the lenses are perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection. Lenses should be gray in tint in order to maintain proper color recognition of objects such as traffic signals.
• Be sure the frame of the sunglasses fits close to your eyes and is contoured to the shape of your head, in order to prevent UV exposure from all sides.
Keep in mind that while most UV radiation comes directly from the sun, you may also be exposed to UV rays reflecting from surfaces such as water, beach sand, snow and white cement. UV exposure is also greater at higher elevations, so sunglasses are important when you are skiing or hiking in the mountains.
Sunglasses may be the summer fashion statement you’ve been looking for, but they are also important for keeping your eyes protected from the damaging effects of UV radiation. An optometrist can provide guidance on the best style and material to meet your needs.
Also, annual eye exams with your optometrist are highly recommended and are an important part of preventive health care. Early diagnosis and treatment of eye and vision problems are essential for maintaining good vision and eye health through the years.
Thomas Saunders, OD, is an optometrist at Virginia Mason-Federal Way. To learn more, call (253) 838-2400 or visit www.VirginiaMason.org.