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  • Leila E. Cole

Throwing Shade at UV Rays: Eye Wellness

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

It’s that time of year again —temperatures rising, and an abundance of sun rays to soak up. Even though Summer is notorious for warm weather, UV rays are present year round and can pose a real threat, if you let them. As Cassandra Clare wrote in City of Lost Souls, “Too much of anything could destroy you. ..Too much darkness could kill, but too much light could blind.” Despite certain health benefits associated with getting a moderate amount of sun exposure, there are also a number of harmful effects to keep in mind. Just like our skin, our eyes need protection from these omnipresent waves as well. Favorably, in the spirit of accessorizing, protecting your eyes can be doubly worthwhile. Case and point — sunglasses. Damage from UV exposure is cumulative, building every time your eyes are exposed to the sun. Research shows that UVA and UVB rays may contribute to short-term vision impairment as well as to potentially serious age-degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years old. Luckily, protecting our eyes from harmful UV rays is as simple as putting on a pair of shades.

It is important to consider the following when purchasing your next pair:

+ 100% UV protection: Look for lenses with a UV coating or polycarbonate lenses that have built in UV coverage. + Photochromic or Polarized lenses: Photochromic lenses change from clear to dark automatically when exposed to UV rays. Polarized lenses reduce or eliminate glare and reflections from the sun. You can have coatings added to both lenses to block 100% of UV rays as needed. + Frame size: Larger frames provide extra UV protection by blocking rays that come in from the side. We got the expert scoop on eye care from LensCrafters’ Clinical Director, Dr. Mark Jacquot. Here are his “5 Tips for Throwing Shade at UV-related Eye Damage”: 1. Choose the right lenses, but don’t worry about breaking the bank. Look for lenses that are UV400 or greater, which means that they filter out 99.9% of UVA and UVB light – polarized sunglasses are even better because they also reduce glare from the sun that can make it hard to see. A good quality pair of sunglasses is worth the investment to protect your eyes, however expensive glasses don’t necessarily have any better ability to block UV light than more affordable pairs. Along those same lines, the color of the lens really has nothing to do with how well UV rays are blocked. If you’re unsure about your current pair of shades’ protection, you can always bring any pair of sunglasses into your eye doctor’s office where an optician can assess the level of UV protection. 2. Wear sunglasses whenever you’re outdoors, no matter the weather or season.Protecting eyes from the sun is important all year long, not just for the summer months or on sunny days. Even if it is cloudy, UV rays can be reflected by things like snow, water, sand or pavement, and that increases the amount of these harmful rays that reach the eyes and skin. Eyes can burn just like skin, so keeping them protected is very important. Sunglasses not only provide protection against damage caused by UV rays, but can also help reduce eye strain. 3. The damage can be serious. Different types of UV rays cause different types of damage, and some can be dangerous. UVA rays penetrate the eye the deepest, passing through the cornea to reach the lens and retina inside the eyes. Overexposure to UVA radiation has been linked to the development of macular degeneration (damage to the retina that causes loss of vision) and certain types of cataracts (clouding of the lens that leads to a decrease in vision). UVB rays are partially filtered by the ozone layer, but are more intense than UVA rays. They penetrate less deeply and are completely absorbed by the cornea. In short term doses, UVB rays have been known to cause “snow blindness,” a painful inflammation of the cornea that causes temporary vision loss. 4. Children’s eyes are most vulnerable to long-term damage from the sun. While it is important to protect the eyes from UV rays at any age, children are even more vulnerable to retinal damage because their eyes are clearer and they often spend much more time outdoors than adults. Up to 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV radiation can occur by age 20, so it’s very important to start protecting a child’s eyes early to prevent long-term damage. In addition, I highly recommend that all children’s eyewear should be impact-resistant to help protect their eyes.

5. See your eye doc annually. Because many of these UV-related eye problems are longer-term and don’t develop instantly after exposure, it is really important to have a yearly check up with your eye doctor. He or she can talk to you about UV protection, answer your questions, and monitor overall eye health. LensCrafters’ new Clarifye, a more digitally precise eye exam, can pinpoint the smallest changes that occur in a person’s eyes over time, including UV-related damage. Solid advice. We bid you all a happy and healthy summer, and beyond. (Pictured: Burberry, Persol, Rayban) References: LensCrafters


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