How often do you think about your eyes when you go outside in the sun? Unless you’re sensitive to bright light, you might not think twice about eye protection from UV rays. Many know the dangers of skin cancer and protecting themselves with sunblock. It’s just as important to protect the eyes though as the same UV rays can sunburn your eyes and even lead to problems such as cataracts, macular degeneration and pterygium (white tissue growth) on the eyes. The area most prone to skin cancer on the face is also right around the eyes, so you’ll be protecting your eyes and that delicate part of your skin at the same time. The American Optometric Association says you should always be wearing your sunglasses anytime you are exposed to UV or blue light. For the right protection, you need sunglasses that block 99% of UVB and 95% of UVA light rays. Most sunglasses you buy from the store are not optometrist-grade glasses that offer you this UV protection, meaning that those harmful light rays are still reaching your eyes. Meet with a Optical Masters specialist today to find a pair of professional sunglasses to protect your eyes for years to come and learn why a good pair of sunglasses are so vital to your eye health.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, over 3.3 million people are treated each year for nonmelanoma skin cancer. 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer during the course of their lives and one person dies every 54 minutes from skin cancer. The foundation estimates that about 90 percent of “nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation” from the sun. The Public Health Agency tells us that UV radiation is made up of 3 wavelengths of light: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC is absorbed by the layers of the atmosphere, but UVA and UVB rays both reach all the way to the earth’s surface. The only difference is that UVA rays are present all year long (even on a cloudy day) and UVB depends on the season and location. It’s a safe bet to assume that you are always being exposed to some form of radiation—especially damaging radiation from the sun. We can tell that UV radiation packs a powerful punch against the delicate tissues of our skin, but what about our eyes? If our skin is being exposed to powerful UV radiation, then can’t we assume our eyes are being exposed as well?
If the facts above don’t tell you enough why you should wear sunglasses, we hope the rest of this information will. Sunglasses are used to protect the delicate tissues of your eyes that help you see and interpret light. It’s not enough to have regular glasses on or even a hat to shade your face; you need actual prescription-grade sunglasses to get the full benefits of eye protection. We have already talked about skin cancer, but did you know that there are two types of cancers that can be found in the eye as well? One is known as intraocular lymphoma, but according to the American Cancer Society, the most common primary intraocular (inside the eye) cancer is melanoma. Coincidentally enough, melanoma of the eye comes from the sun! Most melanomas of the eye start in the iris, and your ophthalmologist will be able to detect it through a dark spot forming on the iris. The great news though, is that this melanoma is slow-growing and your ophthalmologist can help you stop the progression and take steps to protect your eyes from future damage. If you see your Optical Masters specialist often, you can actually avoid or stop the progression of many eye problems that are caused by UV rays.
UV rays can sunburn your eyes and even lead to problems such as cataracts, macular degeneration, pterygium (white tissue growth) on the eyes and more. Ever heard of snow blindness? This usually occurs in places with snow. If a person goes without prescription-grade sunglasses and looks at the snow all day, the sunlight reflected off the snow can actually sunburn your eyes (literally turning them crimson) and you’ll experience snow blindness for a few days. Other common problems include:
Macular Degeneration - This is a big one you want to avoid as macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss. More than 10 million Americans have it and that number is increasing each year. Macular gets its name from the “macula”—or part of the retina in the back of the eye—that focuses vision and interprets the colors and shapes we see. This macula deteriorates over time and patients will see a dark gray/black spot in the center of their vision. The cause is hereditary as well as environmental. The environmental factors (rays from the sun) and blue light exposure (from electronic devices, LED lights, etc.) are what you need to protect yourself from with proper prescription-grade sunglasses. With early detection, the progression can be stopped or slowed down.
Cataracts - The lens of our eyes should be clear, allowing the different parts of our eyes to interpret light, colors, and objects with ease. With the progressive disease cataracts, the lens of the eye starts to become cloudy and images lose their focus and become blurry. The color of the eye will even change as it becomes more cloudy. Cataracts come with age or from damage to the eye (think UV radiation). If for ANY reason you see a change in your vision, come see one of our ophthalmologists at Optical Masters. There are ways we can stop cataracts from growing and stunt the progression of blindness.
Glaucoma - This is another degenerative disease of the eye that comes on slowly; so slowly in fact, that you might not even know you have it until the damage is severe. Extra fluid buildup begins in your eye, causing enormous pressure on your optic nerve, eventually damaging it and impeding vision. Glaucoma CAN be prevented with early treatment. That’s why it’s so important to do yearly vision exams! They made be more important than you think.
You might notice that we keep mentioning “prescription-grade” sunglasses. Why do we keep saying that? You may see many sunglasses at grocery stores or at the mall, but what kind of protection do these glasses provide? The American Optometric Association says you should always be wearing your sunglasses anytime you are exposed to UV or blue light (which comes from electronic devices, LED lights, etc). For the right protection, you need sunglasses that block 99% of UVB and 95% of UVA light rays. Most sunglasses you buy from the store are not optometrist-grade glasses that offer you this UV protection, meaning that those harmful light rays are still reaching your eyes. Sunglasses may look like they protect your eyes because the glasses shades are dark, but unless they are actually designed to block certain light waves, you’re just wearing around the tinted glass that makes your visual field darker instead of doing anything extra. Look for the special labels of UVA and UVB protection when buying sunglasses. Only prescription-grade glasses can provide protection from both types of light waves.
Being informed about the damaging effects UV rays have on the eyes is the first step in being able to protect yourself. Now that you know all of this information, we hope you take the time to get yourself some prescription-grade sunglasses. The greatest thing about all of the conditions (and cancers) we’ve talked about is that they are all 100% preventable! How easy is it to put on a pair of sunglasses when you walk out the door? That simple choice can protect your eyesight for an entire lifetime. It’s not so simple if you don’t have a pair though. Call our Optical Masters office today at (720) 807-7600 to schedule an appointment for your sunglasses. With so many styles, colors and frames to choose from, you are sure to find something that fits your personality perfectly, gives you style and most importantly, protects your eyes!