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Health Center Today, July 14, 2010

Protecting Your Eyes from Sun Damage Ė Remember Those Shades!

By Carolyn Pennington

Just as your skin needs sun block for protection against the sunís harsh ultraviolet (UV) rays, your eyes need protection, too. In fact, UV radiation is one of the greatest threats to the eyes, with effects that are three times greater in the summer than in the winter.

"Because UV rays are invisible, most of the time people donít even realize they are harming their eyes," says Dr. William Ehlers, Health Center ophthalmologist. But out of sight should not mean out of mind. If absorbed by the eyes, these invisible rays can do plenty of damage and can even lead to eye diseases or vision loss.

Studies show that stepping outside on a sunny day without eye protection, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when UV rays are the harshest, can lead to serious damage regardless of the health of a personís eyes.

"Overexposure to UV rays is quite serious and can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, or in some cases, skin cancer around the eyelids," says Ehlers. "Other disorders that can occur are abnormal growths on the eye's surface and even sunburn of the eyes. These conditions can cause blurred vision, irritation, redness, tearing, temporary vision loss and, in some instances, blindness."

One of the best ways to protect your eyes is to wear sunglasses. For the best protection, look for sunglasses that filter out at least 98 percent of UV rays. Lenses should also be brown, gray, or green, and bigger lenses offer more protection.

There are other measures you can take to keep your eyes protected. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat can keep the sun from peeking in over your sunglasses. When itís time to go swimming, goggles not only protect your eyes from any chlorine or bacteria present in the water, but they also protect your eyes from the sun.

Don't forget protection for young children and teenagers, who typically spend more time in the sun than adults and are at a greater risk for damage.

And remember, just because UV rays are most intense in the summer doesnít mean you should stop protecting your eyes once the autumn leaves start to fall. UV rays are present everyday, whether cloudy or sunny, no matter what season. Protecting your eyes every time you go outdoors all year long will help you preserve your vision in the long run.