While a pair of flashy sunglasses may make you look like a Hollywood star, shades can also protect your eyes from the lasting effects of sun damage.
Ochsner Medical Center Director of Pediatric Optometry Dr. Kefla Brown said long-term exposure to the sun can have a cumulative effect on the eyes.
“Ultraviolet light, both UVA and UVB rays, can actually cause significant eye damage over time,” Dr. Brown said. “It can range from temporary discomfort and irritation to long-term problems like cataracts and macular degeneration.”
While the normal aging process causes some cataracts, Dr. Brown said sun damage can speed up the process.
“Significant exposure to UV rays over a lifetime actually will cause cataracts to come on earlier and faster,” she said. “Just like the skin can be burned by UV rays, so can the eye, so it’s important to start wearing UV protection early.”
UV protection for your eyes doesn’t always come in the form of sunglasses, Dr. Brown said.
“You can get a clear UV protection on your regular eyeglasses, and UV protection is available in some contact lenses,” she said. “You can wear your regular, traditional sunglasses or the photo chromic lenses that actually get darker when you go outside.”
Dr. Brown advises following these five tips from the American Optometric Association to prevent further eye damage from UV radiation exposure:
- Wear protective eyewear any time your eyes are exposed to UV light, even on cloudy days and during winter months.
- Look for quality sunglasses that offer good protection. Sunglasses should block out 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation and screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light.
- Check to make sure your sunglass lenses are perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection.
- Purchase gray-colored lenses. They reduce light intensity without altering the color of objects, providing the most natural color vision.
- Don’t forget protection for children and teenagers. They typically spend more time in the sun than adults.
Some form of protection for your eyes should be present every time you go outside, she said.
“You can start protecting yourself at any point, but sooner is better,” Dr. Brown said. “I advise having children wear sunglasses with UV protection. Most people think sunglasses are cool, but they actually do serve a purpose.”
Click here to learn more about macular degeneration or cataracts.