The Importance of Wearing Sunglasses When You Are Having Fun in the Sun This Summer

July 22, 2012

Since it is summer, it is important to talk about how to prevent cataracts by being smart when you play in the sun-at the beach, on the tennis court, on the golf course, or while running, biking, etc.

Cataracts are a form of eye damage in which vision is clouded by a loss of transparency in the lens of the eye. If left untreated, cataracts can lead to blindness. Furthermore, research has shown that ultraviolet (UV) radiation increases the likelihood of certain cataracts.

A person's natural lens serves as a filter to bright light, but without protection, it may cloud at a more accelerated rate. As it becomes cloudier, vision seems less bright or less clear and may create glare or haloes. People sometimes paradoxically wear UV or tinted glasses less because it makes things "too dark"-but that actually exposes them to even more sunlight.

Look for sunglasses, glasses or contact lenses that offer 99 to 100 percent UV protection. Protective sunglasses do not have to be expensive. But it is important to select sunglasses whose product labels state they block at least 99 percent of UVB rays and 95 percent of UVA rays.

Polarized and mirror-coated lenses do not offer any protection against UV radiation. In addition, it is not clear if blue light-blocking lenses, which are usually amber in color, provide UV protection.

The simplest and most effective way to protect against UV radiation is to stay out of the sun. Wear a hat and cover-up outside, particularly when the sun is most intense (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). A wide-brimmed hat can significantly reduce eye exposure to UVB radiation. Because the sun's rays are highly reflective, sitting in the shade or under an umbrella by itself does not guarantee protection.

If you do end up with cataracts, even though you have played it smart in the sun, don't despair. Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the United States today with more than three million procedures each year. In fact, most patients can see some improvement in vision the very same day as surgery. Today, nearly any type of cataract can be removed in an efficient manner.

And, when your surgeon removes the cataract, he or she will replace it with lens implants that are UV coated, meaning that you will never be susceptible to cataracts ever again. You will still need sun protection, however, to protect your retina and macula, so your investment in sunglasses will still be worthwhile.

If you have cataracts, talk with your eye doctor to learn about your treatment options. And when having fun in the sun this summer, remember to keep your eyes protected!

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