May is Ultraviolet Awareness Month

Exposure to UV rays can burn delicate eye tissue and raise the risk of developing cataracts and eye cancer. Sunglasses help.

woman wearing hat and sunglasses

Proper sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat reduce exposure to UV rays.

Ultraviolet Awareness

The sun releases energy (radiation) in many forms. The sunlight we see is one form. The heat we feel from the sun is another. Ultraviolet (UV) rays, a third type, are also invisible to the eye. UV rays cause sunburn. They can also damage your eyes and hurt your vision.

There are two types of UV rays: UV-A and UV-B. Over time, the effects of UV rays may help cause a number of eye problems.

UV-A can hurt your central vision. It can damage the macula, a part of the retina at the back of your eye.

UV-BThe front part of your eye (the cornea and the lens) absorbs most UV-B rays, but these rays may cause even more damage to your eyes than UV-A rays.

What Eye Problems Can UV Rays Cause?

Macular Degeneration

UV rays may lead to macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss for older Americans.

Cataract

UV rays, especially UV-B rays, may also cause some kinds of cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, the part of the eye that focuses the light we see.

Pterygium

Another UV-related problem is a growth called pterygium. This growth begins on the white of the eye and may involve the cornea. Eventually, the growth may block vision. It is more common in people who work outside in the sun and wind.

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer around the eyelids is also linked to prolonged UV exposure.

Corneal Sunburn

Corneal sunburn, called photokeratitis, is the result of high short-term exposure to UV-B rays. Long hours at the beach or skiing without proper eye protection can cause this problem. It can be very painful and may cause temporary vision loss.

You can protect your eyes from UV rays in two important ways:

  1. Know the dangers of UV rays.
  2. Wear proper eye protection and hats that block UV rays.

UV rays can come from many directions. They radiate directly from the sun, but they are also reflected from the ground, from water, snow, sand and other bright surfaces.

Wear Sunglasses and a Brimmed Hat

Use eyewear that absorbs UV rays and wear a brimmed hat or cap.

A wide-brimmed hat or cap will block about half of UV rays. A brimmed hat or cap can also limit UV rays that hit the eyes from above or around glasses.

Eyewear that absorbs UV rays gives you the most protection. All types of eyewear, including prescription and non-prescription glasses, contact lenses and lens implants, should absorb UV-A and UV-B rays. For UV protection in everyday eyewear, there are several options like UV-blocking lens materials, coatings and photochromic lenses. UV protection does not cost a lot of money and does not get in the way of seeing clearly.

Focus on Sports Eye Safety

sports eye gogglesParents, Teachers and Coaches Can Help Prevent Sports-Related Eye Injuries

Parents and coaches play an important role in making sure young athletes protect their eyes and properly gear up for the game. Protective eyewear should be part of any uniform because it plays such an important role in reducing sports-related eye injury.

Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States, and most injuries occurring in school-aged children are sports-related. These injuries account for an estimated 100,000 physician visits per year at a cost of more than $175 million.

Ninety percent of sports-related eye injuries can be avoided with the use of protective eyewear. Protective eyewear includes safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards designed for a particular sport. Ordinary prescription glasses, contact lenses, and sunglasses do not protect against eye injuries. Safety goggles should be worn over them.

Most youth sports leagues do not require the use of eye protection. Parents and coaches must insist that children wear safety glasses or goggles whenever they play.

Protective eyewear, which is made of ultra-strong polycarbonate, is 10 times more impact-resistant than other plastics, and does not reduce vision. All children who play sports should use protective eyewear-not just those who wear eyeglasses or contact lenses. For children who do wear glasses or contact lenses, most protective eyewear can be made to match their prescriptions. It is especially important for student athletes who have vision in only one eye or a history of eye injury or eye surgery to use protective eyewear.

Whether you are a parent, teacher, or coach, you can encourage schools to adopt a policy on protective eyewear. Meanwhile, parents and coaches should insist that children wear protective eyewear whenever they play sports and be good role models and wear it themselves.

Sources: Harrison, A., & Telander, D.G. (2002). Eye Injuries in the youth athlete: a case-based approach. Sports Medicine, 31(1), 33-40.

For More Information

For more information about sports-related activities and protective eyewear, visit:

 

Courtesy: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health (NEI/NIH)

The National Eye Institute (NEI) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is the Federal government’s lead agency for vision research that leads to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing visual impairment and blindness.

Protect Your Eyes at Work

Protect Your Vision in the Workplace to Keep Eyes Healthy

As more people of all ages increase the amount of screen time, through computers, tablet devices, smartphones, etc., the risk of digital eye strain also increases.

computer use in officeAccording to a recent report from the Vision Council, “Eyes Overexposed: The Digital Device Dilemma,” nearly nine in 10 adults spend more than two hours each day using a digital device, with one in 10 people spending at least three-fourths of their waking hours on a digital device. Digital Eye Strain is defined as “physical discomfort felt after prolonged exposure to digital screens.” Symptoms may include dry and irritated eyes, blurred vision, eye fatigue, neck and back pain and headaches.

The Vision Council also states that most digital devices have light-emitting diodes (LED) that radiate blue wave-length light. Cumulative blue light exposure has been linked to slow degeneration of the retina, which could affect long-term vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.

In 2015, Prevent Blindness began a partnership with Healthe and its EyeSafe™ technologies. Healthe will donate a portion of the sales of its EyeSafe products, including protective covers for digital phones, tablets and computer monitors that reduce exposure to harmful digital UV and High-Energy Visible (HEV) blue light emitted from such devices, to Prevent Blindness in support of its children’s eye health programs and resources.

For those who work outside of an office setting, Prevent Blindness warns of common causes for eye injuries and urges everyone to wear the proper eye protection for risks that include:

  • Flying objects (bits of metal, glass)
  • Tools
  • Particles
  • Chemicals
  • Harmful radiation
  • Any combination of these or other hazards

“No matter where you work, in an office setting or in an industrial career, your vision must be a priority,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness. “Taking care of our eyes today will have a tremendous impact on our future. We encourage everyone to talk to their eye care professionals to make sure they are doing everything they can to protect the gift of sight.”