Weekly Wellness: Put Those Shades On

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COLUMBIA - You would think I might be making this one up, but I’m not. Today is National Sunglasses Day. (No, a sunglass manufacturer didn’t create this one.) National Sunglasses Day is held annually on June 27. It is not only an observance but a reminder that our shades are a health necessity and it is important to wear sunglasses or other UV-protective eyewear every day to protect long-term eye health.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is most often associated with sunburns and skin cancer but the truth is that some of the most damaging impact of UV radiation is to our vision. The problem originates with the sun’s unfiltered ultraviolet (UV) rays. Just as these rays can burn skin cells, they can also harm unprotected eyes. A full day outside without wearing eye protection can cause immediate, temporary issues such as swollen or red eyes and hypersensitivity to light. Years of cumulative exposure can cause even more serious conditions.

(Source: http://nationalsunglassesday.com/sunglasses/)

UV exposure can cause short-term and long-term effects on eye health. People with blue eyes are more at risk for UV damage than those with brown eyes, experts say.

Sunburn of the eye, or photokeratitis (also known as ''snow blindness") can cause loss of vision for up to 48 hours.

Long-term, excess UV exposure can cause a variety of eye problems, including:

  • "Surfer's eye," also known as pterygium is an abnormal but usually benign growth on the eye's surface. It can itch, swell, and become irritated. It can be surgically removed but may come back.
  • Cataracts is a progressive clouding of the lens of the eye.
  • Age-related macular degeneration causes damage to the nerve cell in the macula can dull colors and blur fine detail in your vision.
  • Cancer of the eye, eyelid, or nearby skin.

So what's the best thing you can do? Wear your shades!

  • Choose shades that protect from both UVA and UVB rays (it will say so on the lens sticker).
  • Wear your shades everyday (even when it's not sunny or bright) - the sun's rays can still sneak through the clouds.
  • It's never too early to put shades on your kids. Make sure they are protecting their eyes during their time outside.