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Pledge “EyeWill” For Sun Protection

By Essilor News

Mike Roggi

When Mike Roggi, a St. Louis native who spent more than 40 years in the Army Reserves, noticed his eyesight worsening in 2005, he thought it was simply due to age. Seven years later, he had a cataract removed from his left eye and will have another one removed from his right eye in the near future. “I very rarely wore sunglasses outside,” he says. “I remember hearing that UV rays could damage your eyes, but I didn’t really think twice about it.”

It’s a reality many people don’t realize. Just like UV rays can give you a sunburn after only a short time outside, they can also harm your eyes, affect your vision and speed up the advancement of conditions like cataracts, which is the clouding of the lens that can lead to a decrease in vision.

Dr. Harold Sy, M.D., an ophthalmologist at the Chicago Eye Institute and member of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, says the sun contributes to the progression of conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that’s one of the leading causes of vision loss in the world.

“Cataracts and macular degeneration can and will occur because of age alone, but patients who have a higher amount of sun exposure are at a greater risk for developing both conditions sooner, or having more severe cataracts,” Sy explains. “Aside from those two conditions, exposing your eyes to the sun frequently and without protection can cause unpleasant side effects like irritation, dry eyes and headaches.”

UV and Your Eyes

The sun emits three types of rays: UVC rays, which are absorbed by the ozone layer and considered less threatening, and UVA and UVB rays, which can do short- and long-term damage to your eyes and eyesight. According to Sy, many patients don’t realize they can get skin cancer (melanoma) on their eyelids or, although extremely rare, even melanoma in their eyes.

When it comes to minimizing damage to your eyes from the sun, Janelle Routhier, O.D., F.A.A.O., senior director of customer development at Essilor, recommends a trifecta approach. “Wearing sunglasses is a must, but you really need three things to protect yourself: proper frames and lens protection; sunscreen on your face, particularly on the thin skin around your eyes; and a wide-brimmed hat,” she says.

In addition, when looking for the right pair of  sunglasses, choose a lens with comprehensive protection against UVA and UVB rays (preferably with protection on both sides of the lens), and opt for larger shapes — the bigger the frame, the better — to reduce the amount of light that can come in around the lenses.

“You’re definitely taking a risk when you go outdoors and don’t wear sunglasses — one that can be reduced very easily,” Sy says. “When you grab your sunblock, grab your shades, too — your eyes will thank you later.”

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