Jeepers Creepers Protect Your Peepers
by our Health Coach

Whether they actually do it or not, most people know that it's important to protect their skin from the sun, but they may not realize that it's just as important to protect their eyes. Many are unaware that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can harm your eyes.

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), even on an overcast day, harmful UV rays can cause sunburn of both the skin and the cornea of the eye. Over time, unprotected exposure to the sun can increase the possible risk of certain types of cataracts and potentially damage the retina, which could lead to total blindness.

Everyone, including children, is at risk for sun related eye damage. The risk is higher if you spend long hours in the sun, have had cataract surgery or have certain retina disorders, or are on certain medicines, such as tetracycline, sulfa drugs, birth control pills, diuretics or tranquilizers that increase the eye's sensitivity to light.

Know that UV damage is cumulative, so it's never too late to start protecting your peepers from the harmful rays of the sun. It's important to not lose sight of ways to protect your eyes from the sun, so read on to learn more.

Sunglasses are the first and best way to protect your eyes from sun damage. You should wear sunglasses each and every time you are outside. More and more evidence shows that exposure to UV rays can damage your eyes. Long-term exposure to UV rays may cause cataracts, macular degeneration, or skin cancer around the eyelids.

When you buy sunglasses, look for a label that tells how much UV radiation the lenses reflect. Experts say that your sunglasses should block 99-100% of both UV-A and UV-B rays, which can cause skin aging and sunburns. UVC rays are blocked automatically since they are absorbed in the atmosphere and do not reach the earth. You can find more information on UV protection on the American Optometric Association Web site.

Some of the high-end brand sunglasses with glass, polycarbonate or plastic (CR-39) lenses can claim to block 100 percent of the UV rays. Sunglass standards for lenses place limits solely on UVB and UVA rays, but bear in mind that both the standards and labeling are voluntary, not mandatory. If you can't afford high-performance sunglasses, at least wear inexpensive sunglasses that offer UVA and UVB protection. To help ensure that you will wear them, choose sunglasses that reduce glare, are comfortable to wear and do not distort colors.

Wearing contact lenses that have UV protection is a good idea, because such lenses can decrease the amount of UV rays that enter the cornea and affect the eye structures beneath. But you still need to wear sunglasses over the contact lenses, because UV rays will affect the eye tissue that is not covered by the contacts. Your eyes will be more comfortable, too, with the light and glare reduction that sunglasses provide.

Protect your face with sunscreen (minimum SPF of 15) every day, even on your eyelids. Eliminate one step by using a moisturizer that contains sunscreen. Women can add additional protection by using a makeup with sunscreen. Remember to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are the most intense.

Although the sun feels less intense in the colder seasons, it is still strong enough to cause eye damage. According to the World Health Organization, normal ground surfaces and bodies of water tend to reflect less than 10 percent of UV rays, beach sand reflects an estimated 15 percent, sea foam about 25 percent, but new snow can reflect up to 80 percent!

Lastly, make sure you get routine comprehensive eye exams. They are the best way to maintain your eye health and good vision, and your eye Health Coach is a great resource to help keep you up to date on the latest in UV radiation protection. Remember to protect your peepers from UV damage so that you can enjoy a lifetime of good eyesight.

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