In the midst of summer, many of us are eager to get outside and enjoy the sun. But without proper protection from UV rays, the sun can do more harm than good, especially to our eyesight. Dr. Rachel Bishop, ophthalmologist at the National Eye Institute, discusses the dangers of UV rays to the eyes and what we can do to preserve our eye health.
The most basic protective measure from UV radiation is a pair of sunglasses, which block both UVA and UVB rays. Most sunglasses already do this, so the important thing is to remember to put them on. Cloudy days are just as dangerous as sunny days, because UV light can penetrate through most obstructions in the atmosphere. Although some contacts and eyeglasses may block UV rays as well, they are not a substitute for sunglasses, Bishop says. Furthermore, people with light-colored eyes should be extra vigilant, because they are especially susceptible to UV light affecting their eyesight. Besides damaging the macula and retina, UV rays can also damage the lens of the eye, hastening the onset of cataracts.
In addition to protecting against UV rays, Bishop encourages people to take two other precautions concerning their eye health and safety. First, she says it is important to know your family medical history with eye disease, and, second, she encourages everyone to have an eye exam. Over 23 million Americans have never had an eye exam and may be unaware of an existing eye condition. Taking preemptive measures, like being aware of family history, having a regular eye exam, and consistently wearing sunglasses, will help your eyes stay protected and healthy for years to come.
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- Dr. Rachel Bishop, ophthalmologist at the National Eye Institute