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Eyes Need Protection From Sun’s Damaging Rays

By Vicki K. Hermansen:

INDIANAPOLIS – Summer has officially arrived, allowing more time for outdoor pursuits, including playing and watching Indianapolis sports, working in the yard and vacationing at the beach. While most adults – and some Indianapolis kids – know the importance of protecting their skin with sunscreen, not everyone knows the importance of protecting their eyes.

It’s important to remember protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and eye growths that could include cancer, according to eye doctors at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute at Indiana University and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

“It’s important to wear sunglasses that block the harmful UV rays from potentially damaging the eyes,” said Daniel Spitzberg, M.D., an ophthalmologist with the Glick Eye Institute. “Simply wearing sunglasses that block UV rays can lessen the risk for potentially blinding eye diseases.”

Eyes are at risk year-round to injury from UV rays, but the problem is compounded during the summer months when the days are longer and people spend more time outside. Excessive exposure to UV rays, and reflection from water, sand or pavement, can cause lasting damage, Spitzberg notes.

UV exposure can cause damage to the eye’s surface tissues, the cornea and lens, Spitzberg said. UV radiation comes from natural sunlight and from artificial sources, such as tanning beds. UV radiation can burn the front of the eye, much like the sun’s effects on the skin that results in a sun burn.

Spitzberg said it’s important to begin protecting the eyes at an early age – toddlers and young children should wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats to protect their eyes from damaging rays. Look for sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV and UV-B rays; they can be found in all price points at a variety of Indianapolis businesses. Consider wraparound sunglass frames if you plan to be outside for long periods of time because UV rays can enter from the side, top and bottom of sunglasses.

“Individuals who wear contact lenses with UV protection also should wear sunglasses,
as UV rays can affect the tissue that is not covered by the contact lens,” Spitzberg said.

The longer the exposure to bright light, the greater the risk, Spitzberg said. Protect your vision by following these tips for safe fun in the summer sun:

  • Total protection – Purchase sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV protection. Don’t focus on the color of the lens or the cost of the glasses – the ability to block UV light is not determined by the price tag. Sunglasses that block UV rays can be found at all prices.
  • Side view – Wraparound sunglasses are best as they prevent the sun’s rays from entering at the sides of the glasses.
  • Cap it – Wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your eyes. Make sure you also wear your sunglasses.
  • Contact lenses – Wear sunglasses even if your contact lenses have UV protection. UV rays can damage eye tissue not covered by the lenses.
  • Cloudy days – Don’t be fooled by clouds – wear sunglasses even on days when clouds appear to block the sun’s rays. And damage can occur in any season, so always wear sunglasses when you are outside.
  • Peak times – Protect your eyes during peak sun times, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Kids, too – Remember to protect children’s eyes with hats and sunglasses.

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The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute, currently under construction on the Indiana University – Purdue University (IUPUI) campus, will become the new home of the Department of Ophthalmology in 2011. For more than 100 years, doctors and staff in the Department have provided excellent patient care, educated physicians, advanced clinical and biomedical research in vision sciences and offered humanitarian service to the citizens of Indiana. Learn more about the Department of Ophthalmology at www.iueye.iu.edu

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Mike Woods