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Just Like Skin, Eyes Can 'Burn' in Strong Sun

Kids, teens more susceptible to sun-related vision damage without proper protection

SUNDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- Don't overlook your eyes when you're thinking about ultraviolet (UV) protection as the weather heats up, experts say.

Overexposure to the sun's UV rays has been linked to a number of eye problems, such as age-related cataracts, pterygium, photokeratitis and corneal degenerative changes, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA).

These conditions can cause blurred vision, irritation, redness, tearing, temporary vision loss and, in some cases, blindness.

"Just as skin is 'burned' by UV radiation, the eye can also suffer damage. The lesson -- especially for young people -- is that eyes need protection, too. Protection can be achieved by simple, safe and inexpensive methods such as wearing a brimmed hat and using eyewear that properly absorbs UV radiation," Gregory Good, a member of AOA's commission on ophthalmic standards, said in a prepared statement.

Children and teens are particularly susceptible to sun-related eye damage, because they typically spend more time outdoors than adults, and the lenses of their eyes are more transparent than those of adults, which means that more harmful light can reach the retina.

But it appears many people still don't fully understand the danger the UV rays pose to eyes.

A 2007 AOA survey found that 40 percent of Americans don't think UV protection is an important factor to consider when buying sunglasses. The survey also found that 61 percent of Americans buy sunglasses for their children, but 23 percent don't check if the lenses provide protection against UV rays.

The AOA offers the following advice about sunglasses:

  • Wear protective eyewear any time your eyes are exposed to UV radiation, even on cloudy days and during the winter.
  • Purchase quality sunglasses that offer good UV protection. They should block out 99 percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation and screen out 75 percent to 90 percent of visible light.
  • Make sure sunglass lenses are perfectly matched in color and free of distortions or imperfections.
  • Buy gray-colored lenses. They reduce light-intensity without altering the color of objects, providing the most natural color vision.
  • Make sure children and teens wear sunglasses. They typically spend more time in the sun than adults.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about sun exposure.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Optometric Association, news release, May 2008

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