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Not All Sunglasses Are Created Equal

Pick shades with UV protection, and wear them a lot, optometrists urge

SUNDAY, June 21 (HealthDay News) -- Price and style -- not protection from the sun's harmful rays -- are most people's main considerations when buying sunglasses, a new survey has found.

But that's not a good thing, health-wise, says the American Optometric Association, which conducted the survey.

"Overexposure to UV [ultraviolet] rays has been linked to a variety of problems, including age-related cataracts and degeneration of the cornea," Dr. Gregory W. Good, an optometrist and association spokesman, said in a news release from the group. "Other disorders that can occur are abnormal growths on the eye's surface and even sunburn of the eyes. These conditions can cause blurred vision, irritation, redness, tearing, temporary vision loss and, in some instances, blindness."

He recommends that people wear quality sunglasses that offer proper UV protection and a wide-brimmed hat whenever they're outside. Some contact lenses, Good noted, contain a UV blocker that helps protect the eyes.

To prevent UV-related eye damage, the association recommends that people:

  • Wear UV-protective eyewear even on cloudy days and in the winter.
  • Select quality sunglasses or contact lenses that block out 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation and screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light.
  • Make sure that sunglass lenses are perfectly matched in color and free of distortions or imperfections.
  • Select gray-colored lenses because they reduce light intensity without altering the color of objects, which means they provide the most natural color vision.
  • Get regular eye exams to monitor eye health, maintain good vision and keep up-to-date on the latest in UV protection.

It's also especially important, the association said, for young children and teens to have UV-protective eyewear because they typically spend more time in the sun than adults, putting them at greater risk for eye damage.

More information

The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers eye safety tips.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Optometric Association, news release, May 28, 2009

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