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Joe Harpring | The Republic Matt Battin, an avid bicyclist, knows value of good eye protection, both from errant insect traffic and sun-borne ultraviolet rays. Here Battin sports Oakley's Crosshair sunglasses. Friday July 7, 2012.
Joe Harpring | The Republic Matt Battin, an avid bicyclist, knows value of good eye protection, both from errant insect traffic and sun-borne ultraviolet rays. Here Battin sports Oakley's Monster Pup sunglasses. Friday July 7, 2012.
Wearing sunglasses is about more than making a fashion statement. Proper lenses can reduce risks for serious vision disorders and exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
And the risk is not just for adults. Dr. Melissa Webb, a Columbus optometrist, recommends everyone wear sunglasses, even children.
Young eyes are more susceptible to the damage caused by ultraviolet rays, and children’s eyes could sustain added damage if they wear sunglasses that don’t properly block UV rays.
Webb said a bargain pair of sunglasses might be dark enough to block the sun’s glare and therefore allow the child’s pupils to enlarge, letting in extra harmful UV rays.
Webb always recommends looking for labels on sunglasses for adults or children that show they protect against UV rays. If it’s not on the label, they probably do not have the protection, she said.
July is UV Safety Month, and the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has issued a reminder on the importance of sun-safe behaviors, which includes limiting exposure of UV radiation to the eyes.
Short-term exposure can cause photokeratitis, a painful condition that can result in extreme sensitivity to light, excessive tearing or feeling like there is grit or a foreign body in the eye.
Long-term exposure to UV radiation increases the chances of developing cataracts and macular degeneration, according to the council, which includes the American Cancer Society, American Optometric Association and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Webb said most of the damage to the eyes from UV radiation happens before age 18, so that’s why it is so important for children to wear sunglasses as young as possible. UV damage also is cumulative and cannot be reversed.
Skin cancer in the eye area also is a concern, Webb said.
“Ninety percent of all skin cancers are on the head and neck,” she said, adding that some cancers form on the eye lids which often can be detected during an eye exam.
The Council on Skin Cancer Prevention suggests being mindful of lifestyles that might make you at greater risk for UV radiation exposure, such as:
Spending a great deal of time outdoors
Spending time skiing, mountain climbing or at the beach
Using a sun lamp or going to a tanning parlor
Taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs that can increase your sensitivity to UV radiation
The council also recommends buying sunglasses that block out 99 percent to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B rays, different classifications of ultraviolet radiation.
Webb said she sometimes has patients who ask for sunglasses that are as “dark as I can get,” but she said the darkness of the lens alone does not determine how well they block UV rays. It depends on the materials and coatings.
John Oliver, an optician at Columbus Optical on Cottage Avenue, said good-quality sunglasses will block UV rays, provide a clear view and be comfortable to wear.
Improperly fitting sunglasses or ones that give the wearer a distorted image might give the person headaches or not be worn, defeating the purpose for having sunglasses.
According to a 2012 survey by the Vision Council, 27 percent of Americans do not wear sunglasses for eye protection. The most common reasons for neglecting their eye wear were people simply forgot to wear them, it was inconvenient or they did not believe they were at risk for sun exposure.
Oliver said larger sunglasses, including ones that wrap around the sides of the temples, provide better coverage and will block more of the sun’s rays.
He added that sunglasses with mirror finishes provide more than just a fashion element. They help reduce glare for the wearer.
Cost for good-quality sunglasses from optical offices in Columbus generally range from $49 and up. At Columbus Optical, technicians sell some of their highest quality sunglasses to soldiers heading for assignments in the sunny deserts in the Middle East.
Cross-country cyclists also need some of the highest quality sunglasses.
Matt Battin, co-owner of The Bicycle Station on Washington Street in Columbus, just returned this month from the Race Across America cycling challenge that took him and seven other riders from California to Maryland in less than a week.
Webb said this summer has been a good reminder of how hot, bright and sunny it can be and the need for sunglasses, but she recommends not forgetting the need for sunglasses in the winter.
Bright sun and white snow make for another dangerous combination for UV radiation.
Making a good choice
Source: Vision Council of America
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