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May is Ultraviolet Awareness Month


The majority of Americans are aware of the dangers of Ultraviolet (UV) rays to your skin, (particularly sunburn and skin cancer) and the necessity of using sunblock and using other protective measures particularly during the blazing summer months. What is less known is that ultraviolet rays and other harmful types of radiation from the sun can also cause severe damage to your eyes.

If you are thinking of leaving the house without sunglasses, think again. Extended exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation has been seen to be a cause of damage to the eye.

Risks of UV Eye Exposure

Exposure to large quantities of ultraviolet radiation for a short amount of time is known to lead to a ''sunburn on the eye'', which results in pain, blurry vision or even temporary vision loss. Long-term UV exposure can result in more threatening eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and others, all of which can cause loss of sight. Just like the real sun, tanning beds pose a serious risk of overexposure to UV.

How to Choose Protective Sunglasses

For sufficient UV defense, sunglasses should completely block all UV rays. Stick with shades that specify they are ''UV 400'', which indicates that they block all light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers (which includes both UVA and UVB rays, both known to enter the atmosphere).

You also want to choose sunglasses with full eye coverage. Wraparound sunglasses can block harmful ultraviolet light from coming in through the backside of the sunglasses.

Those whose work or recreation involves extensive exposure to light from the sun are at the most risk for UV eye damage. UV can be reflected from bright areas such as snow, water, and white sand and presents the greatest threat from 10 am to 3 pm and during the summer months. UV radiation levels increase as you get closer to the equator and at high altitudes. It's important to consult with an optometrist and to be aware of the hazards of UV exposure. Simply putting on your sunglasses can be the answer to saving your precious vision. 

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