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Danger! Danger! Ultra-Violet Radiation! Cover Your Eyes!

Danger! Danger! Ultra-Violet Radiation! Cover Your Eyes!

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Whether you're skiing on the slopes of the high mountains, sun tanning on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, or watching a ballgame from the bleacher seats, you should take action to shield your eyes from ultra-violet radiation. Extended exposure to UV rays without proper protection can greatly increase your risk of suffering irreversible damage to your eyes. However, learning about the effects of UV radiation and taking necessary steps to protect your eyes sooner rather than later can go a long way toward helping you preserve your vision.

Let's Learn the ABCs

There are three different types of UV radiation: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. The most dangerous type of UV radiation (and the type of radiation responsible for golden tans, sunburns, eye damage, and skin cancer) is known as UV-B radiation. While UV-A radiation is harmlessly absorbed by the lens of the eye and UV-C radiation is absorbed by the upper atmosphere of our planet, UV-B radiation is capable of causing damage to the skin and eyes.

Your skin can adapt to ultra-violet radiation by producing more melanin, improving the skin's resistance to the effects of UV-B exposure. Your eyes, however, do not develop a tolerance to UV-B radiation; indeed, they become more sensitive with continuous exposure. The damage that UV exposure causes to the eye is cumulative and, over time, can result in retinal damage, photokeratitis (a painful temporary blindness also known as "snow blindness"), growths on the eye, cataracts, and macular degeneration. By taking simple precautionary measures, however, you and your loved ones can defend your eyes against the blinding light of day with confidence and comfort.

How Can I Protect My Eyes?

Introducing simple steps into your daily routine can help you protect your eyes from the dangers of UV-B exposure. Taking the following actions is an easy and effective way of combating the effects of UV rays. Even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of UV rays can reach your eye, so it is always helpful to be prepared.

Wear Protective Eyewear

Wearing sunglasses is the best way of shielding your eyes from ultra-violet radiation. Even individuals who wear contact lenses with UV shielding can benefit from wearing sunglasses, as contact lenses still leave portions of the eye exposed. When selecting a pair of sunglasses, if at all possible, try to select large, close-fitting lenses that wrap around and cover your peripheral view. If you can find a style you like that will shield your eyes with big, wraparound lenses, you're on the right track.

Choose a Quality Pair of Sunglasses

Perhaps the most important consideration when choosing a pair of sunglasses is how comfortable they are. A pair of sunglasses may have the opacity of a welding mask, but if you don't wear them, what's the point? Choosing a pair of comfortable and ergonomic glasses means that you'll wear them more often, which is a sure fire way to limit your eye's exposure to UV rays. Another factor that is extremely important is UV shielding. The lenses of the sunglasses should block 99 to 100 percent of UV rays and 75 to 90 percent of visible light. Polycarbonate, glass, and plastic (CR-39) lenses are all capable of blocking UV radiation when treated with a UV-resistant chemical coating. Wearing a low-quality pair of sunglasses can actually be more detrimental than wearing no sunglasses at all, as your dilated eyes will be exposed to more UV-B radiation. When it is bright outside and your eyes are unprotected, you will naturally squint to shield your eyes.

Inspect Your Sunglasses

To avoid any risk of UV damage, as well as blurred vision, lack of focus, or headaches, you should inspect your lenses to ensure that they are free of imperfections. If the lenses are scratched, flawed, misshapen, or even slightly different colors, it can pose a problem. Thoroughly inspecting sunglasses is also a good way to determine if a "questionable" or "cheap" pair of glasses is worth buying. If the glasses have proper UV protection and the lenses are uniform, then you can return home with the satisfaction that you bought a quality pair of glasses at a bargain price.

Wear a Hat

There are a multitude of different hats to fit every style and need, including wide-brimmed hats, baseball caps, sun hats, sombreros, trucker hats, visors, and "floppy" hats. If you are looking to buy a hat, odds are that there's one out there with your name on it. The benefits of wearing a hat are somewhat self-explanatory and go beyond showing team pride or covering up bed-head. By blocking the UV rays from the sun (and the visible light), your eyes are afforded a break on a bright, sunny day. However, it is important to realize that while the bill or brim of a hat may be able to block direct UV rays, a hat cannot shield your eyes from reflected UV rays. That is why, whenever possible, you should wear sunglasses outside.

Wear Gray-Colored Lenses

Though the UV protection is more important than the color of the lenses, gray lenses are beneficial because they reduce the light intensity without altering the color of objects. The color preference is really up to the consumer though; the priority should be to find lenses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV radiation.

Get Protective Eyewear for Your Children 

Children's eyes are especially susceptible to the ill effects of UV rays because they transmit more UV radiation to the retina than the eyes of an adult do. If you have children, you should make sure that their eyes are adequately protected from the sun. The cumulative effects of UV exposure from childhood into adulthood can result in serious eye damage or even cancer. Starting the pattern of having your children wear eye protection when they're young, and acting as a role model by wearing eye protection yourself, will set an example your children can carry into adulthood.

May Your Future Be Bright and Your Lenses UV Shielded

If you don't regularly wear eye protection or you're still depending on that cheap pair of aviators that you picked up at the gas station (like me!), it might be time to finally go out and purchase a pair of quality sunglasses with UV protection. You may actually have fun shopping for a new pair of shades, and it doesn't have to be expensive. If you do find yourself spending a lot of money, though, take solace in the fact that your exorbitantly priced sunglasses are actually insurance policies for your eyes.

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