More than 55 percent of adults in the United States lose or break their sunglasses every year, according to a new report by The Vision Council. For these and the 27 percent of adults who do not wear sunglasses, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation could end up costing them a lot more than a new pair of shades. The report, Finding Your Shades, Protecting Your Vision, outlines the long and short term effects that can occur as a result of cumulative UV exposure, and the protective measures necessary to prevent them.
UV radiation remains a threat to eye health, yet few understand the risk and consequences of cumulative UV exposure. The report includes recent survey findings from The Vision Council that found that 20 percent of people do not feel that their eyes are at risk for sun exposure and 11 percent do not believe that unprotected exposure to UV rays causes health problems. The survey also found that many Americans aren't protecting their eyes – or their children's eyes – with proper use of sunglasses.
UV rays can penetrate the internal structures of the eye, causing serious temporary and permanent vision disorders. Short term damage can range from bloodshot or sensitive eyes, to painful conditions like photokeratitis (sunburn of the eye). Meanwhile high doses of UV radiation can lead to long term health issues like cataracts, abnormal eye growths, cancer of the eye and surrounding skin, and macular degeneration.
"Sunglasses and other UV protective prescription eyewear remain the best defense against UV damage to vision," said Paul Michelson, M.D., chairperson of the Better Vision Institute. "In my practice, I've seen firsthand the painful and sometimes devastating consequences of unprotected UV eye exposure, most of which could be prevented by using UV-blocking sunglasses."
To mitigate UV-risk, The Vision Council outlines information consumers need to know when purchasing sunglasses:
- Purchase sunglasses with both UVA and UVB protection.
- Consider comfort; sunglasses won't get worn if they aren't comfortable.
- Buy from a reputable retailer.
- Talk with a retailer about the best lens and frame options for your face shape, activities and lifestyle.
- Select a lens color that improves clarity and reduces glare.