When it comes to eye health, most damage comes from UV light, and the risk greatly increases during summertime, when we're doing more activities outside.
“Sunlight literally cooks the retina,” says optometrist Dr. Rupe Hansra, LensCrafters’ senior director of eye care. “Over time it becomes yellow and hard, and we begin to lose good vision.”
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Wearing sunglasses year-round protects the retina from damaging UVA and UVB light and can help delay the onset of cataracts, macular degeneration and even basal cell carcinomas on the eyelids.
“The most common part of the body for skin cancer is the tip of the nose," Hansra says. "The second is the lower eyelid, which is very delicate and susceptible to sun damage."
So how do you choose a good pair? Here are Hansra's tips:
Just as sunscreen has an SPF, look for a number: “For eye protection, a label that says UV400 is what people should look for on sunglasses.”
Size counts: “Typically, bigger is better. Choose large sunglasses that wrap around and block light coming from the side.”
Get 'em polarized: “For driving, everyone should wear polarized sunglasses to cut down glare, which is related to so many accidents. Polarized sunglasses not only save your eyes, but could save your life too.”
What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is the deterioration of the macular, which contains the eye’s highest concentration of cells and is where color and 20/20 vision occurs. Besides UV light, genetics and smoking, obesity hastens its decline: “Diet and exercise play a huge part in eye health. Folks who have heart problems are at risk for eye problems. I always tell patients what’s good for your heart is good for the eye. Beta-carotene, omega 3s and, most of all, lutein keep eyes healthy. Lutein is found in green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, and most berries too.”
Fighting the rumors
A recent report by Dr. Edward Kondrot, founder of Healing The Eye & Wellness Center in Florida, claims that sunglasses harm vision by interfering with pupil dilation, which happens naturally to protect the macular in harsh light.
“When you wear sunglasses your pupils dilate slightly, similar to what happens when you enter a dark room or go outside at night," says Hansra. "As long as you have sunglasses with UV400 protection, pupil dilation isn’t a concern."
Unsure about your glasses' protection level? Your local LensCrafters or optometrist can test the UV prescription.
In this new weekly section, we'll have an expert give us one easy tip that can change your life. This week's tip comes from Dr. Linda K. Franks, medical director of Gramercy Park Dermatology, assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine and spokeswoman for The Skin Cancer Foundation.
“Protect your scalp, face and neck from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays with tightly woven, wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses.”