FEATURE — As summer approaches in Southern Utah, most people understand the importance of using sunblock to protect their skin from the damaging UV rays of the sun. But some may not know it is equally important to use proper eye protection to prevent ultraviolet radiation from damaging their eyes.
The anatomy of the eye is such that UV exposure can damage the retina, said Dr. Ryan Robison, an optometrist at SouthWest Vision.
One contributing factor in why people develop macular degeneration – the deterioration of the macula, which is the small central area of the retina of the eye that controls visual acuity – is because of exposure to ultraviolet radiation, Robison said.
A lifetime accumulation of UV ray exposure can also be a contributing factor to the development of cataracts, he said.
If a person is outside and not wearing sunglasses, glasses or contact lenses with UV protection, their eyes are at risk for exposure to the ultraviolet radiation from the sun and the possible development of macular degeneration and/or cataracts.
Likewise, Robison said, if a person does not wear appropriate sun protection on their eyes, their exposed eyelids are at risk of developing skin cancer.
Therefore it is critical for all people – whether they need vision correction or not – to wear appropriate eye protection when outside.
Proper sun protection for the eyes
Traditional glasses will typically have some UV protection added to them in the form of a coating or the material they are made from, Robison said.
However, traditional glasses don’t do anything to alleviate the brightness or glare of the sun.
To avoid brightness and glare, persons who need vision correction have the option of prescription sunglasses or photochromic – or transitioning – lenses, which darken in bright light and become lighter in low light.
Most contact lenses contain UV protection, Robison said, but users should make sure to read the packaging and labels on their lenses to be sure they have a UV blocker built in.
Robison said those who wear contact lenses, even if they have UV protection, should consider wearing sunglasses and/or a wide-brimmed hat to protect the outside of the eye from UV ray exposure to minimize the risk of skin cancer.
Sunglasses will help protect the inside of the eye from retinal damage due to UV exposure as well as the outside of the eye from skin damage, Robison said.
Most sunglasses contain UV protection, he said, but not all sunglasses are equal.
The American Academy of Ophthalmolgy recommends consumers purchase sunglasses that block 99 percent or 100 percent of all UV light. According to their website: “Some manufacturers’ labels say ‘UV absorption up to 400nm.’ This is the same thing as 100 percent UV absorption.”
Inexpensive sunglasses may protect your eyes from sun damage, but because they are made with cheaper materials, they are limited in the optics quality, including clarity and UV protection. The frames are also made of low quality and are prone to break more easily or not hold a comfortable fit.
“You get what you pay for in sunglasses,” Robison said, adding that the consumer will be able to recognize the quality in the frame based on how it feels and sits on a person’s face.
The main issue with cheaper sunglasses, however, is the quality of the lens, Robison said.
Many inexpensive sunglasses have lower clarity optics and a lower quality of lens and UV coating. Many cheaper sunglasses have a UV protective coating that is sprayed on, Robison said, but often, through extended use and cleaning, users will wipe the majority of the UV protective coating off.
More expensive sunglasses offer better quality lenses, better UV protection and added options such as polarization.
Polarized lenses offer UV protection as well as the ability to block reflected glare. These offer an advantage to wearers when they are driving or participating in outdoor activities, particularly on the water.
Several other styles of sunglasses and models of lenses are available, from lenses that block infrared light or blue light to mirrored and gradient lenses.
SouthWest Vision has a large selection of sunglasses to choose from. Customers with vision correction needs can have their prescription built in to almost any of the sunglasses lenses they offer. Patients who need glasses also have the option of photochromic lenses.
SouthWest Vision also caters to customers who don’t have vision correction needs. The advantage of purchasing sunglasses from SouthWest Vision as opposed to any other retailer, Robison said, is consistency of care and service from experienced and certified opticians.
When a customer purchases sunglasses through SouthWest Vision, he said, the business becomes the go-to place for that customer to come with any issues that may arise with their frames, lenses or any parts of the sunglasses. Additionally, the staff at SouthWest Vision have excellent relationships with their vendors and sales reps, which is shared with the customer in accessibility to the manufacturer of the sunglasses.
“It’s just a higher level touch of care,” Robison said.
As the days grow longer and people spend more time outdoors, Robison said the goal is to educate people on the need to keep their eyes protected at all times.
About SouthWest Vision
SouthWest Vision is a premier eye and vision care provider that has been bringing quality eye care to Southern Utah for 20 years. SouthWest Vision has won Best of State in both eye care and optical care several times. They are the most awarded doctors in Southern Utah, Robison said.
The clinic sees both scheduled patients and eye emergencies. The SouthWest Vision team is dedicated to uncompromising medical eye care, applying the latest science and technology to every eye assessment. At Southwest Vision they believe early detection of eye disease is key to preventing devastating loss of vision later in life.
The dedicated team of doctors and staff want the patient to experience world-class optical care and have confidence in their vision. To learn more about SouthWest Vision or to schedule an appointment visit their website.
Written by HOLLIE REINA, St. George News.
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