Dr. Nick Colatrella is vice president and a spokesperson for the Minnesota Optometric Association. He is quoted in the following release from the MOA about the effects of UV rays on our eyes, some surprising facts and what we need to look for in protective eyewear. Even babies need the UV eye protection.
UV protection for eyes is vital yet most of us don’t wear sunglasses
New survey shows awareness about eye and vision-related UV damage is low
According to a recent survey by the American Optometric Association, only 40 percent of Americans are wearing sunglasses outdoors for ultraviolet ray protection. The eye health risks are substantial, said Dr. Nicholas Colatrella, vice president of the Minnesota Optometric Association and owner of PineCone Vision Center, Sartell.
“When people purchase sunglasses they are usually thinking about fit and style rather than UV ray protection,” Dr. Colatrella said. “Not all sunglasses offer the right protection for the skin or the eyelid as well as the cornea, lens and other parts of the eye.”
Even babies and small children need UV ray eye protection. The lenses of children’s eyes are more transparent than those of adults, allowing a shorter wavelength light to reach the retina.
The effects of solar radiation are cumulative.
What to look for in sunglasses:
UV ray protection does not have to be expensive.
To provide adequate protection for your eyes, sunglasses should:
▪ Block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation
▪ Screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light
▪ Be perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection
▪ Have frames that wrap around if you spend a lot of time outdoors
▪ Have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition
▪ Have a frame that fits close to the eyes and is contoured to the shape of the head, in order to prevent exposure to UV radiation from all sides, even behind
- Polarized lenses reduce reflected glare. These lenses are popular for skiing, fishing and driving.
- For sports or hazardous-work-impact resistance: The lenses in sunglasses should be made from polycarbonate or Trivex® material.
What exposure to the sun’s UV rays can mean for your eyes:
A “sunburn” of the cornea, or photokeratitus. Symptoms can include excessive tearing, gritty feeling in the eyes and red eyes.
Long term, continued exposure of the eyes to UV radiation can age them prematurely, and can cause:
- Eye cancer
- Pterygium, an abnormal growth of the covering of the white of the eye onto the cornea.
- Damage to the retina, which may lead to macular degeneration.
Be sure to wear protective sunglasses on either sunny or cloudy days. Water, sand and white cement reflect the suns rays.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat if you plan to be out in the sun.
The Minnesota Optometric Association has more than 400 member doctors of optometry around the state. The MOA is committed to furthering awareness of optometrists as primary eye care or family eye doctors and to bringing about change that positively impacts the MOA member doctors and their patients. For more information on the MOA, visit http://Minnesota.aoa.org.