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Think UV Damage Only Occurs in the Summer? Think Again

The sun’s Ultraviolet light rays (UV) are known to cause a variety of health issues. We all know sunscreen is highly recommended by doctors for skin; however, the sun can do similar damage to eyes that are unprotected from UV rays. One potential problem is increasing the probability of cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens and is the leading cause of blindness worldwide and the leading cause of vision loss in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control.

A new study from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio goes beyond previous beliefs that UV rays aid in the development of cataracts to actually say how. UV rays can replace oxygen in the cornea causing an oxidative reaction that can cause damage to proteins in the eye’s lens. The study used a mouse model to give a detailed view of exactly how the damage happens.

The results emphasize the importance of wearing sunglasses every day eyeglasses that offer the most complete protection from UV. UV coating to protect eyes from sun damage. However, there are other things everyone should do to protect their eyes from sun damage based on advice from the American Association of Ophthalmology:

  • Don’t think when summer is over that your eyes no longer need protection from the sun. “Sun damage to eyes can occur anytime during the year, not just in the summertime, so be sure to wear UV-blocking sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats whenever you’re outside.”
  • Be careful spending too much sun or going without sun protection for too long on cloudy days, too. “Don’t be fooled by clouds: the sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds.”
  • Don’t sun gaze. “Never look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the sun at any time, including during an eclipse, can lead to solar retinopathy, which is damage to the eye’s retina from solar radiation.”
  • Remind family to also stay protected. “Don’t forget the kids and older family members: everyone is at risk, including children and senior citizens. Protect their eyes with hats and polarized sunglasses.”

Bottom line: Stay protected from UV rays when outside. Cataracts are just one symptom that can happen from overexposure to the sun.

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