The Need for Sunglasses

I was flipping through a vintage “Seventeen” magazine a while back and I came across an advertisement for whiter teeth. The product being sold – Baby Oil.

I was baffled. What in the world? Why would I rub baby oil on my teeth?

It is such a sign of the times – the message in the ad was to use Baby Oil on your skin to maximize your tan and your teeth would look whiter!

Can you imagine???? With all the information and knowledge we have about the dangers of the sun, we take it for granted that people always knew that the UV pumping down from the heavens was wreaking havoc on the cells of our bodies.

Protecting your eyes from the dangers of UV and HEV rays is easy and fashionable – there really is no reason to not take care of your eyes. When I find a brand of sunglasses that I like (and right now I’m addicted to Cerjo) I get a few pairs. I keep one in my car, one by the door and my favorite pair on top of my head as a hair band so as soon as I open the door I can flip them down to my nose and be set.

I truly believe that one day people will look at photos of people frolicking at the beach or driving in cars or simply walking around outside in the daytime and cringe in sympathy for our poor eye balls! I think in just a few short years it will be common knowledge that radiation from the sun damages our eyes and no one will be caught outside without a pair of shades with UV filtering! Not all sunglasses have UV filtering but those that do will say so on the label.

UV damage is cumulative – meaning the earlier you start protecting yourself, and your kids, the better. I slather SPF 80 on my kids every time we hit the pool but getting them to keep sunglasses on is a battle – but it’s one worth fighting.

Think of it this way; if you are sliding your sunglasses onto your face while you watch your kids climb on the jungle gym because the sun is hurting your eyes you can be pretty sure it’s hurting your kids’ as well, they just don’t know how to ask you for your help. Hats are good, but UV blocking sunglasses are better. Most stores with child size UV blocking sunglasses also have head bands that hold the glasses snug to kids heads for a good fit.

Consider this from All About Vision

“Extended exposure to the sun’s UV rays has been linked to eye damage, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pingueculae and pterygia and photokeratitis that can cause temporary vision loss.

And new research suggests the sun’s high-energy visible (HEV) radiation — also called “blue light” — may increase your long-term risk of macular degeneration. People with low blood plasma levels of vitamin C and other antioxidants especially appear at risk of retinal damage from HEV radiation.”

Sunglasses have long been fashionable and recently have become status symbols, with brands recognizable from logos larger than life emblazoned on the temples of Hollywood’s princesses, but the fact that they can so completely protect us from harmful UV rays it’s absolutely absurd to not wear them every moment, threshold to threshold, in all types of weather.

The common misconception about UV rays is that they are “light”. This is inaccurate because you can’t see UV rays – UV stands for Ultra Violet and is outside the visible spectrum of colors, so just because it’s overcast or cloudy it doesn’t mean that the harmful rays aren’t attacking your cells. Has anyone ever told you that you’ll burn more easily on a cloudy day than a sunny one? Same goes for your peepers – If it’s cloudy and you don’t use protection, sunglasses and SPF sunblock, you are exposing yourself to dangerous rays.

The light you can see is called High Energy Visible Rays – or HEV.

Again from All About Vision, The three categories of invisible high-energy UV rays are:

“UVC rays. These are the highest-energy UV rays and potentially could be the most harmful to your eyes and skin. Fortunately, the atmosphere’s ozone layer blocks virtually all UVC rays. But this also means depletion of the ozone layer potentially could allow high-energy UVC rays to reach the earth’s surface and cause serious UV-related health problems. UVC rays have wavelengths of 100–280nanometer (nm).

UVB rays. These have slightly longer wavelengths (280–315 nm) and lower energy than UVC rays. These rays are filtered partially by the ozone layer, but some still reach the earth’s surface. In low doses, UVB radiation stimulates the production of melanin (a skin pigment), causing the skin to darken, creating a suntan. But in higher doses, UVB rays cause sunburn that increases the risk of skin cancer. UVB rays also cause skin discolorations, wrinkles and other signs of premature aging of the skin.

UVA rays. These are closer to visible light rays and have lower energy than UVB and UVC rays. But UVA rays can pass through the cornea and reach the lens and retina inside the eye. Overexposure to UVA radiation has been linked to the development of certain types of cataracts, and research suggests UVA rays may play a role in development of macular degeneration.”

The risks to your eyes are so much more than just the bright glowing spots that leave you squinting after looking into the sun – it’s thought that UVB rays cause pingueculae and pterygia. These conditions present with growths on the eye’s surface that can cause corneal problems as well as distorted vision.

UVB rays also can cause “Snow Blindness”, which is photokeratitis, and is inflammation of the cornea and is very painful and causes temporary vision loss – usually lasting 24-48 hours. The risk for snow blindness is greatest at high altitudes, but it can occur anywhere there is snow (snow reflects up to 80% of UV rays back at you, nearly doubling your exposure) if you don’t protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses or UV filtering snow goggles.

“Anyone who spends time outdoors is at risk for eye problems from UV and HEV rays – here are a few factors contribute to the different dangers:

  • Geographic location. UV and HEV levels are greater in tropical areas near the earth’s equator. The farther you are from the equator, the smaller your risk.
  • Altitude. UV levels are greater at higher altitudes.
  • Time of day. UV and HEV levels are greater when the sun is high in the sky, typically from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Setting. UV levels are greater in wide open spaces, especially when highly reflective surfaces are present, like snow and sand. In fact, UV exposure can nearly double when UV rays are reflected from the snow. UV exposure is less likely in urban settings, where tall buildings shade the streets.
  • Medications. Certain medications, such as tetracycline, sulfa drugs, birth control pills, diuretics and tranquilizers, can increase your body’s sensitivity to UV and HEV radiation.”

So make it a habit to protect your eyes. Make it a fashion statement. Make it a parental responsibility. However you do it, make it a decision you’ll stick to for a lifetime – your eyes will thank you!