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Eye Protection All Year Long

Eye Protection All Year Long

Eye Protection All Year Long

By Dr. Hayley Woodruff

We are now in the midst of summer and hopefully everyone has gotten into a routine of protecting yourself by applying sunscreen before heading outdoors. Does your routine also involve putting on a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes? In addition to protecting your skin from the sun''s damaging UV rays, it is important to protect your eyes.

Good eyesight is a sense that we all value, but sometimes do not always think about protecting. While outdoors, the sun can cause damage to the eyes beginning at a young age. Over exposure to the sun without eye protection can cause a burn to the eyes similar to the sunburn you see on the skin. This is caused photokeratitis and can make the eye uncomfortable for a period of time. However, the majority of the time, there are no immediate signs or symptoms of over exposure to the sun. The damage the sun causes is cumulative in nature and thus the problems aren''t immediate. Although many of the effects we see from the sun aren''t noticed until later in life in the form of cataracts and macular degeneration, the damage begins early in life. The earliest sign of sun damage to the eyes that one might notice would be a yellow spot near the iris. These are called pinguecula and are a direct result of exposure to UV radiation. They are typically just a cosmetic concern, but can be prevented by beginning to protect the eyes from the sun at a very early age. Cataracts and macular degeneration are problems that can arise from exposure to the sun. These problems in the lens and retina respectively can lead to decreased vision. The UV radiation causes free radicals to form which can cause damage in the lens in the form of cataracts and in the retina in the form of macular degeneration.

Realizing the importance of protecting the eyes is only the first step. To protect the eyes, you must also follow through with the proper type of sunglasses or UV protection. There are many options available to protect the eyes from both UVA and UVB. The most readily available is a pair of sunglasses that blocks 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB. Most sunglasses sold offer this protection, but be sure to check the label to make sure that the proper amount of UV radiation is being blocked. For those people who wear prescription glasses, there are many options available. If you want only to wear your prescription glasses and do not want them tinted, a clear coating can be applied to the lenses to block out UV radiation. It is this coating, not the tint in sunglasses that provides the UV protection. If you like to have tint to filter out the brightness of the sun, a separate pair of prescription glasses is a great option. Another option that offers protection and tint in the same pair of glasses is a pair of photochromic lenses that tint when you are in the sun. These lenses are great because they offer good UV protection, are clear indoors, and then tint to filter the brightness of the sun outdoors. In addition to the options available in glasses, there are some contact lenses that offer UV protection. These lenses eliminate the need for sunglasses for protection; however, they do not provide any type of tint.

Protecting your eyes from the sun will decrease your chances of developing cataracts or macular degeneration, but there is more that you can do help prevent these conditions. Nutrition plays an important role in protecting your eyesight. Free radicals cause damage to the eye. Antioxidants help to eliminate these damage causing free radicals. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants. tudies show that they help to optimize ocular health. In addition to these antioxidants zinc, omega-3 fatty acids were found to be important in the delay of progression of macular degeneration. Leutin, a carotenoid is among the most important given its concentration in the macular area and can be found in foods such as kale, spinach and broccoli. Many daily vitamins include leutin as well. Essentially a daily vitamin in going to contain the antioxidants and other ingredients that have been shown to provide optimal ocular health. In addition, one can find vitamin E in vegetable and fish oils, legumes, nuts, seeds, and egg yolks. Sources of carotenoids include green leafy vegetables and red/yellow fruits. If a condition such as macular degeneration or cataracts is present, one might want to consider an ocular vitamin after discussing this matter with their heath care professional. These vitamins often have higher concentrations of carotenoids such as leutin.

Protecting your eyes can easily become part of your daily routine. Add a pair of sunglasses when you go outside or modify your prescription glasses to block UV radiation everyday regardless of the season. Also continue with you daily vitamin or start one and look for those powerful antioxidants in your diet. In addition, caring for your body as a whole by not smoking and not consuming large amounts of alcohol can help decrease your chance of developing macular degeneration or cataracts.

Dr. Hayley Woodruff is an optometrist with The Eye Care Institute at 1536 Story Avenue. She offers family eye care including routine eye examinations and fitting of glasses and contact lenses. She is a graduate of Southern College of Optometry and Eastern Kentucky University. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please call 502-589-1500.

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