You’re probably aware of our fondness for sunglasses. Not just as a fashion accessory, but as an essential tool in warding off unwanted eye conditions and diseases. The diseases most associated with excessive UV exposure can be easily prevented by simply slipping on a pair of your favorite shades.
This spring, use the time to not only rid yourself of the old in preparation for the summer, but also to bring in the new habit of wearing your sunglasses. If you don’t have proper sunglasses then treat yourself to UV blocking ones. Otherwise, you may regret it come autumn.
Importance of Sunglasses
It’s easy to not take sunglasses seriously when it comes to eye care. They’re often associated with fashion trends rather than health, but sunglasses began as a survival tool more than anything.
Different versions of sun repelling eyewear can be found throughout history. Inuit snow goggles form the 1800s were made from animal bones and were custom made to fit the wearer’s face shape. These were long, horizontal goggles that covered most of the eyes, but also had long horizontal slits to block out the glare from the sun bouncing off the snow. It is also thought that the slits improved visual acuity.
The English optician, James Ayscough is credited with making the first actual pair of sunglasses (though they weren’t called that at the time) versus sun repelling eyewear.
His “sunglasses” didn’t protect eyes from UV rays and other harmful sun damage, but the yellow, green and sometimes blue tinted glasses were prescribed to those suffering from syphilis to help with their sensitivity to light.
It wasn’t until the 1920s that sunglasses shifted from being a necessity to an accessory. With the rise of the moving pictures and movie stars, celebrities needed a way to disguise themselves to avoid fans.
When sunglasses began being mass produced, that’s when they lost their purpose. Fans wanted to look like their favorite movie stars, they weren’t concerned with protection.
This remains true today. You can find a pair of knock off Ray Bans for $10: all the style, none of the protection.
Sunglasses are not a fashion statement. They are the one thing standing between a normal eye and a sunburned one. Buy stylish sunglasses, but make sure they come with the proper protection. Otherwise you’re wasting your money, even if it is only $10.
Buying the Right Pair
Buying the right pair of sunglasses is easy. All you need to do is look at the how much protection they offer. You’re better off purchasing a pair that blocks out 99 to 100 percent of UV rays.
Believe it or not, some sunglasses don’t offer 100 percent protection. If they don’t offer total protection, you put your eyes in just as much danger as wearing no protection. Plenty of stylish brands make 100 percent UV blocking glasses. It may be more expensive, but the glasses are made sturdier and will last a lot longer.
Ultra Violet Rays and the Eyes
Your eyes, just like your skin and hair, can become severely damaged after overexposure to the sun. A common result of too much sun is sunburned eyes. Your eyes will look red and sting for a few days, but there are other more serious conditions that can develop after constant overexposure.
Eye melanoma, a type of eye cancer, is a common disease related to UV rays. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 3130 new cases of eye melanoma in 2017.
As with melanoma (skin cancer), the disease attacks the pigment in the eye called melanin. This pigment is what give us the color of our irises. Because the cancer develops in an area that cannot be seen by the naked eye, there are often few symptoms in the beginning.
As the cancer progresses, symptoms can include: the sensation of flashing lights, dark spots in the iris and blurred vision.
If the melanoma is small in the eye, there may be no need to do anything about it. Your eye doctor will monitor the disease to make sure it doesn’t grow and spread. If the cancer grows, radiation therapy or surgery may be required.
Cataracts are the clouding of the lens of the eye. This is a disease most associated with aging, but repeated direct sunlight exposure can cause your eyes to age faster than you. The same happens to skin when it goes through constant bouts of sun damage.
Cataracts are not often caused by UV rays. The National Eye Institute estimates that 20 percent of cataracts are caused by sun damage. It can’t hurt to wear sunglasses anyway to reduce your risk of cataracts.
Surgery is unfortunately the only option of curing cataracts, however measures can be taken towards learning how to live with cataracts. For example: adjusting the lighting in your home, reducing your nighttime driving and using a magnifying glass to read or adjusting the font size on your various screen devices.
No, pterygium is not the name of a dinosaur. It’s actually the scientific name for surfer’s eye. Surfer’s eye is a growth on the conjunctiva of the eye. The growth is usually nothing to worry about, although it can look like cancer.
If the growth is small and does not cover the pupil of the eye (they rarely grow that big), then most people choose to just live with it. It may be annoying, but it isn’t dangerous or vision threatening.
If the growth extends to the cornea and the pupil, it may cause blurred vision, a burning sensation, itching and redness. These symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter ointments, eye drops or prescription eye drops for more intense cases.
Surgery may be needed it the growth becomes aggressive and threatens your vision health. However, surgery is a last resort and not often needed.
Have fun this summer, but don’t get caught without your UV blocking sunglasses! At their best they’ll save you from developing a dangerous eye disease; at their worst, they’ll protect you from some very painful sunburned eyes. That doesn’t sound too bad to us!