Recently I sat in on a webinar hosted by The Vision Council to raise awareness and educate about harmful UV exposure and its damage to our eyes. Protecting our eyes is an “out of sight, out of mind” thought for many of us 30-somethings — but the same UV exposure that causes sunburns, wrinkles and skin cancer also damages our ocular health.
Dr. Justin Bazan, an ophthalmologist in New York and medical adviser to The Vision Council, told us is the session how to protect our eyes this summer, which was a reminder for those of us who are active outdoors in all seasons. I thought it was good info to pass along to you, as many of us (including myself) choose sunglasses based on style rather than function — AND it just so happens to be National Sunglasses Day today.
An adult’s use of eye protection depends on the activity — most often, we wear sunglasses for driving, at the beach or at the pool; and least often, when running, biking, gardening, or playing team sports. It’s just like sunscreen, for which I advocate relentlessly… and here, I’m a statistic and completely guilty of not protecting my eyes during my runs.
Here are some scary stats:
- 1 in 4 of Americans rarely or never use sunglasses
- 2 in 3 leave eyes unguarded on cloudy or rainy days
- 3 in 10 don’t protect in Winter, when UV rays still present
The short-term problems of UV damage include: photokeratitis (sunburn of eyes), irritation, redness, swelling, hypersensitivity to light; and long-term eye damage includes: premature aging of skin, wrinkles and sunspots, abnormal growths on eye and eyelid, cataracts, macular degeneration, and cancer of eye (and surrounding area).
Some other staggering statistics — the top 5 cities with highest UV index levels (based on sunny days):
1. San Juan with 320 total days of extreme and very high risk
5. Mobile, AL
#18 Denver, I was completely not expecting, but because of its higher elevation, it ranks up there with a total of 128 days of high risk.
Here was some other important info noted from this session:
- Reflected UV light is just as damaging as direct
- Research shows the eye receives nearly double the amount of UV radiation during peak running times in the summer (early morning 8am-10am) and late afternoon (2pm-4pm) — nearly double the level than midday (10am-2pm) other times of the year
- The color of eyes means different UV sensitivity. Meaning: blue eyes are more at risk of UV damage than brown.
So, how can we protect our eyes? Consider your lens options. There are anti-reflective, impact resistant, mirror-coated, photochromic, polarized, wrap-around, and scratch resistant lenses — all have some level of eye protection. There are some myths about sunglasses too: that all have UVA/UVB protection (they don’t), or sunglasses with UV protection are expensive (I have a free pair that I picked up at a convention that have UV protection stamped on the inside), or that darker sunglasses have UV protection (nope).
This session was enough to make the case for multiple pairs for different activities, so I was super-excited when The Vision Council sent me a “thank you” participation gift that included a pair of Columbia sunglasses that will be PERFECT for my outdoor runs.
Check out #sunglassselfie and #nationalsunglassesday on social media for more about National Sunglasses Day. You can read more about UV eye protection from clicking through and visiting The Vision Council website and download their sun safe infographic here.
Disclosure: I was gifted a Sun Safe Swag Bag from The Vision Council for logging into the webinar and agreeing to write a post about the session content. Columbia graciously gifted me a pair of sunglasses for my participation.